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Co-Pilot

(Westbound on Highway 40, Approaching EXIT 36A)

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The car's into its second rotation, spinning into traffic. Everything goes slow-motion. People in cars streaming past look at me through their windows like they're sorry, like I'm going to jail and they want to apologize.

A few moments ago, after fiddling with the radio, I looked up: A pole was crawling toward the hood of my car like a crab scuttling across the asphalt of Highway 40. No idea where it came from. I swerved hard to the left and the car went into a spin.

The spin goes on forever: I could have shaved or read the newspaper.

Now sitting in the passenger seat: guy with long hair, beard, aviator sunglasses. No idea where he came from. He's got this tranquil look on his face. We're in a bubble of secret time together.

"Jim Morrison?" I guess.

"No," he smiles, "Think cooler."

The car hits the sign for Exit 36A. Everything speeds up again: The sign goes flying over the top of my car. Airbag punches me in the face (the price of protection).

The car's crumpled tin foil. I'm out on the shoulder, wobbling. Breathing like for the first time.

Two men run toward me, frantic.

"You all right, man?" one asks. He looks like he already knows the answer, and it's horrible.

"I dunno," I admit. "How do I look?"

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