Jack couldn't believe his luck.
Less than forty-eight hours ago he'd been down to his last five dollar bill, looking at a week's worth of Ramen until his next payday crawled around.
And then … bingo.
Lady luck had finally gotten over her PMS and decided she liked poor Irish boys after all. A hunch and a five dollar scratch-off lottery ticket had infused fresh blood into Jack's anemic bank account, to the tune of 200 grand.
Suh -weet! Jack winked to himself in the shiny rear view mirror of his shiny new sports car. He cranked up the volume on the Bose sound system and pressed hard on the gas, feeling the LTD Mustang thunder to life under his feet.
Who said there was no such thing as a free lunch?
Oh wait, his old man had, that's who.
“Screw you, Pop!” Jack shouted heavenward, where fluffy white clouds bobbed above the highway like balloons on a string.
Free Bird played over the radio and Jack warbled along with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Grooving in the driver's seat, he whipped the Mustang through a series of S-curves, a blurred yellow dot on a long asphalt ribbon destined for fortune.
In an instance of near-obscene coincidence, Queen came over the airwaves with Another One Bites The Dust. And just as Jack was at the orgasmic peak of new car leather interior-induced ecstasy, Lady Luck had a change of heart in the form of an armadillo - in search of discarded hot dog buns - ambling across Jack's lane.
What followed thereafter was an absolute shit storm of brake-stomping, wheel-grabbing, terse profanities, all overlaid with the acrid stench of burning rubber and sheer, unadulterated panic. It seems, as well, that several unwieldy and stubborn trees may have been involved. Though, as most animal lovers will be pleased to note, the armadillo emerged unscathed to forage another day.
The same cannot be said for Jack.
Or the blaze-yellow Mustang, which, as an aside, had less than 500 miles on the odometer, most of which were dealer miles.
A shame, really. About Jack, that is.
So. It should come as no surprise to anyone, except perhaps Jack himself, that Jack was suddenly, irrevocably and unequivocally dead. As a doornail.
He had kicked the bucket so far down the metaphoric highway that, upon arrival at the scene, one of the hardened paramedics tossed his cookies behind a government issued shrubbery, and the coroner forever swore off pepperoni pizza right there on the spot.
As the state police redirected traffic, cherries strobing red /blue/red/blue on the faces of rubberneckers, the essence that was Jack slowly and gently rose above the metallic mobius strip that was once a car.
Understandably disoriented, it took Jack a few to fully grasp the implications of his situation.
And when he did. “F*ck me!” yelled Jack. “Just f*ck me now! Shitf*ckingmuthershitf*ck!”
And finally, for good measure, one last, indignant “ … F*CK!”*
*[the expletives used heretofore are provided not to offend the reader's delicate sensibilities, but rather in keeping with the author's earnest desire to impart as accurate an account of our protagonist's emotional state as possible].
But all the f*cking in the world couldn't help Jack.
A flurry of emotions passed through his consciousness: anger, disbelief, denial, and ultimately - curiosity. He squinted his mental eyes in some ghostly fashion to zoom in for a closer look.
His beloved Mustang lay smashed and wrapped around a tree like a yellow slinky. Something white but mostly red dangled long and limp through the busted windshield.
Dear God, thought Jack, I look like a human Twizzler.
Jack floated in sullen silence. A bluejay flew through his solar plexus. It tickled, but Jack wasn't in any mood to laugh. He hung there, unseen, watching as the paramedics worked the jaws of life to extract his ruined body.
Eventually everybody finished their grim business. The paramedics drove away in the ambulance, and the coroner, then the highway department and police and finally the wrecker towing his car followed suit with it's orange light blinking farewell in the deepening twilight of a humid Georgia evening.
Suddenly, Jack was overcome with intense feelings of regret: regret for family and friends never to be seen again. Regret for his long-time girl friend that he'd cheated on once and never 'fessed up to. Regret for so many things done and left undone.
And as all the people and places began flashing before his soul's eye in a series of living snapshots so vivid and tangible, from his birth to his death, in a panoramic maelstrom that compressed a lifetime into a 3-D data stream … Jack found himself overwhelmed with all the mistakes he'd made, all the words and deeds now stamped with the finality of death, never to be improved upon or made right.
Mostly though, Jack regretted dying before he could spend the rest of his winnings. F*ck!
So there you have it. Our good friend Jack, thus freed of his mortal shell, advances to the next phase of his misadventure.