As promised, here is another chapter, or part of one, for a special fiction Saturday. I know there are many of us who would love a distraction from the news right now.
To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE. I posted Chapter 29, yesterday.
A sob choked out of Alex, bile rising into his throat.
“Oh, God, no.”
He fell to the ground next to Robert gently touching his shoulder, dragging in a ragged breath.
He leaned closer. “Robert, I’m going to get this tractor off you. You’re going to be okay.”
Robert swallowed hard and blinked his eyes. It was Alex’s first indication he was still alive.
The saturated ground must have given away under Robert, tipping the tractor into the ravine, onto its side, trapping him underneath it.
Robert tried to raise his hand, but it fell again to his side. “Alex. . .”
Alex shook his head. He had to get this tractor off Robert. He had to find out where the blood was coming from. He could tell by Robert’s labored breathing he wouldn’t last much longer if he couldn’t draw a deeper breath. The tractor was crushing his sternum and ribcage.
“Don’t talk. I’ll be right back. I need a lever or something to help me get this off you.”
Robert shook his head weakly. “Too . . .heavy.”
Alex reached for his phone in his back pocket.
It wasn’t there.
He ran to the truck, searching the front seat frantically. He cursed, remembering he’d left it at the house that morning. Running to the barn he ripped the door open and ran inside, looking for something he could wedge under the tractor to lift it.
He found a 2×4 and hooked it under his arm, dragging back to the tractor. Wedging it under the hood of the tractor, which was now embedded into the soil that had been softened by the recent rain, he pushed down on it, let up when he realized it wasn’t in the group deep enough and wedged it further down.
“Alex . . .”
He ignored Robert as he shoved the end of the 2×4 deeper into the ground. The wind had picked up and rain began to pelt his face. When he thought the board was wedged in deep enough, he pushed down, relieved as the tractor began to rise. He realized he wasn’t sure what he was going to do once he got the tractor up off the ground, if he even could, but it was a start.
The crack of the board under the weight of the tractor sounded like a gunshot.
Alex closed his eyes against the pain as the jagged end of the broken board ripped across his ribcage and sliced a gash into his flesh. He was afraid to open his eyes again and see that he had hurt Robert worse in his impatience.
He held his arm across his side and quickly crawled to Robert, leaning over so he could block his face from the rain.
“Are you okay?”
“Alex, stop.” Robert’s voice was barely audible. “Listen . . . please.”
Alex started to stand again. “I’m going to go get help, Robert.”
Robert weakly grabbed Alex’s arm. “Listen to me.”
Alex leaned closer, tears stinging his eyes. “I don’t have time to —”
Robert’s words gasped out in short bursts as he tried to drag air into his lungs. “If I . . . don’t make it . . .” He grimaced and dragged a breath in sharply. “I need you . . . and Jason to take care of Annie . . . and Molly.”
Alex shook his head. “Robert, you’re going to be fine. Don’t talk like that.”
Robert swallowed hard, gasping in a breath. “But if I don’t …”
Alex shook his head again. “Not talking about it. You’re going to be fine.”
“Alex,” Robert grabbed his wrist tightly with all the strength he had left. “Please. Promise . . .”
Alex tightened his jaw, fighting back emotion. “I promise, Robert. I promise I’ll take care of Molly and Annie, but you’re going to be there to help me.”
The sound of a truck brought Alex’s head up. His heart rate increased at the sight of Molly pulling her truck in behind his.
“It’s Molly, she’ll —”
“No.” Robert’s words came out in short gasps. “Don’t . . . .let her . . . see me like . . . this. Stop her.”
Alex ran full force up the hill as Molly started walking toward him. Her face fell as soon as she saw him.
“Alex! You’re bleeding! What happened?”
He grabbed her by the shoulders. “I’m fine, but I need you to go to the house. Okay? Call an ambulance on the way and then get Jason.”
“What’s going on?” Molly strained to look around him. “Where’s my dad?”
He cradled her face in his hands. “Molly, look at me.”
Panic flashed across her face as she gripped his upper arms. “Alex, is my dad under that tractor?”
“Alex! Tell me!”
She tried to pull away. “Daddy!”
Alex tightened his hands on her face. “Molly! Look at me!”
Tears filled her eyes as she focused her gaze on his. Her eyes pleaded for him to tell her that her dad wasn’t under the tractor. He wished he could tell her that.
