Why Didn’t It Happen To Me?

Flash Fiction 365 prompt: Why didn’t it happen to me?

Tom ran inside the hospital, pushing an orderly out of the way, as if he knew where he was going. He didn’t. He stopped at an occupied desk and asked. The girl behind the desk pointed up at the fifth floor. He took the stairs because it seemed faster. It wasn’t.

He reached the fifth floor and looked down the hallway. He spied his mother and ran. When he stood in front of her, she didn’t even look up. Tom sat beside her and bundled her into his long arms. She accepted them gratefully, but no tears came. Her eyes were puffy, red and stinging.

They sat there, enveloped in each other’s arms for what seemed like forever. It was the first time they had hugged since Tom grew taller than her. “How are they?”

“Your father is alright. The entire left side of his body is broken. The truck hit his side of the car. He’s got a broken rib, a broken clavicle and a broken arm, a broken everything really, but he’ll be alright. He’s unconscious, thankfully.”

“And Eddie?”

She wrung the tissue in her hands, “He’s in surgery. It’s his leg. His leg, Tom.” She imparted the news with the gravity that only Tom, and the hundreds of basketball fans and scouts interested in Eddie’s burgeoning career would understand.

“Oh,” he took the weight of the words on his shoulders and they sagged from the strain. “Will he…”

“We don’t know yet. The doctor said that he’ll definitely be able to walk and there’s a good chance that he will recover full function, but he won’t know until after surgery. He’ll miss the playoffs.”

“Mom…” Tom didn’t know how to express the obvious, that it should have been him in that car. He was the one who was supposed to run up to Big Fork with his dad. He was the one who should be in surgery. If it hadn’t been for that stupid argument, he would have been, but he had run off in a huff and his brother had no choice but to go instead since his father needed the help.

“Why did it have to be Eddie?” He said the words as much to the universe as to anyone else, “I was supposed to be in the car, not him. I don’t have a basketball career ahead of me. Why didn’t it happen to me?”

“Don’t you go blaming yourself for this.” His mother took his hand and gave him a look that said she would not accept his guilt. “These things just happen, Tom. It will be alright. You’ll see.” She squeezed his hand to reassure both of them that her words would be true.