Henrik Brandt Needed Help by Jensen Beach


From the bottom of a shallow gully, Henrik Brandt needed help. From inside his car at the bottom of the shallow gully beside the southbound lane of E18, Henrik Brandt needed help. From where he was seatbelted to the leather driver’s seat of his upside down Volvo V70, Henrik Brandt needed help. It was late and Jenny Törnkvist was driving south on E18. It was late and Jenny Törnkvist was driving south on E18, listening to a radio documentary about North Korea. It was late and Jenny Törnkvist had to pee. Henrik’s mobile phone was in his computer bag in the backseat of the car. His mobile phone was in his computer bag on the ceiling of the upturned car. His mobile phone was unreachable because his arm was pinned between his body and the leather interior of his car’s crushed door. Up the road Jenny Törnkvist saw the cast of bright headlights out of the shallow gully. Up the road Jenny Törnkvist saw a ghostly cloud rising from the shallow gully. Up the road Jenny Törnkvist saw in the wash of her own headlights tire marks on the roadway disappearing over the lip and into the shallow gully. Henrik Brandt needed help for the injuries to his body. Henrik Brandt needed help for his broken arm, for his cracked pelvis, for his crushed ribs, for his shattered jaw. Henrik Brandt needed help for a broken finger. Jenny Törnkvist planned not to stop. Jenny Törnkvist planned to call the authorities. Jenny Törnkvist planned to drive the speed limit. In his mind Henrik Brandt visited Bali. In his mind Henrik Brandt was on a beach in Bali, listening to the pages of his wife Lisa’s magazine in the wind. In his mind Henrik Brandt’s eyes were open. What if there were a child in the car? What if there were an injured child in the car? What if there were a dead child in the car? Henrik thought he heard a car come to a stop on the shoulder above him. He thought he heard a car come to a stop on the shoulder above him and a car door slam shut and the dry rain of rocks falling into the shallow gully. He thought he heard someone calling out to him, though he did not hear his name.  It was July but already there was steam from the exhaust of Henrik Brandt’s Volvo. It was July and Jenny Törnkvist had just come home from Thailand. It was July and Henrik Brandt’s bladder had burst in the accident.  Henrik Brandt thought he saw a deer. Henrik Brandt thought he saw a deer and swerved to avoid it. Henrik Brandt now thought he saw a deer peering in at him from outside. Jenny Törnkvist was not a deer. Jenny Törnkvist was here to help. Jenny Törnkvist said something from the dark outside. There was no child in the car. There was only a man in the car. There was blood painted onto the cracked window glass. A pair of legs was in the light. A pair of legs took two steps closer. A pair of legs became a single leg beyond the dented frame of the shattered windshield. “Are you alive?” asked Jenny Törnkvist. “Can you hear me?” asked Jenny Törnkvist. “Are you alive and can you hear me?” asked Jenny Törnkvist. Henrik Brandt’s body was failing. Henrik Brandt’s body was frightening. Henrik Brandt’s body was a body. He wanted to know if he had died. He does not wonder what he did to deserve this. He wanted this to be untrue. The car battery died and the lights went out. The car battery died and the lights went out. The car battery died and the lights went out, and the night grew helpless and black.

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Jensen Beach is a graduate of the MFA program at UMass Amherst. His stories have appeared or will soon in American Short Fiction, The Collagist, Fifty-Two Stories, Ninth Letter, Sou’wester, Witness and the Best of the Web 2010. HIs first book, a collection of stories called For out of the Heart Proceed, is forthcoming in 2012 from Dark Sky Books. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.