“Your dad is talking to me. That’s a good sign. I need you to call an ambulance and then I need you to call Jason and tell him to get down here. Then go back to the house and wait with your mom. Got it? Your dad doesn’t want you here, okay?” Her eyes darted away from his briefly, back toward the tractor. He moved closer to her, his hands still on her face. “Do you understand?”
Molly nodded slowly, taking a deep breath, choking back a sob. “Okay.”
As Molly ran toward her truck. Alex ran to the barn, searching for something to protect Robert from the rain. He found a tarp, pulling it across the tires of the tractor until it made a tent over the man who had taught him more about life than anyone else, other than his grandfather. Robert’s breaths were shallow, his eyes closed.
Alex shivered, his clothes soaked from the rain hitting him like ice pellets. Glancing at his ripped shirt he grimaced at the sight of dark red blood oozing from a deep gash across his ribs and upper abdomen. Searing pain pulsated through him as he propped the tarp up, the movement stretching the wound open further.
“You’re bleeding,” Robert said softly.
Alex shrugged a shoulder. “I’m fine. No more talking. Save your air for breathing, okay?”
Robert’s eyelids closed as he nodded slowly.
It seemed like an eternity before Alex heard Jason’s truck pulled in next to his.
Alex stepped around the tractor. “Down here!”
Jason stared at his father’s motionless form for a brief second before ripping the tarp back and propping his hands against the tractor’s mud covered back tire.
“Get on the other side!” He shouted at Alex to be heard over the rain. “Push when I tell you to!”
“What if the tractor falls again?” Alex shouted back.
Metal and rocks sliced at Jason and Alex’s hands as they pushed until the tractor rolled back enough that it wasn’t laying on Robert anymore. Alex dragged a hand across his face to try to see through the rain, a sick ache clutching at his stomach at the way Robert’s legs were grotesquely twisted away from each other.
The blaring squeal of an ambulance siren drowned out Jason’s voice as he fell to the ground to speak to Robert. Alex didn’t need to know what Jason was saying. Whatever it was, it was between a father and son. He turned his face away, choking back emotion as he heard bits and pieces between the blares of the siren.
“Jason . . .”
“Save your energy, Dad. We’ll talk at the hospital.”
“Jason.” Robert struggled to draw a breath in. “I love you.”
Jason’s voice broke as he spoke. “I love you too, Dad. You’re going to be fine, okay?”
Alex and Jason both stepped back as several local volunteer fire fighters pulled in behind the ambulance, jumping out of their trucks and rushing across the soaked field, two of them almost falling as their feet slipped in the mud. Tarps were expertly erected to protect them and Robert from the rain.
Alex recognized most of the men, many of whom Jason had introduced him to over the years; former classmates of Jason’s, local business owners who also served as volunteer fire fighters, even the mayor of Spencer.
After they examined Robert, assessing the extent of his injuries, several of the fire fighters and the EMTs gathered around him and Robert quickly, yet somehow still gently, from the ground to a backboard. From there they carried him toward the back of the ambulance, doing their best to shield him from the rain,
Molly’s truck pulled in behind Alex’s as the EMT’s reached the back of the ambulance, Annie rushing from the passenger side. Her hair, usually pulled up on top of her head, had fallen loose and was soaked, matted against her face.
One hand reached toward the ambulance, another holding her sweater closed. “Robert!”
Alex turned quickly and met her, his arms grasping her against his chest as she strained to reach the stretcher. She sobbed, clutching Alex’s arms, straining against him, her face streaked with tears and raindrops.
“Annie!” one of the EMTs shouted over the sound of the rain and the growl of the ambulance engine. “Robert’s asking for you. You can ride with us.”
Alex let Annie go and watched through the tears he’d been trying hard to hold back as she stumbled toward the back of the ambulance. He dragged a blood covered hand across his cheek to wipe tears and raindrops from his face and saw Molly as she turned away from the scene, her face pale, hand pressed against her mouth, and eyes wide.
He took a step, reached out for her, and then collapsed as blackness stretched across his vision.
Visions of her dad’s pale face against the white sheet of the stretcher in the back of the ambulance merged with visions of Alex lying unconscious at her feet, bleeding from his stomach and side. This morning she’d woke up simply looking forward to lunch with her best friend. The day had spiraled out of control very fast starting with Jessie and now here she was, 8 hours later, sitting next to her brother in his pickup, speeding toward the hospital behind two ambulances, one carrying her father, the other carrying the man she’d fallen in love with.
