By Keith N Fisher
How many of you, when describing the scene in the picture, would mention the temperature of the water?
Several years ago, when my daughter was learning to talk, We went camping like we always do, on the fourth of July. It’s a family tradition. Some of us stay in tents others bring campers and trailers. We end up scattered all over the campground, but we get together for breakfast and lunch in whichever place we’ve reserved.
That year, I hauled my trailer up to the top parking lot and rose early to set up my camp kitchen half way down the mountain, in our picnic site. My wife and I were heavily into Dutch oven competition then, and we had a ton of recipes we wanted to try.
I cooked all day and my family ate well. When the truck was packed I started the engine to drive up and get the trailer. A strange man approached my wife and daughter, so I pressed down on the emergency brake pedal and left the truck in neutral on the hill to see what he wanted.
The man asked directions and I explained where he needed to go. Suddenly, as if I were sitting in my truck, I knew what had happened by the popping sound my emergency brake made as it released itself.
The truck rolled backward and I ran around it. I flung the door open and tried to push on the brake from a standing position. Leverage is a funny thing, and I learned there is none, from outside of a vehicle. The truck didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down as the door knocked me to the ground.
There I lay, straddling the length of the truck, watching the wheels roll toward my head. I remember hearing my daughter scream, “Daddy!” In that second I knew I had to get out from under the truck or it would roll on top of me. I also mused about my daughter calling out to me.
In retrospect, I wonder if my body would’ve stopped the wheels and kept the truck from continuing. The sounds I heard next, made me wish it had. I heard a crash, then another, and another. When it stopped, my truck had hit a parked car and pushed it into the next in line, and so on until there were five wrecked cars. I had contusions, and a nasty bruise that covered my whole arm.
On another occasion we went fishing and camping in a campground. In those days my father towed a camp trailer with a boat trailer behind it. We were packing to leave and Dad began to back the trailer up to the boat to hook on. The macho part of me decided to save time. I picked up the tongue in order to meet Dad at the bottom of the hill.
Gravity took over. The next thing I knew I was hanging onto the tongue, my feet were sliding toward the camp trailer and I still thought I could stop it somehow. In the next brief second I concluded the tongue was about to put a wicked hole into the back of the trailer. My plan was to put me between it and the boat.
Now, something told me if I used my hand it would crush the bones so I used my wrist. I know I know where was my brain, right? There’s still a funny shaped dent that resembles my wrist, in the back of that trailer.
I stood there, cradling my hand like a wounded animal. When I finally looked, there was very little blood, but there was a gash about six inches long. I could gaze into it and see my veins and tendons. It was fascinating, but it hurt too much for me to care.
After a wonderful blessing given by my father, my wife drove our truck and trailer, and me, to the hospital.
I’m not really sure why, but I recalled these incidents during that twilight time just before sleep comes, the other day. Since they happened, I’ve developed logical solutions that would’ve saved me all the trouble. I should’ve just dropped the tongue, and I practiced jumping into my truck to see if I could’ve done it. I know the truck would’ve stopped if I had.
Besides, my walk down memory lane, I’m sharing these images with you to illustrate a point. These events still make me wince, even after all these years and I remember the details. You see, while the correct solution didn’t occur to me at the time, My mind noticed the details. When I saw my front wheels rolling toward me I noticed the tire tread and marveled at how good my new tires looked. I also saw the danger.
The point is our minds notice the details even in split second timing. As writers, we need to remember them too. The stories above wouldn’t be the same without them. The fact of my wrist making a dent in Dad’s trailer adds something to the story. We need to be careful, however, and pay attention to point of view. Don’t have someone else notice the tire tread. It has to come from the point of view character. Also, don’t make him/her notice something they couldn’t possibly see.
Good luck with your writing—see you next week.