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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 124 - Ten Seconds from Eternity

Pete Horvatz was out late that night, playing poker with the guys. Of course they’d had a few beers but nothing much. Pete was feeling pretty good. He’d won $500 that night and patted the pocket filled with cash as he put on his coat. It had snowed that afternoon and he knew the streets would be slippery.

Pete walked down the walk to his car, parked in front of his friend’s house. It started right up. Home was only ten minutes away, not a big deal. He glanced around at the street and the walkways. Plenty of snow but not too deep and the roads had been cleared already. He put the car in gear and drove.

Two minutes and he was on the highway, driving carefully of course. He wasn’t taking any chances in this weather.

He thought of his wife, waiting for him at home. He’d said no later than 10 p.m. and he was on track to make that. No need to call. He smiled. She’d be waiting for him. They’d talk about their days and figure out how to spend the extra $500 in his pocket. He never hid stuff like that from her. They’d even talk about the kids and their problems at school.

A flash of light up ahead caught his eye. He was driving about 40 miles per hour but lifted his foot from the accelerator as he struggled to make sense of the flash of light. Then suddenly he saw it, a huge semi-truck and trailer lying across the road under the dark shadow of an underpass. The flickering light was a fire.

He hit the brakes. The tires skidded on the snow. He jammed them hard, aware that he was taking exactly the wrong action, not certain what he should do. The car skidded some more, then angled to the right. No control. That truck was coming up too fast! He struggled for control, turned the wheel away from the skid. NO!!! He turned the other way. The car fishtailed. The car slid right at the truck. A gasoline truck. On fire. And started to slow. It spun and he was helpless to stop it but with hands gripping the wheel and foot bearing down on the brakes he was doing all he could. The car spun once again, clipped the very tail end of the truck and slid past it under the overpass and out the other side. The car stopped ten feet from the truck facing back towards it.

Pete stared at the gasoline truck and the flames licking around the base. Oh my God! he thought. Fire and gasoline. His engine was still running. He didn’t think. He threw the gear into reverse and hit the gas again. The car sped backwards, fishtailing but moving. As it sped, he saw the explosion start. It seemed like an eternity, first the tiny flames, then the flash of fire, then the sudden flash of overwhelming flame blasting right at him. He jammed the accelerator down. The flames chased after him, then in an instant touched the windshield before receding.

Pete let the car slow. The overpass rose several feet under the flames, then settled back down onto the truck. Flames touched the overpass. Uh-oh, Pete thought. That was only the truck’s gasoline tank. He jammed the gear into drive, spun the wheel and accelerated away as fast as he could. Two seconds, three seconds, five seconds and behind him he heard a huge roar and the entire tank trailer on the truck exploded into a monster fireball. Peter accelerated as pieces of the overpass thudded into the pavement around him. Seven seconds, eight, nine, ten. He glanced in the rear view mirror. Bright flames filled it. He glanced out the back window. Relief. He was safe.

He eased the car to the side of the road and stopped. He was breathing heavily. His heart was racing. He was alive. There were no police yet. The flames roared behind him, so close he could feel the heat through his crushed back window. He knew he had alcohol in his blood. As the first sirens converged behind him, he drove slowly away, as straight as possible to home, to his wife, waiting with expectation of a pleasant evening, to his children, sleeping the night away.

He’d never known how he might feel in a situation like this. Mostly he felt numb. That vision of the truck under the overpass and his car hurtling toward it stuck in his mind. It was that close. Eternity had been that close that quickly.

He’d been on the road to be in a poker game. Was that worth his life? He shook his head. Suddenly he knew what he had to do. He had a family that had almost lost him. He had taken a risk with their futures, not with his own. He had put them second to a poker game.

It was such a small thing, so inconsequential. Yet, he realized, the small things count. The small things had taken him to within ten seconds of eternity.

Peter Horvatz pulled into the driveway, noted the yellow lights glowing in the windows, and shook his head once again. Never again, he thought, would he put his family’s future at stake for such a foolish game. Never again.

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