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(A forty-five minute break to scribble out some new three hundred word fiction.)

Five hundred and forty-two days, I counted them from one.  I liked to count everything, mental spreadsheets that digitalised my life.  Various birthdays and anniversaries, I recalled with little effort.  Things attached to pain and angst, those days in distance I measured like the calculus of escape velocity, with worry a trip in forward momentum meant a fall back into their insufferable thrall.

In some instances, one didn’t reach escape speed.  For some, perhaps those of more courage or maybe those with less, they checked out at an exit of their own creation.  Me, I slogged onward, either the fool or for want of a chance at amends.

One message, a birthday wish to boot.  My mental calendar insisted I text the celebrating twenty-eight year old co-worker, a whimsical task undertaken with an eager-to-please smile.  One hand steered the wheel.  The other tapped on tiny keys.

The send key depressed as if a plunger wired to TNT.  Glass shattered, a bag inflated into me.  Momentum launched my body into it, restrained some by the locked belt across shoulders, chest, and abdomen.  Twisting metal screeched louder than the squeal of rubber on asphalt.  Gravity and centrifugal force fought over my hide, and something crushed from what I presumed to be on high.  I recalled nothing else.

Two weeks later, four days after regained consciousness, I learned the accident affected others beyond anyone who loved me.  Of the three involved, I alone drew the grace of fate, spared with eleven broken bones and external fixation to stabilise an open fracture.

Happy birthday became nightmare, an unimaginable result from an unthinking act.  I didn’t care what the court did with me in requital.  On day five hundred and forty-three, society said I could walk free, but guilt and nightmares imposed a life sentence.