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I Took a Wrong Turn: A Group Writing Project

About the Authors

1 Elsie Scratch, Colorado, February 15, 2016

2 Mia Herman, New York, February 22, 2016

3 Chris Blanchard, Florida, February 29, 2016

4 Jack Beavers, Florida, March 14, 2016

5 Lucille Scant, Oregon, March 21, 2016

6 Chris Blanchard, Florida, March 28, 2016

About Dually Noted

Dually Noted is TBL’s exciting group-writing project. New and established writers from around the world come together to create one ongoing story through weekly installments. If you would like to add the next section, shoot us your 500-word addition by Friday night. Our editor will publish the best submission at the beginning of each week.

Dually Noted

I Took a Wrong Turn

by the TBL Writing Community

Glass Girls

“I took a wrong turn, I took a wrong turn,” she wrung her hands while she spoke. “I overcorrected, I overcorrected, I always do that when this happens, I never learned—”

The air was like a blade. Her face felt raw with the early cold, and the coming sun did nothing to comfort her.

“You stupid girl,” the man growled. His eyes were sunken in a little, and she noticed their darkness right away. He looked tattered, his chin bristling with a sandpaper shadow. His mouth, missing a tooth, snarled. She could hardly breathe.

“I’m so sorry,” she murmured. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to. I need new tires, it’s so icy—”

“You stupid girl,” he repeated. He stood between the cars. Her hood concave and pressed like thin plastic, his trunk soldered shut, a thin steam rose from the ground where she’d spun. Glass from some side mirror glittered on the ground. Everything was gray.

“You’re not hurt, are you?” she asked.  He wasn’t hurt. Her eyes slid all around. She couldn’t stop staring—the cars, the man, the cars again, the man again. The glass on the road, the glass road. The man loomed with broad shoulders over her small body. He seemed to leave a shadow, though the sun still sat behind the hills.

“You’re not going to hurt me, are you?” she nearly whispered. He moved toward her.

Her hips twitched in the cold. She sucked in some snowy air, and it caught in her throat. She coughed.

“Please, please, I’m so sorry, I’ll call my dad, not the cops, I promise, I have insurance and it will take care of everything, please don’t worry, just tell me what to do—”

He took slow, long steps, stopping a few inches from her. She could smell his dusty shirt and traced the scars on his face. He only had half an eyebrow.

“You are a stupid, stupid girl,” he said. He bent so his nose was only inches from hers. The half-eyebrow eye was somewhat lazy. “I can’t open my trunk now.”

She couldn’t move. He was so close and it was so cold and she couldn’t even shiver for fear or freezing. She was stuck without breath. She tried to nod her head. She couldn’t.

“Do you know what’s in my trunk, you stupid girl?” the man asked. She tried to shake her head. She couldn’t.

“No,” she whispered.

He shoved his dark glare into her eyes like a pair of scissors.

He clicked his tongue.

He snickered. His breath was mothlike, dusty as his clothes.

“There is another stupid girl in my trunk,” he said quietly. “I was going into the hills to leave her for the cats. I can’t open my trunk now.” He paused. Tears turned to ice—to glass in her lashes.

He snickered.

“You didn’t hit my car,” he said. “You took a wrong turn. You spun out and hit the median. Your car will get you home. Go the fuck home. And don’t you dare say a word.”

His breath brushed her face like moony, musky wings. He stood up again, his eyes unmoving from hers. He climbed back into his car, twisted the ignition, and left her standing on the glass.1

Untitled

I take a wrong turn. That’s how I end up in the Israeli marketplace known as Makhaneh Yehuda. My nose catches a whiff of caramel and melting chocolate, and I pass by a stand of sticky pastries that look slightly under-baked and doughy. As I turn to my right, a vendor pulls me by the elbow over to his booth; he is selling dozens of different nuts and the sandy browns remind me of the country’s landscape.

I shake my head, thanking the vendor in my broken Hebrew, and I continue down the aisle. But I am stopped short when I see Sam standing just a few feet in front of me.

My heart splutters, and I pause for just the slightest moment before picking up the pace. I keep my eyes glued on a nearby apple stand, but I can feel myself blushing furiously, an act of bodily betrayal.

