by Jacqueline Doyle

He was driving a blue Honda Civic like her cousin Jared’s. He pulled over and lowered the passenger window. He said, ‘Those groceries look heavy.’ He said, ‘Let me give you a lift.’ She was tired. He seemed like a nice guy. Friendly. Ginger-colored hair, a light dusting of freckles, plaid flannel shirt. Familiar. Like someone she’d known from high school or somewhere but since forgotten. He said, ‘I know where you live.’ He said, ‘It’s right on my way.’ He told her he knew her brother. He didn’t mention Tommy’s name or his own and she didn’t notice that until ten minutes later, when it was too late. He’d already taken a wrong turn off the main road and there were no houses, only miles and miles of cornfields, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. She said, ‘This isn’t the way.’ Hoping he’d slow down, turn the car around, hoping he really knew Tommy and this was all a mistake, but instead the red needle on the speedometer quivered as the car picked up speed. He turned to look at her with empty eyes, a stranger. ‘You’re gonna like this,’ he said. Her breath caught in her throat as she jerked the handle up and threw her full weight against the passenger door, clutching her purse and the heavy grocery bag to her chest with her left arm as she fell out of the car. It all happened at once, the door yawning open, the sensation of being suspended in mid-air, the groceries flying, the sharp jolt as she struck the ground, the pain in her knees and hands. She watched the Honda speed away and struggled to stand, her legs shaking. Her jeans were torn, and she couldn’t put her full weight on her right leg. A pickup truck was raising dust in the far distance, headed in her direction. Should she wave down the pickup, take a ride with another stranger? She needed help right now in case the Honda driver turned around. Would the pickup driver stop? Would he blame her? Would she be safe? She was trembling all over as she brushed gravel off her bloody knees and picked tiny sharp stones out of the palms of her hands. She righted the brown paper grocery bag and began to gather as many of the items that had fallen out as she could—saltines, coffee, a can of vegetable soup, a box of tampax—afraid that the scattered apples would be too bruised to eat.

Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her award-winning flash fiction chapbook The Missing Girl was published last fall by Black Lawrence Press, and she has recent flash in New Flash Fiction Review, Post Road, and Wigleaf. Find her online at and on twitter at @doylejacq.