Short Story: For Family

It was insanity. It was complete and utter insanity. This had to be the most stupid thing she’d ever done. And for the most stupid of reasons. She steadied herself on the front bumper of the car, held on to a windshield wiper. People’d been killed less stupidly.

At least if she fell at this speed, she told herself, death would be quick.

Somehow, it didn’t make her feel better. She wasn’t sure anything could, not at the moment. Maybe a bubble of down-soft mattresses around her. Probably not. Otherwise, the universe could call all their debts even so long as she didn’t die horribly– even dying non-horribly wasn’t off the table.

She swallowed hard, feeling the car’s engine explode with power. It raged forward, spurned by the foot of the fuming creature behind the wheel. Kris had never exactly been collected, but this was insanity. Stupid insanity. All of it.

If Kate hadn’t been insane enough to get involved with the gangers, this would’ve never happened. If Syd hadn’t been insane enough to still love her baby sister, she wouldn’t be hanging on by a wiper blade. If big brother Kris wasn’t insane, period, he wouldn’t be forcing her to. Most of all, if their parents weren’t insane, Kate might not have developed her insanity, and wouldn’t be just out of reach in the econo-van rapidly approaching their front-bumper.

The more she thought about it, the less she knew what the hell came next. Kris’ foot was to the floor. The car was gaining. Soon enough, she’d have to decide if she wanted to attempt something. As to what, she didn’t have a clue. All of this was played by ear. Obviously. Who the hell planned hanging off the front end of a rapidly moving vehicle. If she had planned anything, it would’ve been driving. Not hanging. Kris could’ve done the hanging.

Instead, here she was– in arm’s reach of their sister and the stupid fuck trying to kidnap her. Or who had rather– wasn’t much further to go on that, really.

Kate had always had drug problems. They all had their vises. Family problems were as genetic as the genes themselves. Kris liked to gamble. Syd drank like a fish. Kate smoked, snorted, or shot just about anything and everything she touched.

She’d always been safe about it– mostly. She’d contracted Hepatitis from bad needles. Not her fault, really. The needle exchange’s supplier made a mistake. It was a big one, ended in lawsuits that Kate had benefited from. She immediately took her cash payout to get high off of and had been coasting off it ever since. It was a lot of money, after all.

Likewise, Kris’d had both his legs broken by bookies. Not at the same time mind you, but it got the point across… for a while. Syd woke up in unfamiliar places more often than not, expected to start puking blood any day. She hadn’t decided if she’d stop drinking then or start drinking harder.

They’d have blamed their parents for their shitty lives if they weren’t so certain that, by now at least, it was unfairly beating a dead and less blameless horse than they’d like.

None of that prepared them for what was happening now. If Syd bothered to stop and think, or had time to, between the car’s first nudge of the van’s bumper and her reactive leap between them, she’d have realized how absurd the whole situation was. Kate was an adult. She could do what she liked. Including junked-out, maniac gang-bangers. It wasn’t their business. Both Syd and Kris knew that. But since when was sibling-anything ever rational?

Sure as hell not now, Syd knew. Or would’ve thought, if she weren’t clinging to the very razor’s edge of the van’s rear, double-doors. Her nails were splitting the weather stripping. Her finger tips stung from inflamed needles shooting agony through her hands. Her grip tightened. Knuckles whitened. Fingers went purple at their edges. Her feet caught the bumper and in a flash, Kris revved up and past to the van’s driver side.

Syd had only just gotten her footing when the van lurched right.

“Kris! You stupid fuck!” She shouted into the wind.

She regained her footing, only to lose it again from another lurch. She clung on by a lone set of fingers. Kris was ramming the van.

“You idiot!” She screamed, feeling her fingers bleed.

The van lurched again, forward this time. It gain an inexplicable burst of speed. Between it and the oncoming traffic, Kris was forced back behind the van again. Syd screamed and shouted at him, regaining her footing a last time. He seemed to understand the stupidity of his own actions, didn’t care. As soon as he could, he surged around and past again. Syd cursed his name, his life, and her own stupidity for being here. Then, she did the only thing she could think to.

Her free arm reeled back. All the force of the bar-brawling drunkard she was shattered the door’s window. Blood instantly streamed down her arm, her coat, the door, rained into the wind. Kris rammed the van again, but she had a better hold, however painful. Most of all, she had a burst of fury. She threw open the second door, and hurled herself into the screeching van.

The next few moments were hard to follow, even for someone sober. Syd barreled through the van toward her sister, drug-addled but in a terrified daze on the floor. Syd’s drunkard’s-legs engaged from her idiot brother’s head-butting. Then, in a moment she was sure would’ve killed them all, her bloody hands slammed the junkie’s head against the dashboard.

Syd had just enough time to grab the wheel before the van lurched, angled right, and tipped. She saw the last few hundred feet of the van’s momentum from a tumbling view progressing backward and around through it. There was also, in a glaring sort of way, the obvious, ongoing road rash of the junkie boyfriend’s head and face; gravity had wedged it through the shattered window and dented driver’s door.

Even before the tumbling world came to a halt, Syd knew the guy was dead– though her own status was undetermined. Dragging herself, and Kate, from the back of the van, she found Kris waiting. Only then was Syd sure she yet lived; there was no way they’d all three gone to hell at exactly the same time.

Kate swayed, another junkie on drugs and completely oblivious to the severity of her circumstances. Syd swayed too, but from a daze more excusable than Kate’s. By now, the junkie boyfriend’s face was mush between window and ground.

But that didn’t stop Kate from shouting through the back of the van, “It’s over, Shane! Don’t ever call me again!”

She swaggered over to Kris’ car and fell in to the backseat. Syd and Kris exchanged an incredulous look. Kris sighed and headed for the car.

“You’re welcome,” Syd muttered, though Kate wouldn’t have cared anyhow.

As if on cue, Kate yelled something fittingly foolish.

Syd threw her head back to confront the starry sky, “The shit we do for family.”

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