I walk over to the Gala apples and pick one up, searching for soft spots and bruises. For a split second, I picture a pair of hands inspecting my heart in the same manner, turning it round and round to check for damage. And, like the bruised apple, I can see my heart getting re-shelved when these hands discover Sam’s mark, a mushy discoloration.

“Em?”

I am startled back to reality as I feel the brush of Sam’s shoulder against mine.

I gulp down a breath of hot, dry air. A suffocating silence squeezes the two of us together so tightly that I feel as if I am pressed right up against him. The only thing I can hear is the white noise of market life: the crinkling of plastic bags and the shouts of negotiating vendors.

Ducking his head, Sam stares at the ground with a sort of deliberate intensity. He buries a hand in his khaki pants pocket, fidgeting with little threads and bits of garbage. This nervous habit of his is a familiar sight, and it both warms and chills my heart. Because, for the first time, I realize he’s nervous. I realize I miss him.

He shrugs one shoulder, deflated, and breaks the silence.

“Don’t you miss me?”

The words come out in a hoarse whisper, and I shiver despite the summer heat. Goosebumps appear up and down my arms, an involuntary reaction to the sound of his voice.

“I mean, don’t you think that this is more than coincidence?” he continues. “Bumping into each other like this?”

He stops for a moment, fumbling for the right words. And then he tries again.

“If you could say anything right now, what would it be?”

I take a deep breath in, letting Sam’s question sound in my head. What would you tell me? What would you say?

The words burn at the back of my throat, and I force them down like bitter-tasting bile.

I think you did love me, I want to say. In fact, I think you knew you loved me, and that scared the hell out of you. So you ran. Because running was just so much easier than standing still.

But I know myself, and I know that I won’t say any of this. That would only be another wrong turn.2

The Ultimate Act of Karma

I took a wrong turn. Overcorrected the left—

My vision swirls into focus as the car stops rolling. The seat belt holds me suspended, crushing me in a death-hug. Shattered glass, now pink, litters the crumpled roof as if someone had taken the time to Bedazzle it. My mind whirls at improbable speeds, adrenaline coursing through my body.

All this to answer Kelly’s stupid text?

The blood beats in my head, a relentless reminder that I am, in fact, alive. A gash above my left ear soaks my face in sticky red. My heaving chest pushes against the locked seat belt, making it hard to breathe. I hear the far-off whine of sirens.

I shouldn’t have risked it, and this is the price—

I press the red plastic release, but it’s jammed. I hang there, blood pounding in my head, threatening to burst from my eyes. I grip the belt above the lock, and yank. It rips free and I crumple to the roof, landing in glass. My legs drop behind me like cinderblocks, smashing against the upturned dashboard. They are numb.

So I pay this mistake, but not with my life—

I look up, craning my neck to peer out the jagged window. Asphalt, metal and blood. I try to push myself out of the car, but my arms seem to be the only part of my body responding. I pull forward, caring little for sharp glass on my exposed flesh. I crawl like a man washed ashore.

A gloved hand. A periwinkle beacon of hope. A woman bends down, shielding my eyes from the impossible light of the outside world. With gentle precision, she extracts and wheels me into the ambulance, talking in hurried jargon, checking notes, charts, vitals. Someone asks me questions about my family and how to best get ahold of them. Wish I knew. I feel a crushing sense of vulnerability, immediately aware of my dependency on this woman with the periwinkle gloves and her team.

I see myself selfish, my own choice to hide—

Whirs, beeps and clicks signal the transition into St. Agnes Emergency Hospital. She pushes my cart, jaw clenched, sweat gleaming like a thousand precious jewels. I am weak, thirsty and heavy. I cry for the whole team of people devoted to my life. I cry for the whole team of people saving the idiot crushed while staring at a screen, rather than the road.

I pushed my only family aside—

The mix of morphine and adrenaline plays wicked tricks on my brain. Phrases like “won’t walk again” and “paralyzed” ring out in my head like the clamor of a church bell, tolling eternal judgment on the wicked below. This nightmare bounces in my head, rattling against the cage of my consciousness. My upper half thrashes, resistant to this reality. A hand grips my arm, a sharp prick. I realize the price tag for my isolation. I can run away no longer. I’m forced to go home.3

Not the Devil

I took a wrong turn at Grandpa’s study and was greeted by an old friend. Ornate bronze pieces lay scattered on the old marble chessboard atop its pedestal. I picked up one of the black rooks and smiled.

