Charles Maybury steps out of the shopfront into the cool evening breeze, and in the distance he swears he can hear a mewling sound, almost a breath on the chilling wind. He pauses momentarily, directing his ear towards the faint noise. His eyes dart around, between buildings, flitting from parked car to parked car, skirting over the faces of anonymous strangers in the bustle of the after-work foot traffic rush. He locates the source of the noise, and makes towards a stormwater drain a few paces away from where he stands, from which he can hear that same faint mewling emanating, pathetically, against the backdrop of suburban static frequencies. As he bends down, he feels his weight shift uncomfortably forward, carrying the momentum of his hefty frame inexorably towards the road, teeming with mechanical, almost-sentient life, all bearing fleshy personality containers from one destination to another. He lurches towards that road, unable to stop himself from plunging over the gutter, directly into oncoming traffic. Face first.
Charles Maybury will die, but not before he passes on his genes, although somewhat haphazardly, to a tiny, tiny girl, born not an hour prior to his death. Charlie Maybury will cease to exist, although to that tiny, tiny girl – Verity – he never existed anyway; not in any real sense beyond an abstract concept of what fatherhood rightfully should represent. Verity will never know that she has three half-siblings, and she will never care, either. It’s difficult to care about something you don’t know exists, after all.
Charlie Maybury, fifty-one, dumped his seed, unceremoniously, into a sixteen year old girl one night around 3am, and never gave the fate of that seed any thought, beyond the fact that it had cost him sixty bucks to do so. She was skinny – so skinny – and working on the street, and what was she doing out and away from home anyways, and he figured every teen girl was on the pill anyways, or had implanon these days anyways, and I’ll never see her again anyways, I don’t even live here anyways. He figured a lot of things at 3am, in a city far from home, after two bottles of wine, three scotch and drys, and a few beers to even the score. He figured he was the master of his own destiny when he was filled with big, virile, alcoholic balls, and as such, shouldn’t he be able to fuck this girl? Shouldn’t he be able to fuck this teenage girl, barely past puberty, who didn’t look like a ham wrapped in twine when she put on lingerie, who didn’t have an ugly caesarean scar above her flabby pubis, who didn’t complain every time he wanted to get off? Shouldn’t he be entitled to what he bought into twenty years ago, not a poor parody of it all these years later, now that his wife was fat and used up?
Shouldn’t he be able to be young again, just this once? “Sixty bucks,” she said. “Deal,” he said.
If she had’ve worked it out at an hourly rate, she would realise she earned $1200 an hour just then. As it was, all she cared was that it was enough for her next fix.
His wife, Evelyn, nee-Chalmers, married to Charles since the age of twenty-five some twenty years ago, would never find out about his indiscretion, nor his secret child. She knew of his distance within their marriage, how he never seemed any closer than an arm’s length, even when he was shuddering inside her, fitfully, once a month. She felt his detachment as if it were a pair of surgical gloves, designed to protect his machismo from her wanton disregard for his needs. Truth is, she just stopped caring once he stopped trying. Truth is, he didn’t earn her intimacy, though he sure as hell felt entitled to it. The children destroyed her body, her husband destroyed her self-esteem, and with it, any trace of libido she had left.
It started subtly, with remarks about her weight after the first child, and jacking off onto her face when she didn’t want to have sex after the second child, and escalated to the point where, after the third child, he would openly mock her poor sexual performance in front of guests. He had never been one to help around the house anyway, never one to buy her flowers, never one to care what made up the minutiae of her day because his was always more important. He’d buy himself fancy cigars, even though he didn’t smoke. He’d buy thirty year old scotch to sit on the shelf while he sipped cask wine in front of the television. He’d give her the third degree every time she needed to buy new clothes, especially if she’d outgrown them, and he never missed an opportunity to remark, snidely, that the new clothes were a size bigger. He treated the family dog, Bubbles, better than he did his own wife.
It is a fallacy that your life flashes before your eyes before you die. In reality, your brain is singularly, unfailingly poor at recognising this moment. It is an evolutionary response; your brain will continue looking for any survival out, regardless of how certain your death is. Your brain will continue calculating distances against increasingly slim odds and exponentially unlikely scenarios until it isn’t capable of processing oxygen. The only thing that passes through Charlie Maybury’s brain as he dies, is the front tire, then the other eight left-side tires, of a Kenworth B-double carrying two full trailers bound for the Coles around the corner from where Charles plows head-first into oblivion, his head aligning perfectly with nine of the fully-laden Kenworth’s eighteen wheels.
As Maybury’s head hits the bitumen, which is still retaining heat from the day, even as the westerly breeze washes over the entire city, the driver of the Kenworth doesn’t even have time to react, blindsided by a parked Econovan as he is. It isn’t until he feels the unmistakable thump of the first wheel’s impact – the impact drastically lessened for the subsequent eight wheels – that he is shocked into applying his emergency brake, as pointless as it is at that point. The Kenworth screeches as the driver slams the emergency brake button, the brake cylinder de-pressurizes, the spring loaded calipers reef the brake pads against all four wheels simultaneously, and Maybury’s head is pulverised between tarred rock and thirty-six tonnes of mobile hard place.
By the time the Kenworth comes to a stop, the brain matter and bone fragments are a fine paste.
By the time the Kenworth comes to a stop, the brain no longer matters, and the bones fragment, and separate, and break down into a fine meal, and form a residual glup along with his destroyed grey matter, and the red, red blood. His blood is impossibly, unfathomably red against the black bitumen, matted hair and pulped skin.
The kitten, abandoned in the storm water drain in the dead of night by a cruel, heartless sonofabitch, is rescued by a man in his early 20s named Taylor Jensen, when the spectacle of Maybury’s gore draws him – and about a hundred other rubberneckers – close enough to hear that same mewling that set in motion the wheels of death in the cool late-Spring evening. Taylor named the kitten Lucky because he supposed it must have been pretty lucky to be found alive, all alone in that stormwater drain. Lucky was eaten by a pitbull fifteen months later, when, in stark contrast to his name, he overbalanced on a gutter rail and fell into Jensen’s neighbour’s yard. The pitbull’s name was Charity.
Who said nature was without a sense of irony?