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November 25, 2022

After I Ran Over Jed

Teddy Engs

After I ran over Jed I took my foot off the gas and coasted for what felt like a trillion years. But it wasn’t a trillion years, it was ten, maybe twenty feet, then I put the van in park and saw him squirming in the side-view mirror. It appeared I’d crushed his legs. They were flat and splayed and dotted with specks of white. The sun was high and unobstructed. The asphalt wiggled with heat. It hurts to admit but my immediate thought was this is not my fault. Jed was a daredevil. He was always hopping fences, stealing energy drinks, finding ways to game small systems. He was the one who wanted to skitch my mom’s van and he was the one who stole her keys. He was the one who wanted to hold onto the side-view mirror instead of the bumper and he was the one who threatened me with his skateboard if I didn’t drive. He was also the one who fell. I dismounted the van. I walked towards Jed. His head lolled back, foam bubbling on his lips. I said no no no. Then he stopped moving. I thought, seriously? All I’ve ever done is homework, laundry, and this is what I get? I went over and kicked him. Then I kicked him again, harder and nearer his head. He woke up. I invoked God. He asked what happened. I said you fell. He said my legs. I said yes, your legs. He said you crushed my legs. I said well, not exactly. He said you were driving and you crushed my fucking legs. I said you stole my mom’s van. He said you stole your mom’s van. I said you made me drive, you threatened me. He said I didn’t make you do jack, I’m suing you. I said you can’t sue me. He said my dad’s a lawyer, he just made partner, I can absolutely sue you. I stepped backwards, concerned. Jed stayed put, compromised. You’re so fucked, he said. You’re so insanely fucked. I took another step back, increasing the distance between us. I realized my advantage. It involved mobility. He said come over here. I said you don’t scare me. He said fuck you fucker. I turned, made a scene of walking away, reveling in the miracle of bipedal ambulation. Where are you going? he yelled. Help me you jackshitfuckfart! I continued, feeling radically empowered. When I reached the van I heard him whimper. I climbed into the van, turned left at the end of the street, idled there. When enough time had passed I circled back. Jed was lying where I left him, crying. He thought that I had fled. I scooped him like an animal and laid him across the second row bench seat. I asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital. He pleaded yes. I said explain to me what happened. I said be careful. He paused a moment, understanding. I fell, he said. I fell and a car hit me and the car drove off. I said did you see the car? The license’s plate? No, he said. I said that’s right. He said I’m sorry. He said I’ll never threaten you again. I said that’s good, Jed. I pulled into the ER, feeling that I had learned something valuable about the nature of power and social dynamics. A medic approached the van. He asked what happened. My friend here, I started to say, but Jed screamed: This psycho ran me over! He ran me over and blackmailed me! The medic turned to me and asked, is it true? I said yes, all of it, every last word. Then I exited the van and tossed him the keys. Hey! he yelled. Don’t move! But the parking lot beckoned. Everything looked so beautiful, the oblique angle of the cars, the sun-reflected parking lines, the little islands of dirt with the occasional shrub or infant maple. I stretched my arms wide, feeling the full range of my freedom. That’s when I was tackled from behind, but even as my face skidded across the grainy asphalt, I swear it felt like a cool pillow upon my unburdened cheek.