“7/11”

Frank was a reasonable person. A fair person. A quiet, reliable sort. That was exactly how he’d been all his life. And it was exactly that reasonable, fair, quiet, reliable Frank who found himself parked in his usual spot at the far end of the corner store’s lot that Friday night, watching the counter clerk through the window while his hand rested on the crowbar in the passenger seat.

            Frank had always been a planner too. A thinker. Whatever the problem, whatever the need, he never acted until he’d planned and thought his way through all of his options and reached an absolute conclusion on the best possible course to take. He was patient; determined. It was what had carried him through high school and university as an Honours Student. It was what had landed him a six-figure salary before he was even 30. It was what won him a first date with his wife, and the best possible mortgage on their best possible house. And three weeks ago, it was what killed his wife, in the quickest possible way.

            Left instead of right.

            West instead of East.

            A short drive home instead of a long one.

            A drunk teenager instead of a sober one, ploughing his piece-of-crap Chevy into Sarah’s passenger door from that side street instead of ploughing through an empty intersection, down into the ditch on the other side of it.

            Mangled passenger instead of beautiful wife.

            Cremation instead of burial.

            Crowbar instead of gun.

            Frank unbuckled his seatbelt and watched the clerk get a woman her cigarettes from the shuttered top shelf behind his counter. When he’d accepted her bill and given her the change from it, the clerk smiled with a mouthful of braces and said what looked like “goodnight.” The bruise on his face from where the airbag must’ve hit him looked just about healed up after three weeks. An open textbook and a pile of notes took up a small space next to the register; preparation for a test in one of his college-prep classes, maybe.

            Frank held the crowbar across his knees, and thought.

            Thought of getting out of his rental car—which he’d gotten for the best possible price—and walking into the store.

            Thought of locking the door behind him, walking up to the counter and beating the murderer standing behind it with the crowbar Frank had bought from the hardware store that afternoon; one hit for every day of the mere three-month probation the murderer’s crime had earned him since he was lucky enough to be a first-time offender and a minor with two months still until his 18th birthday.

            Thought instead of specifically giving the drunken idiot a taste of Sarah’s broken leg, cracked skull, broken neck and crushed ribcage, so he could have an idea of what the front end of a Chevy and the inside of a passenger door did to a person’s body. However many swings that would take.

            Thought next of pinning that reckless, young, stupid kid to the wall, crowbar to his throat, and screaming out every detail of what him and his stupid fucking Chevy had taken away; every exhausted detail of sleepless nights or gory dreams; every pathetic detail of what it meant to be empty—hollow home, hollow man; every aching detail of how he had ruined reasonable, fair, quiet, reliable, planning, thinking, patient, determined Frank’s best possible life.

            Thought, was terrified of, how nothing would ever be enough. But maybe it was the only thing left for Frank to do.

            Frank’s hands wrapped tight around the crowbar’s middle.

            The clerk behind the counter, shoulders drooped after a long shift, handed things over to his night-shift replacement with another smile and another “goodnight,” packed up his things, and walked out the door. He got into the passenger seat of a waiting minivan, driven by a lovely- but exhausted-looking woman—his mother—and then was gone, headed home a minute later.

            Frank watched them go, placed the crowbar back on the passenger seat, buckled himself in again, and wondered.

            Wondered for the hundredth time if he’d really seen a green light in the intersection that night before he’d turned his head to look at Sarah and laugh with her about something she’d said.

            Wondered if, even drunk as he was, the kid who’d hit them was telling the truth in court when he said he hadn’t run a red, and that he’d really done all he could to stop when Frank and Sarah’s car cut off his turn.

            Wondered what would come of it when he came back to this parking lot for the kid’s next shift tomorrow.

            Then hollow Frank drove back to his hollow home, shuddering his way through every intersection, and wondered if but hoped he wouldn’t sleep at all tonight.