‘be a little more careful’

THIS TIME I WAS driving a kind of plastic toy car, like the kind our eldest used to have, down a winding seacoast road lined with pines rising up onto knolls and hills. It was a place like Maine, Scotland, or Washington State. That kind of place. The temperature had just begun to dip below freezing, and there were patches of black ice on the road. I went over a patch of ice, spun around many times, and collided with a black Mercedes parked by the beach. However, as my car was made of plastic, there was no damage, and the owner, a lanky, stiff-upper-lipped British Lord Mountbatten type, merely chided me and told me to “be a little more careful next time, young man.” I apologized and turned my car around and began to ascend the same seaside hill, now covered with fat flakes of wet snow. From its base, I watched a car drive opposite me. It went over the same patch of ice, lost control, went up the embankment, crashed into a tree and was thrown into the side of the other hill, where it exploded into a violent blaze. “Oh,” I thought, watching the red curling flames. “That guy is definitely dead.” I drove on up nevertheless to get a good look. A small crowd had gathered to watch the vehicle burn, and a crane was lifting parts of the wreckage into the air. I didn’t understand it, but they had also lifted the corpse of the driver, and as he was suspended overhead, his head came loose and fell into my arms. I briefly recognized a beard — it was a man — and a hat and then dropped the head in shock and began to run back toward the beach, leaving my car behind. Now I saw there were dozens of corpses piled up in the woods. I kept running and reached an intersection, where my father happened to drive by in a blue sedan and said, “Get in.” And so I got in the passenger’s seat, buckled my belt, and away we went up some road into the hills. “Did you see the crash?” he said. “Terrible.”

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