In the rear-view mirror, my yellow teeth looked buttery. If I hadn't forgotten my cell phone, I'd leave myself a message to look into those new Crest strips I'd just seen advertised. I looked again: golden-retriever yellow.
Fuck! I hit something.
I slammed the brakes and squealed to a stop and then reversed.
He was lying on the ground, a thin trickle of blood drooling out of his mouth. He had blond, even yellow, hair. His bony arms and legs gave him the look of having stumbled out of an anorexic colony.
"Are you OK?"
"Dumb question. Can you move?"
He spit a wad of blood in my direction. I came a few feet closer. His legs appeared to be fused with his bike, an old black Huffy with blue handlebars. Though it wasn't the time to mention it, the color combination was particularly ironic.
"Did you call for help?"
I considered lying. "Left my cell phone at home."
He gasped a few breaths. "I'm shocked." He flicked his tongue out like a nose-kissed yellow golden retriever.
I looked down the road both ways. I'd gotten lost after picking up a nice desk lamp from an estate auction. I hadn't seen another car since driving off with my booty, a downright steal at nine dollars and fifty-five cents.
"Maybe I could put you and the bike in my trunk, I just don't think you'll fit in the backsea-"
"Don't touch me," he said. "I really don't want that."
"You know, maybe I did bring my cell phone," I said. "Hang on." I got in the car and rifled through the dashboard drawer or whatever that damn thing is called. Then my right hand put the key in the ignition but didn't turn it. I looked in the rearview and looked at the boy. Then I checked out my disgusting teeth again and got out.
"Just as I feared, I left it at home."
"That's not good."
"It runs down quickly, so I was recharging it."
"Of course, I have one myself." He spoke calmly and I understood him, despite the blood and froth accompanying his comments.
"Really? How old are you?"
"Nineteen." His face looked a tad whiter than when I'd last looked closely.
"I didn't have one until I was twenty five!"
"I bet you're wondering if there's a house nearby." He really looked awful.
"Yes, I was."
"Not for at least three miles."
"Murphy's Law," I said. I glanced around at the woods surrounding us. "Which way?"
He nodded and passed out for a minute.
I squatted next to him. Bones poked out of his bloody legs every which way but loose. His stomach was soaked in something foul. I nudged his shoulder until he stirred.
"I just saw the lights."
"Don't you die on me!"
He spit and half giggled half wheezed. "I didn't see any lights, just a whole lot of black."
I leaned down to see what his stomach was soaked in.
"Sorry, I vomited on myself."
"No problem." I patted his arm. "No problem."
"You really ought to get out of here, someone's likely to see you."
I shook my head, then again more vigorously. "I can't leave you out here to die."
"That's kind of you," he said. "But unless you've got a giant first-aid kit, I wouldn't worry about it. One thing first."
"Tell me what you were doing. Why didn't you see me?"
"Fair, definitely a fair request."
I shook my left leg as if it had fallen asleep. "I was looking at my teeth, in the rear-view."
"Yes, they're very yellow."
He jerked his head not once or twice but three times. "Hang on!" I said, plopping on the ground next to him, avoiding the puke to listen for a heartbeat.
"I was just motioning to come closer, so I can see."
"Of course." I smiled and revealed them.
We both laughed.
"One more question?"
I patted his head. "My friend, you can have two more."
"What's your name?'
"Albert, but you can call me Al. And yours?"
He went out again and it took a couple sharp pokes to revive him. "Charles, and you can call me that." He laughed a herky-jerky laugh.
"What's your second question?"
He took a deep breath and was gone.
I sat next to him for what seemed like minutes but was probably no more than twenty seconds. My mind raced with the moral and ethical implications of leaving. Would I wake up in the morning, suicidal? Would I read the paper every day, seeing if they were looking for the heartless killer? Then I thought of the practical considerations. Had I touched him and if so where? I gathered some leaves and thoroughly rubbed the spots where I'd nudged or poked him.
I got back in my car and hid the lamp in the trunk so I wouldn't have to be reminded. I took a last glance at the still, broken body. Then I floored the gas, vowing to wash my car and myself and then get some Crest strips before going to bed so I'd never again have to look at yellow teeth while driving.