By D. Paul Fonseca
"It's the silence that I remember most,
and the sound of the air rushing by.”
It was 1936 in the heat of summer and I was eleven years old. My father and I had come out to his office on a Saturday. He had some work he needed to finish and I passed the time by walking around in the warehouse for about an hour looking over all the stuff that was in there. It was still pretty early, so I didn't mind. The sun had just broken into the morning. The air held a cool stillness in it and I liked that a lot.
The building my father worked in was brand new, even the warehouse had been finished just a month ago. You could still smell the glue and the paint. It was built at the edge of town, and we didn't see many people around there. The town was new and pretty small. We ourselves, my father an I, had just moved in to our new house on Second Street about four months ago. Shops were opening up all over, but people were still scarce out here in the foothills, so close to the desert. I won't lie. It could get hot out there.
Crates of all sizes from around the world filled that warehouse. There were a lot pieces of furniture out of the boxes too. Most of them looked oriental to me, with all the dark woods and boxy shapes. There were a lot of statues too. Some of the statues looked like they weren't finished since they were carved out of rock and the feet of the people in the statues were half in and half out of the stone. Father says they are worth a lot of money.
Near the large doors, the ones that went out of the back of the warehouse, there was a big writing desk where the men who came to pick up stuff filled out order forms and such. The desk itself used to be my mother's.
I still miss her. Before Mama died, she told me to keep an eye on Father. She said he needs a reason to do his best, so I had to be the best that I could be for him. Do it for her, and I promised I would. I went to school and learned all I could for him, told him how much history I learned, and how I could do math better than anyone in my class. He liked that.
Standing in front of that desk brought her face back into my mind. There was a mirror on that desk, right in the middle. I looked at my face there and it made me happy to see how much more I looked like her every day. My dark, long curls and green eyes were just like hers but I have my father’s smile. That's what she used to tell me, too. She called me her angel, and looking in the mirror now, I wished she were here to brush my hair like she used to. I looked down at the dress I was wearing and I could tell that I was just about too tall for it. Father said we'd go buy a new one in town later today. That's why I was so happy to be out with him this morning. Shopping for a new dress always makes me happy.
"Hey, are you ready to go, Nina?" Father came in and startled me. It had been too quiet.
"I'm ready to go, yes. Are you done?" I asked him.
"Yep, sure am, Angel." He took my hand and turned around.
"I'll see you later, Randy" he said while reaching into his shirt pocket to get out his cigarettes. "Lock up, will ya?" A man down at the other end of the long warehouse yelled out that he would and waved at us before he turned around.
We walked out to the truck and got in. Father put his hat on and then looked up at the sun, inhaling the smoke from his cigarette. Then he put his hat back on the dashboard, looked at me and started the engine.
We drove about five miles back to the town and were just crossing the long bridge when we saw this huge truck with logs on the back coming toward us. It almost looked like it was too big for the bridge. Father's cigarette fell out of his mouth as he yelled out, "What the devil?" We were just about next to the big logging truck when there was a terrible noise and the bridge started shaking. The driver was stopping and waving his hands at Father like he didn't think there was room for us all on the bridge. In the next moment, I heard a loud snapping sound and then Father yelled out.
Something on the back of the trailer of the logging truck broke and the pile of logs started rolling off towards us. It pushed our little truck making it slide sideways as Father slammed on the brakes but it was too late. We were sliding sideways too fast and when we hit the side of the bridge the railing hit us so hard our whole truck was pushed up into the air.
Both of us jolted out of our seats. It hurt when I crashed into Father, and my knee hit the shifter between the seats. It was so loud. I was so scared. Then I hit the window with my head. I saw the door on Father’s side burst open. He almost fell out, and then we went up.
It was the strangest thing, lifting up so high like that. I saw Father pull the door shut and look at me. He was staring right at me, he looked sad. It was so quiet then. I looked out the window and all I could see was blue sky. I felt him grab my hand.
"It's going to be all right, Angel. I won't let you go." I didn't understand. I looked back out the window and it was still so quiet. I looked back and saw the river below us, so far down. Then I was scared. It was silent all around us. That's what I remember the most, the silence. It was deafening. Then I remembered Mama. I remembered the house we used to live in back in Boston. I remembered Christmas with Grandma Teresa and Grandpa Jim, all the snow and making snowmen, and Mama reading to me by the fire at night when I was so little. I remembered Father coming home after being gone so long and Abigail, the beautiful little china doll he brought me.
And now, in this horrible silence, I saw my father looking at me with the strangest most peaceful look on his face. It was like he could see into me, knew what I was thinking, like he was there with me, in our old house, with Mama. He pulled me close and I saw that his arm was hurt. He just smiled at me. "I love you, Angel. I'm sorry."
After that, there was a brief sound like thunder, but it came and went so fast, that I couldn't describe it to you now. I couldn't feel anything anymore, and I couldn't see, because everything had turned white. There was nothing anymore, just silence. That's what I remember the most, the silence, and the air rushing by.