"A Chicken Nugget Story"
A flash fiction story, (c) 2012 by C. N. Nevets
I feel called to make a difference. Most days I think I do that pretty well. Most days I go home at night, raise a chicken nugget in the direction of a picture of myself and say, "Good job today, Larry." Most days I know that people lives are a little better off than they were before.
Today, above all days, I want to make a difference. I want to make someone's life better. I need to. I feel compelled to by some force inside my bones.
After all, I've been where Joyce. I've been where Joyce's parents are. I was in the same spot as Joyce was, and so was my kid, and at the end of the day, I had to pull my own self out, and no one earned a chicken nugget in Clay's honor. Clay. My kid. No one helped him out.
I didn't even know what was going on.
I didn't even know what had happened.
Not for seven years. Seven long, empty years.
I can't do that.
But I can't help Joyce. Not really. I never help the one I'm with. I help the others. The ones they leave behind. By the time I get there it's too late.
By the time I got here, they were pulling the jeep out of the muck in the bottom of a twelve foot deep drainage pond. They had Joyce's femur. It had floated up to the top. That's how they found the jeep. And that's how I found the rest of her. Mired in the muck.
A few years at least. Hard to tell in a pond. Bacteria. Algae. Fish. Stuff rots, breaks, gets nibbled on.
When I was trapped in the car. When my cousins thought they were being so funny. When the car rolled down the hill into the lake. When my cousins panicked and ran home and ate pancakes for dinner and told my mom and dad that I had run off for some chicken nuggets, my parents knew it was bull. I hated chicken nuggets.
But my cousins wouldn't talk. Not a word.
The water in the lake was cold. It came in slow, though. I wasn't in my right mind. I just grabbed everything I could and pounded at every surface I could find. Still not sure what I found. Something that worked. Broke the window.
The water rushed in and I rushed out.
I dragged myself home.
Clay dragged himself nowhere. I never knew how he got there. How he got into that car. How that car ended up in the reservoir. Nor why. Nor when. Clay went out with some friends for some fast food. He was thirteen. None of the boys had a car. None of the boys' families had that car.
I couldn't help Clay. I couldn't help my own kid. I'd been through what he went through and even so I couldn't do a single thing to comfort him or ease his mind or ease his heart.
I'd been there. I'd been able to help myself. I couldn't help Clay. I can't help Joyce.
Joyce was maybe too small. She was maybe too weak. Maybe she just panicked too much or couldn’t find anything to break the windows. Maybe she was drunk or high or knocked unconscious. Either way, she couldn't pull herself out and no one else stepped up to do it.
I can't help Joyce.
Usually I go home at night and I eat a chicken nugget and I say, "Hey, there's a lot of crap in this world, but at least you gave some people closure." Usually when I go to bed at night I think, "You know what, you didn't save anyone's life, but at least now some people can move on. Now they know." Usually when I get dressed in the morning I say, "Okay, Larry, time to get some people some answers, there's a good boy."
I can't help the ones I'm with. It's too late. But I can at least help the ones they left behind.
I can't help Joyce. I can't help Joyce's parents.
All I can do is state at a box of chicken nuggets. Clay loved chicken nuggets.