When they ask the hero how big the bomb is, he says “Big enough to blow a hole in the world,” and we know we’re done for.
It was a normal day. We were going to work. We were going to visit the grandkids. We wear toolbelts and have a wife. We are the working-class symbols who travel by bus in a city of cars. This action narrative doesn’t have the capacity for our lives but that’s ok. The villain is the only one with a backstory, and no one is surprised when it turns out he used to be a cop.
Still, questions linger: Will we be fired for missing work? Will the grandkids still want the teddy bear, now that it smells of gasoline? Will we ever be able to slow for gridlock without doom choking us? Will we ever be able to take the bus again?
We don’t actually have a choice in the matter, never did, unlike the tourist, who can just go home and never has to see a freeway again, or the woman who was only there because driving on them made her tense up, but she’s dead now, skull crushed by the tires of the great machine, the same machine that soared fifty feet across the gap in the 10 Freeway interchange. For you, it was watching a gymnast handspring across a balance beam and stick the landing. For us, it was the red of our eyelids clenched tight, urine pooling in our seats as we clutched our bags like the hero told us to, hearts in ears, praying.
Yes, we were saved. In the shelter of the LAX shuttle, we watched with adrenaline-fueled ecstasy as the bus collided with a courier jet, heard the solid crunch of metal on metal, and then the boom, clouds of fire billowing into the sky. A blast of heat big enough to rattle the windows. It was like a movie, yes, just like a movie, that bomb that blew a hole in our world.
Lena Valencia’s fiction has been published in Electric Literature, Joyland, Epiphany, Catapult’s Tiny Nightmares anthology, and elsewhere. She teaches writing classes at Catapult, the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, and One Story, where she also serves as the director of educational programming and managing editor. She’s the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant and has an MFA in fiction from The New School.
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