The Finish Line || Jason Thornberry

Wednesday morning, 7:48. Fremont Avenue. The street is full. An old brown sedan crawls like a dying beetle over its surface. The motor sputters. It backfires while the car’s shadow paints the road beneath it with a thick, lingering brush. Other drivers push bundles of phlegm-moistened, frustrated energy from their windows. The road leading to a narrow bridge boasts a progression of blinking red lights. But the old brown sedan rolls on ahead of them all, an old man’s head barely visible above the steering wheel. He wears a corduroy hat with ear flaps.

Somehow he slows down.

The other drivers smash their horns in collective protest. They shout as if to lift the sedan from their path. A few lucky cars eke past into the coagulated, oncoming lane. Twisting their necks, they try to see into the other car. Distracted, they consult cell phones, dashboard clocks, and frozen speedometers with travel mugs of coffee warming their thighs.

A big, bearded man in a big, furry hat flexes his biceps, grunt-twisting the wheel of his tow truck the way he opens jars of olives and pickles at home. He peels off a glove. He points a fist at the old man, steering with the other, keeping pace. Then he looks again, abruptly pulling his foot from the pedal.

The music of the horns surges into a chorus of disharmony—a rising, pealing, palpitating scaffold of noise—sound against sound, scraping, shrieking, screeching, beseeching, impeaching the other car from the road. Panicking cars trundle past as the clot of traffic tightens, constricting upon the mouth of the bridge.

A truck door slams. The big, bearded man waves his hands as he crosses the road. The bridge is entirely blocked as the noise increases, the ground buzzing beneath the big man’s feet.

The old brown sedan rolls into a pothole, stopping as it finally crosses an invisible finish line. And with a soft thump that no one hears, the old man’s head touches his steering wheel. His sedan joins the unison of honking horns, a plumy column of smoke rising from his tailpipe.

Seattle writer, Jason M. Thornberry is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Chapman University. Survivor of a traumatic brain injury, Jason’s work appears in The Stranger, Adirondack Review, Entropy, Litro, Broadkill Review, and elsewhere. His work examines family, disability, social justice. Jason previously taught creative writing and literature and Seattle Pacific University. He reads poetry for TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics and enjoys birdwatching, especially crows—the keepers of the earth.

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