She’d used up most of her tears and now sat staring through the windshield with bloodshot eyes, feeling numb and emotionally spent.
She glanced at Jason. “I don’t know. You?”
Her brother laughed softly. “Hardly.”
They drove in silence for a few more moments, the sound of tires on the pavement humming a rhythm.
Jason cleared his throat. “So, what did I walk in on today with you and Alex?”
Molly rolled her eyes and leaned her head against the window. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Did he screw it up already?”
Molly glared. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Jason shrugged. “It’s just Alex. He screws up stuff sometimes.”
“We just had to talk about something I’d heard,” Molly said with a sigh.
“About Jessie Landry?”
She lifted her head and looked at him with raised eyebrows. “How do you know about that?”
He shrugged again. “He told me about it.”
“What did he say?”
“He said he’d brought her back to the house, but told her he couldn’t sleep with her, and she left in a huff.”
“Do you believe him?”
Jason glanced at her, then back to the road. “Yeah, I do. She wasn’t there when I got home from being out with Ellie, and she wasn’t there in the morning. Plus, he was pretty annoyed when I harassed him about it.” A smile flicked across his mouth. “I didn’t know what stopped him then but now I have to wonder . . .” He glanced at her again. “Maybe it was not something, but someone.”
After a couple moments of silence, he glanced at her again. “Do you believe him?”
She sighed, watching houses and farms speed by the window. Alex had already told her it had been someone that had stopped him from sleeping with Jessie and that someone was her.
“Yeah,” she said softly. “I do.”
She tipped her head against the window again, looking out at the ambulance taillights fading in front of them. She closed her eyes briefly and rubbed them, wishing she was in the ambulance with Alex, hoping he was okay. Bradley Lester, one of the ambulance crew who she’d graduated with, had told her he thought it was blood loss that had knocked Alex unconscious, but they’d know more at the hospital.
A thought struck her.
“How did you know about me and Alex?”
The sun had dipped below the horizon and bright red streaked between streaks of yellow.
A slight smile tugged at Jason’s mouth. “I saw you two kissing outside the diner the other day.”
Jason made a face. “It made me want to throw up.”
Molly laughed at her brother, knowing she shouldn’t, but saying it anyhow. “Not me.”
Jason stuck his tongue out and made a gagging noise. “Yuck.”
They drove for a few more minutes in silence. They were almost to the hospital.
“Were you mad?”
He grinned. “Heck yeah. I almost punched Alex out. Instead I just shoved him across the diner.”
Molly looked at her brother with wide eyes. “Why did you do that?”
Jason flicked the turn signal for the hospital exit. “Because you’re my sister. Alex is my best friend, but he’s not great with relationships. I didn’t want you to be another casualty to his inability to commit.”
Molly thought about her conversation with Alex that night in the barn. He knew he’d made mistakes in the past. He wanted to change, he’s said, and she couldn’t help but believe him.
“I think he’s trying to change,” she said softly.
“Yeah. He is.” Jason stopped at a stoplight and looked at her. “And you’re the reason why.”
Molly blew out a long breath. “I don’t think I’m —“
“You are, Molly.” The light was still red, and he was still looking at her. “You’re worth any man changing for. Don’t ever doubt that.” He laughed softly as the light flicked to green. “He’s probably going to screw up things from time to time, but he told me he loves you and I believe him, even if it makes me nervous. I promised I’d help him change.”
He grinned as he turned the truck into the hospital driveway. “I also promised I’d beat him to a pulp if he hurts you.”
Molly punched her brother’s shoulder playfully. “Ah, having your brother promise to beat the crap out of someone for you. That’s sibling love right there.”
Jason pulled into the parking lot next to the emergency room entrance and shifted the truck into park. Molly’s mind raced from Alex to her Dad.
“They’re going to be okay, Mol.”
She nodded, blowing out a shaky breath.
“Did you call Ellie?” she asked as they made their way toward the emergency room.
Jason didn’t answer for a few moments. His eyebrows had dipped low, his eyes narrowed. “No. Not yet.”
She looked at him, confused. “Do you want me to call her? I think she’d want to know.”
He shook his head and chewed at the inside of his lip. “No. That’s fine. I’ll call her later. Things are just —” He let out a sigh. “Confusing right now.”
He shrugged. “Alex isn’t the only one who knows how to screw up a good thing.” He opened the hospital door for her. “Come on. Let’s find Dad and Alex and we can’t talk about my love life another time.”