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“Hamartia”

“We’re finally vacationing,” Mother said while drying off another dish. “It’ll be nice. A fresh break. We need those. Everybody does but especially us.”

Father was standing there, his right arm propping his body up against the counter. He looked calm, like it might not have been his plan after all, and that the surprise of vacationing really might have been something providential.

Scotty and Max had the hose running outside. It was summer, and after supper they still had plenty of light to burn. They were playing, but when Father stops hearing their laughter but still hears the water running through the pipes below the house, he knows they’ve returned to Mrs. Jensen’s hornets nest on the side yard.

“Alan, the boys are at it again,” said Mother with a sigh. She was placing dishes in their cupboards. “Well? Aren’t you going to do anything?”

Father spreads the kitchen drapes with two fingers and peers out. The lawn is glistening, the planters flooded. Mrs. Jensen’s clothesline is bare but he is pretty sure that has nothing to do with the boys. He finds the faucet down below and the bright green hose that is connected to it looks like a green rubber band pulled taught around the side of the house.
“No,” Father said. He lets the drapes fall back. “They’re boys. Boys do these kinds of things.”

“I understand that,” said Mother. “But those boys have the hose pointed straight at that poor old woman’s house. Who knows what could happen. She has that collection of pottery she likes to keep on the front porch. One blast of water and…”

“I know,” said Father quietly. He looked at the ground and took a deep breath. He lessened his grip on the countertop. “Just let them realize what their actions mean. They have to learn at some point, and better here than anywhere else.”

“Well I just don’t like them poking around other people’s things is all,” Mother said. “Just ain’t right.”

A voice from outside carried through the window. It wasn’t Scotty, or Max. It was deeper, older. A man’s voice.

“Who was that?” Mother said. “Sounds like it was saying your name.”

Father walked through the kitchen, into the dinning room, past the old leather chair, and pushed open the front screen door.

“Alan,” came the voice again. It was Mr. Davis from across the street. He was yelling and swatting the air.

Father could see a trail of water that went from Mrs. Jensen’s side yard out into the street, across the far sidewalk, and up onto Mr. Davis’ front lawn. There were three paper grocery bags laying sideways on the driveway. A head of lettuce rolled out onto the lawn.

“Alan stop them!” said Mr. Davis.

“Stop who? Hey what’s going on Jim?”

“Stop the boys, Alan. The boys!”

Father looked again at the trail of water and noticed that the hose was not taught as before but was detached and sliding quickly across the street. He ran through the front yard and into the street just as Mrs. Jensen, with the six o’clock sun in her eyes, was about to swing into her driveway.

Father gasped and felt the weight of the car lift him into the air. His right shoulder sunk into the windshield and he felt his body cartwheel over the rest of the car and fall like a burlap of bricks into the street in front of his house.

Mrs. Jensen, surprised by the sudden impact of something heavy on her windshield swung her steering wheel the wrong direction and scurried up Mr. Davis’ driveway, running over a bag of groceries and slamming into the back of his pickup.

By then, Mr. Davis was halfway down the street and still swatting away Mrs. Jensen’s hornets.

Father groaned. He looked at Mrs. Jensen’s car and tried to see if she moved. There was an airbag out. He tried to stand but felt a knife-like pain shoot through his right arm. He let it dangle, lifeless. Probably broken. He tried using his other arm and with the curb managed to stand, but when he tried to walk he felt more pain run from his right knee up the side of his body. He collapsed from the intensity. “Mary!” he yelled, and in seconds mother came running from the house.

At the sight of Father, Mrs. Jensen’s car, the hose water, and Mr. Davis, she stopped suddenly and glared at Father.

He looked at her eyes and then down at the grass below her feet. “I know,” he sighed. “I know.”

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