The story I'm about to tell is ... well, it's difficult to tell it, that's all. It's hard to invite that fear back into my mind, to relive the horror of that wretched day, the day my life nearly ceased to exist, swept away forever by a raging river of doom.
I faintly remember the time leading up to my "encounter," but I clearly recollect the instant I realized I was in trouble. I had turned down a road I had driven on probably 100 times, maybe more. It was raining, so I took it slow. All of a sudden, my world stopped!
My first thought was, did I just drive into a lake? Why is all this water around my car? I hit my wipers, but I wished I hadn't. I wasn't in a lake. I was in a river! A raging one! I could see the current moving swiftly outside my car, clutching me with its dirty, damp talons. I was helpless ... and I knew it.
It's funny, but people say your "life flashes before you" when you're about to expire, but it isn't like they say. You don't think about the milestones, your best days, your worst ones. Surprisingly, trivial things pop into your mind; insignificant events that meant nothing to you when they happened. One after another, they file through your inner eye. You search for a common thread, something to provide meaning to the memories. None comes.
I tried to focus. I had to escape this river, but how? The water was rising, and the current had quickened its deadly pace. Through the downpour, I could just make out a chrome bumper floating ahead of my car; apparently another lost soul caught in the water's web. If I didn't do something fast, I would be a goner for sure.
Then I saw it. My way out of this liquid hell. Up ahead, less than 500 feet away, was salvation. If I could turn into it, I would be saved. If I could just swing my wheels at the right time ... it wasn't going to be easy. And I knew with complete certainty that it probably wouldn't work. But I had to try.
God smiled down on me as I cranked the steering wheel to the right. At first I felt the car lunge back, as if Triton himself was holding on, but then my front tires found paydirt. I flew out of the river onto solid ground, taking one last peek in the rearview mirror at the horror I had escaped. The river seemed not to care; it continued on its journey, ready to devour the next unsuspecting sap.
I pulled in between two cars in front of Kingman High School to wait for my daughter. I was pretty shook up. I thought about my near-death ordeal, the fear that had clutched me.
By the time my daughter got to the car, however, I was smiling. I had survived. I had won.
Me - 1, Bank River of Death - 0.
"What's so funny, Dad?" my daughter asked as she entered the car.
"Oh, nothing," I muttered. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. It felt good to be alive.
"Then, can we go home now."
My smile instantly vanished.
"Home! Oh, no ... NO!"