Fred stopped at Al’s Good Eats for some food and relaxing banter with the owner. Fred decided to have a couple of cheeseburgers and a couple of beers. Back on the road now, he headed to a lonely place called home. His home was for sleeping, a shower and such. Sole existence had become that for Fred.
Leaning over and reaching down into the small worn cardboard box containing some tools, empty Snickers® candy bar wrappers, coffee cups and tapes, he grabbed a tape cartridge. Then, he placed it into the stereo tape cassette player he installed in the dashboard of his fully restored, 1956, Candy Apple Red®, Ford® pickup truck. As the tape started to play, Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away©, by Willy Nelson, Fred glanced up just in time to see the cars stopped about two car lengths ahead of him.
There was no way for him to avoid hitting the last car in line, a state highway patrol vehicle. Fred stomped on the brakes and turned sharply to the right. That resulted in a very sharp over–correction and sideways skid to his right. His truck’s tires moaned heavy whitish blue smoke, leaving thick skid marks on the asphalt.
The Candy Apple Red® Ford® pickup glanced off the highway patrol officer’s car, and that sent a chain reaction collision through four other vehicles. Another quick turn of the steering wheel changed his direction. Now, he headed perpendicular to the traffic. His path led straight for The Mint Peacock, the restaurant at the better end of town.
Another quick turn of the steering wheel and the truck flipped onto its right side. The truck continued to skid, faster. The fire hydrant made a funny kind of ‘boink’ noise as it passed under the passenger side of the truck. Then, time went into slow motion.
Later, Fred said he felt like he was in a Rod Serling, Twilight Zone® episode. Fred said he would always remember the sideways look on the faces of the four people seated at the window table. It was a slow motion terrified look, coupled with panic, as their utensils dropped and there was an urgency to get out of the way. It was true panic and pandemonium.
The impact of the truck into the plate glass window produced a deafening crash. Hundreds of shards and chunks of glass exploded in all directions. The pickup windshield crackled into several thousand quarter–inch cubes of suspended glass. An antique bar from the California Gold Rush era had graced The Mint Peacock for many years. The pickup had no regard for such objects.
A sickening crack resulted from the front of the truck’s bumper and grill meeting the fancy carved oak bar. There was another shower of shards and chunks, oak this time. A split second later, there was a cacophony of glasses and bottles crashing into one another and into little pieces. By some miracle, the large beveled mirror behind the bar did not break.
Destructive journey over, the truck sat like a tombstone amidst the rubble. The only difference was the steam rising from the smashed radiator. Outside, gushing water thrashed like a waterfall, disguising the trickle of gasoline. The whole incident was over in only a few moments.
Somewhat shaken, yet official, the highway patrol officer got out of his car and ran toward the gaping hole next to the front door of The Mint Peacock. He dashed right through the cascading water as if unaware of the wetness spraying all over the place. As he reached the sidewalk, the pickup’s gas tank exploded into a large orange and black fireball. There was very loud “WHUMP’ noise that made everyone reflexively duck or jump.
The fire caused panic as the people inside the fancy eatery escaped through the front door, and the gaping hole. The interior of the dining room and bar erupted into intense flames and heavy black smoke. Within moments, distant fire engine sirens wailed in the background, as the highway patrol officer ran into the inferno. Somehow, he managed to grab hold of the dazed Fred and pull him out of his truck and outside to safety, before Fred could become a “crispy critter.”
Fred and the patrol officer turned to look back at the scene. The most notable sight was a bumper sticker on the back bumper of Fred’s pickup. It had blue lettering about three inches high, on a white background. It was barely visible through the thickening smoke. They could see the words, now at an angle, “SHIT HAPPENS!” This time it really did happen, in about six seconds!