The Worst of the Worst
Wilson stared at the body on the street. How many times had he told her not to go out to chase the inflatable ball? It had to be every single time they went to the park. For a moment, he reflected on the cruel irony of the situation—that Abby had only been taken from them a year ago, also while crossing thes treet. It had had nothing to do with Abby's depression, or any of the medication she'd been taking; rather, a drunk driver had simply not hit the brakes.
This was an accident, too. Amanda had only been trying to get her favourite ball, dancing merrily into the street with her little six-year-old legs in the split-second Wilson had turned to grab the backpack. They were just about to leave the park.
They were going to have spaghetti that night. Wilson had been thinking about it as he turned to pick up the backpack. Spaghetti and meatballs, with a glass of grape juice. Cool grape juice in Amanda's favourite juice boxes to cool the hot summer Arizona air.
But all thoughts of dinner vanished as the ambulances quickly surrounded him and the hard truth slowly sank in—his daughter had been hit by a car and there was a good possibility she was dead.
Hit, kill, and run.
The sirens barely floated into his brain, at first. His late wife, Abygaille, wouldn't have been able to hear them; she was deaf and the hearing aid her mother kept trying to force on her never did her any good since her hearing was completely nonexistent. Amanda could hear them, though. She could hear the sirens perfectly well. As a toddler, she would imitate them. "Whooo—oo-ooooo—oo-ooooo," she would wail, in her soft little voice. She would run around the kitchen, flailing her arms above her head, waddling around like a penguin in her fat little body, as her father chased her around and tried to get her to eat her vegetables. "Whooooo—oo-oooooooo." The sirens were so distracting.
And though he initially ignored them, they distracted Wilson now. He frowned, sitting in the back of the ambulance, and irritatedly muttered, "Will they shut those things off?!" But he got no answer, of course. They were all busy tending to his daughter.
It was as if the scene were from another book, as if he were reading it from somewhere else. As if he could simply dog-ear the page and walk away from the book, muttering about the sirens around him interrupting such a heart-wrenching scene. But the dog-earing had done him no good; as he complained more about the noise, he thought more about the reason for it. And it all came down on him in only one moment.
He started to cry.
It was almost undignified—perhaps it was undignified. A grown man, bawling as if he were the age of the girl on the stretcher. But his clients would forgive him, were they to witness this moment, for they understood the gravity of it all. They understood the pain of a lost child—that was why they came to him. He specialised in Loss of Children at his insurance company.
And, as cliché as it may have been, he never believed that he'd be in their shoes. He was always so careful with Amanda, because he'd seen what had happened with his clients. Mrs Pettigrew, who had lost her daughter when she'd allowed the girl to go out with a boy, and the boy had mercilessly raped and murdered her. Mr Stevens, who had lost his baby girl in a freak car accident going up a snowy mountain. Miss Glenn, who had lost her son to drugs.
It's always the car accidents, thought Wilson humourlessly to himself. Just when you least expect it. Just when you start to pack up and think to yourself, 'well, we made it through another day alive.'
He stared at the six-year-old girl in front of him through the tears. So much like her mother, but also so much like him. She was chubby and even a bit fat; she had rosy cheeks and her mother's dimples and his own gray eyes. Always such a face full of life. Always living for the now.
And here he was, reminiscing, about the very-recent past. He couldn't stop; he couldn't help but wonder how he could have prevented it. He'd moved past shock to the I-could-have-stopped-it-even-though-no-logical-solution-was-humanly-possible phase. Soon, he would enter into the who-killed-my-daughter-let-me-at-'im stage, and finally he would move to mourning.
For now, though, he fretted. He fretted internally, though, so the paramedics couldn't hear him; they probably heard his sort of fretting all day long and hadn't the time to answer questions. He fretted about if she was going to live. He fretted about Abby and how he wished she couldn't see them right then, looking down from heaven. How he wished she would just not be able to see the death of her own daughter.
They finally got out of the ambulance and to the room in the hospital. And they left them alone, left the girl not breathing and the man thinking too much.
He couldn't think of anything to say. She couldn't hear him anyway, but there was still hope in his mind. Hope that maybe she would be able to hear him, and suddenly pounce up in an 'only-joking' fashion and give him one of her special Daddy-hugs.
So he sang.
'White sand, white sand,' he softly cries,
And as he shakes his hand,
Straightaway there lies on babies' eyes
His gift of shining sand.
So when you hear the sandman's song
Sound through the twilight street,
Be sure you do not keep him long
A-waiting on the street.
It was the song he'd sung to her throughout her childhood. The song that quieted her every time she grew restless. The song his own mother had sung to him to quiet him. But Amanda didn't need quieting; she was already dead. The song hadn't fixed anything.
He reached out and held her cold little hand. He said nothing.