6.03 / March 2011

Crash Test Dummy

Crash Test Dummy comes home from work to find pieces of his wife scattered across the living room floor. A leg here, an arm there, her torso hiding beneath the coffee table.

Crash Test Dummy finds her head behind the couch. How it had rolled back there, he doesn’t know, nor does he care to guess. Crash Test Dummy picks up his wife’s head and holds it in front of his face.

“Hey,” Crash Test Dummy says.

Crash Test Dummy’s wife opens her eyes. She glares back at him. “What time is it?”

“Almost six o’clock. What happened here?”

“You’re late.”

“It’s raining. There was a bad accident.”

“You’re late,” Crash Test Dummy’s wife says again, and he decides not to argue with her. This isn’t the first time he’s come home to find pieces of her scattered around the house.

“When did this happen?” he asks.

“When did what happen?”

“You promised me you wouldn’t drink when I’m not home.”

“What day is today?”

Crash Test Dummy says it is Thursday.

“Thursday,” Crash Test Dummy’s wife says. “Then you got paid today. Did you deposit the check?”


“Well why not?”

Crash Test Dummy walks his wife’s head to the coffee table. He bends down and inserts her head into her torso. One of her legs is still attached and she wiggles her toes.

“When was the last time you checked on the baby?” Crash Test Dummy asks as he retrieves his wife’s scattered limbs around the room.

“You need to deposit your check. We have bills, you know.”

Crash Test Dummy inserts first her arm, then her leg, into his wife’s torso. He tries to help her stand but she waves him away.

“I need a drink,” she says.

Crash Test Dummy leaves the living room. He goes upstairs to the nursery. Here is the baby, asleep in its crib. Crash Test Dummy exhales a sigh of relief. For a moment he had imagined the baby to be scattered on the floor just like his wife had been.

Crash Test Dummy stares down at his baby for a long time, then turns and leaves the room. He goes back downstairs. Crash Test Dummy finds his wife sitting on the couch, a drink in her hand, watching TV.

“How was work?” she says, not looking at him.

Crash Test Dummy says nothing. He knows his wife doesn’t respect his job. It’s stupid, she thinks. Pointless. She doesn’t understand the value of the work. She doesn’t understand the purpose. All she cares about is that it pays the bills.

Crash Test Dummy’s wife takes a sip of her drink. Ice cubes rattle in the glass. She turns her head away from the TV and stares back at him.

“You need to deposit your check,” she says.

“I will.”

Crash Test Dummy’s wife shakes her head. “Not will. Now.”

Crash Test Dummy leaves the house. He goes to his car. It is still raining and he sits in his car in the rain, listening to the drops hit the roof. Crash Test Dummy thinks about the accident from earlier, the pieces of the driver and its passenger scattered across the road. His job is to try to prevent things like that from happening. Crash Test Dummy wonders if the driver and its passenger were put back together, if the parts were even salvageable.

Crash Test Dummy starts the car and pulls out onto the street. He turns the windshield wipers on and listens to them go back and forth.

Crash Test Dummy drives down the street in the rain. He looks at all the houses with their lights on. He wonders about the people in those houses, if they are happy.

The bank is five blocks up the street but Crash Test Dummy makes a left at the next intersection. Crash Test Dummy doesn’t know where he’s going but just that he doesn’t want to go home. Crash Test Dummy thinks about his wife. He thinks about his baby. He loves his baby more than anything in the world. He wishes he could say the same about his wife.

Crash Test Dummy merges onto the highway. He presses his foot down on the gas.

Crash Test Dummy thinks about his wife again, he thinks about his baby, and he undoes his seatbelt. He always wears his seatbelt when he’s behind the wheel of a car, both at work and when not at work. Now Crash Test Dummy has taken it off.

The needle on the speedometer rises. Crash Test Dummy’s fingers tighten around the steering wheel. The rain is coming down harder. Crash Test Dummy swerves between the cars on the highway. Some beep at him. Crash Test Dummy ignores them. He just drives, his foot to the floor, and when the road curves, Crash Test Dummy keeps the wheel straight.

Crash Test Dummy drives his car right into a concrete wall. The airbags pop but it does nothing to help Crash Test Dummy. Without his seatbelt he goes flying through the shattered windshield. He hits the wall and breaks into a half dozen pieces. His head lands on the grass, his face tilted toward the sky.

Crash Test Dummy stares at the dark clouds and closes his eyes and feels the rain. He waits for someone to come and put him back together again.

Robert Swartwood claims a seatbelt once saved his life. According to Swartwood, he was at a bar one night and a man came in with a gun and threatened to kill anyone who was a writer. Then, quite suddenly, a seatbelt came in and kicked the crap out of the man with the gun. After the applause died down, the seatbelt said, "Only you can prevent forest fires," and walked out. It was, Swartwood says, a typical Thursday night.
6.03 / March 2011