At Jimmy’s a bit later that morning, Hunter sat on the couch playing one of his Daddy’s Playstation games when he suddenly dropped the controller and ran to Tia and Jimmy in the kitchen. “What’s the matter with you?” Jimmy asked.
“Did you see that big man in the living room, Daddy?”
Jimmy laughed. “What?”
Hunter insisted. “He’s standing in the hallway lookin’ at me!”
Jimmy looked over at Tia. “I don’t know what the hell he’s talkin’ about.” Jimmy’s aunt telephoned a few hours later to tell him his cousin was dead.
Today after I got out of class we drove to Hancock to see the truck. It was parked in a gravel lot behind a car wash, across the street from Roland’s Garage. Jimmy brought his digital camera and photographed it from every angle. The hood was wrinkled with dents, the roof of the cab caved in several inches. The driver’s side door was wrenched open and bent nearly in half. The windshield was shattered and twisted like a crushed piece of cellophane. Inside, attached to the steering wheel, was a yellow tag. “Maryland State Police” it read on one side; a checklist on the other side had been filled out to indicate the date the vehicle was recovered, and the nature of the incident: “Accident; Fatal.”
The inside of the cab was eerily pristine. The seats, the dash, the steering wheel all were spotless; despite the ferocity of the crash, the airbags did not deploy. A full bottle of deer scent, for hunting, laid on the floor. Beneath the mangled hood, the battery looked as though it survived the crash without taking a scratch. From the jagged edge of the windshield on the passenger side, Jimmy untangled a long nylon cord. “The rope Matt used to pull his guns up into the tree-stand with him,” he said. He balled up the rope and stuffed it in his pocket.
The truck's bed was littered with debris. Broken bits of the grill, shards of headlights, an orange plastic toolkit that had been thrown out during the crash. A purple CD case, an empty Pepsi bottle, a shirt Matt had worn to work recently which Jimmy said still smelled like him – remnants of a life swept up off a highway. Jimmy picked up a piece of paper and looked at it. “Matt’s cell phone bill,” he said. Calls to his mother, his wife, his family – I wonder if Jimmy saw his own number there. He put the bill down and walked away. I followed him to my truck and we left.
He didn’t say much on the way home. Later on after we got back, we sat around with Tia, and Hunter and Cameron, and Uncle Robert, eating pizza, telling stories about Matt and laughing and cussing. But that drive back from Hancock. That drive was quiet.