Shaken by KC Hampton

Henry tapped his greased fingers on the steering wheel as he hummed along to a rock song that shook the speakers. He glanced at his wife, Sandra, whose gaze was fixed out the window, to the ocean below.

“Why did you go this way? You know I hate bridges,” she said.

“What?” he shouted over the music.

She jammed the radio knob in command for it to go silent. “I said, I hate bridges! I don’t know why you always go this way! Or play the music so damn loud!” she shouted.

“Because it’s the quickest way, dear,” he replied in a calm tone. “Don’t get your knickers in a wad. Your fear for bridges is just an illusion, you’ll be fine.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned her gaze back out the window.

They sat in silence for a spare moment as traffic slowed down and they got stuck behind a charter bus moving at a snail’s pace.

Sandra let out a long breath. “See? I told you, we should have stuck to our usual route,” she said as her leg shook, with nerves. “We should have left work early. We’re not going to make it to the kids on time.”

“In time for what?”

“It’s Ann’s graduation day, one of the biggest days of her life. Of course, you don’t remember, you never remember.”

“Here we go again.”

“Yes, here we go again! It’s always the same thing with you! You’re always late, you never care about me or the kids—”

“Whoa, that’s not fair!”

“No, you’re right, it’s not fair, Henry! I work two jobs, still take care of the house and kids, and feed your fat ass!”

“And you don’t think I work? You don’t think I put a roof over your head? I think you should really take a hard look at the big picture before you open your smart-ass mouth again, dearest,” he said with a threat.

“I want a divorce. And I mean it this time,” she said, not taking her bloodshot eyes away from him.

Henry looked at his wife with shock and hurt in his eyes. He opened his mouth to argue when the car felt like it got a flat tire, and they swerved.

* * *

I was in the bathroom, caking on an extra layer of hair spray and makeup as I watched the tiny clock on my bathroom counter.

My siblings ran about the house with no sense. Amy yelled at Lynn to give her Cabbage Patch doll back, Lynn responded by ripping it in half and throwing it at her. Amy punched her with revenge, which was followed by screams from both girls, “Ann!”

My head was pounding with such force that I almost didn’t hear the door banging at the same rhythm, threatening my skull to explode.

I opened the door with annoyance and said, “What now? Don’t you two know I have a headache!”

“Lynn ripped my Cabbage Patch doll!” Amy shouted.

“Amy punched me!” Lynn retorted.

I bent down to see her shiny new black eye. “Oh my God! Amy, what did you do?”

“She started it!”

“No, I didn’t! Don’t lie!”

“I don’t care if the damn Cabbage Patch started it, I have to get ready and I don’t have ti—”

The floors began to roll, then the walls shook and knocked pictures onto the floor. I grabbed the screaming girls and ran to an arch in the foyer as my family has done in the past.

“Is it over?” Lynn asked as she took a step out of our safe zone.

I grabbed her and held tight. “No, wait for the aftershock.”

I waited a few minutes after the shaking had subsided before I let my sisters breathe. I raced to the TV and turned on the news.

“For those just tuning in: it’s October 17, 1989, the San Andreas Fault has ruptured, recording the largest earthquake in history. Breaking: the Oakland Bridge has collapsed.” The news lady reported.

My eyes extended wider than a full moon on Halloween night as I tried to comprehend what she just said.

“Isn’t that the bridge mom and dad take coming home?” Amy asked, worried.

“No, Mom hates bridges. Don’t worry. They’ll be fine,” I said, with as much reassurance I could have mustered.

The phone lines went dead and all we could do was wait.

Copyright © 2022 KC Hampton All rights reserved

KC Hampton writes poems and stories when she is not playing with her dog, Buca di Beppo. This is her first flash fiction submisson for the Rose City Sisters.

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