With Regret (Flash Fiction)

It was a long time in the making, this day, this terrible afternoon. Work was grinding away at poor Bob. He knew it. His wife knew it. They were trying to just dig down and get through. Sometimes you’ve gotta endure a little rain before the clouds move on again. Their financial situation wasn’t great, and even though they knew his job couldn’t last forever, it was worth holding onto until something else came along.

That’s why they decided together, mutually, with no real argument about it, that Bob should get that street bike. He wasn’t a kid anymore. He wasn’t irresponsible. Riding that to work and bike would really shave down the commute time and how much they were spending on gas. Plus, it was a stress reliever, ya know? It gave him a dash of fun during his 9 to 5. Sure, sure, he’d opened it up a few times to see how it felt, but that was all. He wasn’t going to get carried away.

But something happened after that. Something changed. Maybe it was the sip of freedom that came with splitting lanes. Maybe it was the sheer power resting between his legs. Hard to say. Most likely, it was still just the job grinding him down. It doesn’t really matter. The rage that was building in his blood continued, and soon he was getting pretty aggressive on that bike, especially on the way home.

And so, on a Tuesday afternoon that was far too ordinary to recognize as a final day, Bob fully gave in to his road rage. More so, it was a frustration toward everything, not just those on the road. Deep in his soul, he felt he’d been lied to about something that was never mention to him from someone he’d never met. Life, while good, certainly not terrible, just wasn’t right. There’s something intrinsically wrong with spending your waking hours away from your family. There’s something spiritually wrong with doing something you hate so that you can continue to live.

Those evils were expelled through the throttle today.

And as he cranked that throttle down and pointed his wheels across the double-yellow line to pass a string of cars six deep, he knew what was happening before it even happened; it had been happening for all of his adult life.

The oncoming diesel certainly did what he could on such a narrow road. And in all honestly, so did that slow-moving van that was holding everyone back. Bob laid into the throttle and sucked himself in and squeezed into the gap that existed as well as he could. And he did it, too. He came over enough to miss the diesel that would have been certain death. But his haste to stay alive is what killed him. He came over too quickly and clipped the front of that van with his back-end.

The bike kicked and bucked and Bob went into the air at around 85 MPH. As soon as his hands were free from that machine, he knew that was no chance in the landing. Another turn was coming, and the next guard rail opened up before for him as if built for that mortal embrace.

In his final moments, all he felt was one final surge of regret.

Not for his life or for what he had or hadn’t done, but for his poor family that would be left behind. His wife had been so patient, so kind. She was willing to support him in either decision, be it stay or go. And his son, god, his poor son. The kid adored that man so much. He had no idea the trouble that surrounded his father. All he knew was a man who would pick him up high into the air with callused hands and a big grin. All he knew was a man who gave his hair a rough tousle when he carefully brought him another beer from the refrigerator, a man who taught him how to catch a baseball with an oversized glove in his hand. And now, that man would be no more. There’d be no reason or explanation. He would simply cease to exist.

These were the fleeting feelings that split Bob’s heart in his final moments, and then into the guard rail he went.

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