“I’ll set us up a game of chess,” I called down the hall, “Like old times.”

I set up the board, lining up the pieces. Before I could place the white king, a sudden weight on my foot flushed the nape of my neck with barbs of panic.

I looked down.

A 7-meter-long Adder snake—thick as a truck’s hubcap in girth—was coiled around my shoes. The Adder bobbed its grand pyramid crown, reared up to its full height and knocked the chessboard off the pedestal with one swipe of its neck.

“Hey!” I said, reaching down to clean up the mess, “I’m trying to play a game with Grandpa.”

I carefully began to re-place the pieces on the board.

“Why’d you keep coming back here?” asked the snake. “He doesn’t remember your visits, y’know? All day long he cries about how lonely he is, how no one cares.”

I ground my teeth, but kept on with the task at hand. The Adder squeezed my feet.

“Why waste ya time? He forgot the rules to this game years ago.”

“Let go of me. I don’t care what you have to say!” I thrashed my legs, but the snake held firm.

“It’s time for you to grow up,” said the Adder, “Don’t ya know the life you’re passing up, spending all ya time here? How many opportunities you’ve missed?”

I armed the front line of pawns and started to gather the aristocracy. Kings, Queens, Bishops…

The chessboard crashed to the floor again. My throat burned and tears dashed my cheeks. The snake hummed and wove itself around me.

“Piss off! Why won’t you leave me be?”

“I’m giving you a chance to free ya ‘self. Lean on me. Leave the old miser.”

I leant down to pick up the board once more.

“Why don’t you leave, huh? Do you enjoy this?” I asked.

“I do.”

“Freak.”

“You know he’s dropped ya out of his will, right?”

I stared at the chessboard.

“He really doesn’t remember anything?”

The snake shook its head.

“Sorry pal. In one ear, out the other, that’s how it is with him.”

I nodded and inhaled deeply, before continuing to arrange the black flank.

“What are ya doing? Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

The Adder snatched up one of the rooks in its mouth. My own laughter never rang so hollow.

“You want everyone to be weak like you. I thought you were the devil, but you’re just small. Give me back my rook.”

The snake held my gaze a moment, then cocked its head and dropped the piece in my outstretched palm.

“Have fun with your game,” said the Adder as it slithered towards the door, “Guess I’ll see ya next time…” 4

Just the Tip

“I took a wrong turn, I guess, and accidentally poked my brain.”

Doctor Hashard furrowed his thick, silver brow. What a handsome man, I thought.

“Who is?” asked Doctor Hashard.

What a handsome man, I thought I’d thought.

“What a handsome man,” I said.

“Who is?” asked Doctor Hashard. He hadn’t looked up from his clipboard for several minutes.

“Um,” I said, palms turning wet and nervous. The fluorescent lights hummed loudly and the white walls began to hurt my eyes. “Anderson Cooper?”

Doctor Hashard nodded, his brow still furrowed. “Quite right,” he agreed. “A silver fox.”

I sighed a half-laugh and looked around, squinting. It was just so bright in there.

“It’s just so bright in here,” I thought I’d thought.

Doctor Hashard glanced up from his clipboard. He stepped over to me and placed a large, dry hand on my forehead. He probed my temples gently. He felt the back of my neck.

“Go on and shut your eyes,” he said. I did.

“So you accidentally poked your brain?” he asked. I could hear his pen moving on whatever was clipped to his clipboard.

“Yes, and it was the worst feeling you could ever imagine,” I said. Like squeezing a plum until it peels itself. Like crushing a banana with your finger. And I barely even touched it. It was just a graze.

“Your fingers are extraordinarily long,” said Doctor Hashard. I nodded. I know.

“How tall are you, Davis?” asked Doctor Hashard.

“Oh, gosh, five-foot-nine? Not very,” I said. I heard a metallic sound and felt a hard ribbon stretch along my middle finger. I heard another metallic sound as the ribbon cracked back into place.

“Hmm,” said Doctor Hashard. Scribble, scribble. “Your middle finger is six and a half inches long.”

“It is,” I agreed.

