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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Tragedy · #1407117
A family is in a severe auto accident that changes lives.
Kenneth Barnham struggled to wake up. There was a crushing pain in his chest, like an elephant was sitting on it. His eyes were slits but he could see the flashing red lights. He also heard a woman screaming and the sounds of a power saw.

His last memory was of a cute little cocktail waitress, like a pretty bird shaking her tail feathers at him, hoping for a good tip. He was sitting in his favorite strip joint, "The Gold Room." The girls there were classy looking and took everything off. He had been frequenting strip bars since he was fourteen and could get a fake ID. Now he was forty.

For all the money he had blown on broads and booze, he could have built a couple of homes. He was a Life Insurance agent that depended on commission. Now he made just enough for rent and to get a few groceries.

He had three ex-wives and a child by each who had his check garnished so he was broke before he ever got it. Then he had four DUI's in the last two years, was still on probation and just got his driver's license back. They treat you like a murderer in court. Time in jail had shown him what a real murderer was like.

Suddenly a dark curtain came down and he felt no more pain but he could still hear that stupid woman screaming. Why wouldn't she shut up?

Danny and Sarah Slater were on a family vacation with their two children. Mike was ten and Alex was five. It had been a great trip through the Smoky Mountains. They had rented a chalet and went skiing. There was even a bunny slope with a children's instructor.

The mountains and streams were breath taking. As you traveled closer to the bottom of the mountain chain the leaves were changing. There was bronze and russet orange, and red and golden delicious apples is how Mike described them. The river that ran along the road was lovely, the rushing water over small dams made the rocks underneath appear polished.

When the sun filtered through the trees it was like an opening to Heaven, a celestial mirror shining on the water. Where the river runs into eddies, you could see the gills on a trout. A really fast man could reach in and have his pick for dinner. They had to stop at several places to let the kids climb on the rocks. Even though they held hands, Sarah was a wreck.

"Danny, don't you dare let them get any closer, that river would carry them away."

"They'd be in safe hands, honey. God wouldn't keep them. He has more important things to worry about."

"Oh, you guys are a pain!"

Danny laughed along with their kids.

"Mom, you are such a dork".

Then it started to rain and the road was just two narrow lanes. Danny was driving very slowly, cursing at himself for not buying wiper blades when he bought oil. They needed a new car, all the seals were leaking on one with over 150,000 miles on it.

As visibility got worse, he pulled off the road with his hazard lights on. The boys were hungry and bored. Alex was excited about kindergarten so they talked about that. Mike was upset because club meetings would only be on weekends in the neat tree house Danny had built with Mike. No more all day trips to the beach to build sandcastles.

Danny was thinking about the case load that awaited him at work. He was concentrating on a favorite mantra by Gibran; Faith is found in the smallest of things. Danny was a Case Manager for The Children and Women's Protection Agency; lots of headaches and little pay. When he could place abused children into a good foster situation or get a parent off crack cocaine for over six months, then he felt satisfaction.

Sarah's mind was on her secret. She had taken a pregnancy test right before the vacation and it was positive. Oh, she prayed for a little girl, ribbons and curls, and to use her dusty sewing machine to make dainty dresses.

For her surprise, she planned a special evening the night after they returned. Pizza for the kids and put them to bed. Merlot for Daddy, bruschetta in garlic and olive oil, pasta with Alfredo sauce plus salad with plum tomatoes, ripe olives, provolone cheese, fresh pepper and garlic. Then veal and meatballs, to finish off with espresso and canolli.

An oldies station was on the stereo. 'Three Dog Night' singing 'Jeremiah was a Bull Frog.' Just sitting there, they all began to sing along.

Sarah felt so blessed to have this wonderful man and his children. They had a special life. Mike was making croaking noises when a force, like a freight train, hit their car.

The cars were so mangled; it looked like they were fused together. All five injured people arrived at St. Joseph's Trauma Center by helicopter and ambulance.

The police reported a Kenneth Barnham, driving a Ford Explorer, had lost consciousness at the wheel, then crossed the center lane. He hit the driver's side of the Slater SUV. Mr. Barnham's alcohol level was 0.30, legal limit was below 0.08 (he was three times over that). He had blacked out at the wheel and didn't even realize he had hit someone.

Kenneth had sustained massive trauma with crushed ribs that had damaged his heart. He didn't have a seatbelt on and the airbag did not deploy. He drifted in and out of consciousness, screaming with pain and cursing about the woman screaming.

The paramedics could smell the alcohol coming from his pores. This man was a hard-core alcoholic. When they ran his stats up, they saw he had the four prior DUI's.
'Why did he have a valid license, what monkey was making these rules?'

It didn't look like Barnham would live. One arm and leg were crushed and he was losing blood fast. The next set of paramedics took over with Kenneth.

The Slater family was a different situation. If it hadn't been for the siderail and thick trees, their car would have landed in the bottom of a ravine. All would have died. Danny was barely alive, he still had a pulse but his head had been crushed on one side so he had massive head trauma and they couldn't do much in the field.

Sarah was in shock and she was the one screaming, she couldn't seem to stop. The fact that she was alert and her words were understandable was probably a good sign. After her neck was immobilized she couldn't turn so that agitated her more. It was decided a sedative would be in order now. She was moving all her extremities. She had lacerations and a fractured wrist.

Mike was a rag doll, blue and crumpled in his seat. The door on his side had been caved in by the force against the tree. A side airbag was punctured and was no use. He had certainly died from massive internal injuries. Alex was barely alive with multiple injuries. The paramedics did a quick triage and decided Alex was who they needed to move first then Sarah.

Through the fog of the sedative, Sarah whispered,"I am six weeks pregnant. Don't tell my husband. I want it to be a surprise, ok?"
Donnie and Amy were working on moving Sarah around. You could hear the tears in their voices after that.

Amy managed to answer, "Your secret, I promise".

Six months later

Sarah Slater sat in a rocking chair, knitting a blanket in a delicate shade of pink (seashell). The baby, Danni Michele, would give an occasional kick.

This child was truly a gift from God. It was keeping Sarah alive. She ate and slept for this child.

Alex suffered from nightmares, living the crash over and over again in his sleep.

Sarah would wake him and then rock him to sleep. He had emotionally become like a baby again and the therapist said that was normal. He was being home-schooled and going to rehab five days a week. He had crushing injuries to his legs where most of the bones were broken and the were pins, plates and grafts. He had a lot of pain so they gave him opoids for two months and then again when he was learning to walk with a walker. He was so brave.

Kenneth Barnham sat in his cell where he would spend the rest of his life. He never really felt remorse. It was an accident, could've happened to anyone. But in spite of his lack of guilt, about fifty times a day, he felt a sharp pain in his chest, a squeezing. Every time he played cards, read or did anything enjoyable he felt this pain in his heart.

The heart is the place we refer to as the keeper of feelings. That pain literally brought him to his knees.

When it started happening they took him to the hospital and did a battery of tests. They couldn't find anything wrong. After all he had the heart of a previously healthy thirty-one year old man in him.

After the accident he had required a heart transplant and amazingly one was available that very night. It was the same blood type, he didn't know whose heart he had but he hated the damn thing.

The pain from it made him wish he had died in the wreck.

The heart belonged to Danny Slater. Danny had signed a donor card and his heart was the only thing on him that wasn't damaged. Sarah had to give permission for a transplant. She had no idea to who. Amazingly enough, the few people that knew were not able to tell due to confidentiality laws. There were no laws to forbid such a case.

Kenneth was being punished in the worst way possible. A lethal injection would have been kinder.

Faith is truly found in the smallest of things.

By Kathie Stehr

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