“On both hands,” said Doctor Hashard. It sounded like a question.

“Yes,” I said. Tell me something I don’t know, Hashard.

“It’s pronounced, Hazzard, like the Dukes of,” he said.

“Oh,” I responded. I tried to shield my embarrassment by saying, “Not ‘Has-Hard?’”

“No.” Scribble, scribble. More metallic sounds: index finger, ring finger, pinky.

“Have you never seen a doctor for this?” Thumb.

“No,” I said. Of course I have, you silly, silly man.

“The rest of your fingers are relatively normal,” said Doctor Hashard. “So very strange, indeed. Have you always picked your nose with your middle finger?”

“Of course,” I said. “It always yields the best results.”

“Until you graze your brain,” said Doctor Hashard. My eyes were still shut. Did he say that, or did I think it?

“Right,” I said aloud. “Until I pick what I think is a booger, but is actually gray matter.”

Doctor Hashard grumbled something as he scribbled, scribbled.

“I would ordinarily diagnose something like this as a Marfan-like symptom,” he said, “but you’re not the typical height nor do you have any of the other symptoms of Marfan, as far as I can tell.”

He paused. My hands glistened.

“I think we should bring you back in for some tests, Davis,” he said. I opened my eyes. His brow was still furrowed, still silver.

I nodded, “Okay.”

“And bring that booger in, if you’ve still got it.”

I glanced at the grime beneath my right middle fingernail.

So did he.5

Alternative Therapy

I took a wrong turn at—

What the hell do I even write in this stupid diary? Writing with themes—with a prompt—is stupid. I hate Dr. Furr’s “alternative therapy.” Fuck. Hell. Damn. Even writing cuss words is lame. You know what else is stupid? Chemistry class. Chemistry class, Dr. Furr, this themed diary and Katie Sullivan. Keeping track of my stupid thoughts won’t help me cope better. You know what would make me cope better? A joint. Or maybe a school that wasn’t shit-packed with label-driven monkeys. Or a Mom who wasn’t a psycho that thinks alternative therapy helps. It doesn’t. This is bullshit and Connor’s still dead.

Fuck this,
Michael

 

I took a wrong turn on my way to Western Civ,

And saw Bradley Cox getting his ass whooped in the bathroom off G pod. I came in and heard some kid crying—practically begging—with Pat Artchel and the whole Crew standing around, taking turns kicking him in the gut. It was like something straight out of some cheesy high-school movie. Honestly, the sound of Bradley getting kicked made me ill. I didn’t tell anyone. Haven’t still. But I had to write it down. Thank God they didn’t see me. I always liked to think of myself as the kid that would jump in and save the day.

Turns out I’m a coward. I bet Connor would have done something. Anything. I’m useless.

I suck,
Michael


I took a wrong turn and found myself sitting in the wrong Biology class,

Everyone, especially Mrs. Truman, thought I was too stoned. I don’t smoke before class, that shit is lame. Now everyone thinks I’m some sad sack who needs attention. It’s not like I’m gonna off myself like Connor did, without even telling his own brother. I wouldn’t do that shit. Ever. Not ever. That’s against the twin-code, at least in the top three violations.

He didn’t even tell me. My own twin brother. What does that say about me?

What does that say about me?
Michael

 

I took a wrong turn on my walk home from school and met Alexa,

She had on a stupid turquoise Pokemon shirt and a Finn backpack, like some third-grader wannabe. Sure, she was mad hot, but still. And she doesn’t even smoke. She told me something, though: “Holding in what scares you makes it worse.” Which is either total bullshit, or the worst pop-punk lyric I’ve ever heard, and my guess is the second one. She’s a Junior from Vermont. I didn’t know Vermont had hot girls, I thought it was mostly Amish people and Quakers or whatever. I feel guilty, but when I talked with her, I forgot about Connor for a little. I hope he understands. I didn’t stop remembering. She just took up my attention for the whole walk back. It’s like I teleported home. She told me her first full day at school starts tomorrow.

Can’t wait to see her there,
Michael

What happens when someone takes a wrong turn? What possibilities exist in the opposite direction? Tell us your 500-word stories on this topic! Feel free to borrow characters and locations from other installments. Your section can stand alone or build on what came before. Send us your submissions by Friday for consideration!