On Blackpoint Road

An emergency took them down the dark and treacherous road, where an even greater plight awaited them.


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She touched the brake a little too hard and John grunted and gripped his knee, as if to separate his swollen ankle from the rest of his body. Callie glanced at him quickly, then back to the unlit road.

“We should be going the other way, to the hospital,” she said, straining to see over the dash. She hadn’t even taken time to reset the mirrors and seat on John’s big Dodge Ram. She was hardly ever in the truck unless they were spending the weekend at the cabin. For errands and date nights they took Callie’s red Camry, and she thought of the little sedan now with longing.

“Just get me home,” John said tightly. “Epsom salts and then some ice. If I could just elevate my damned foot …”

Callie didn’t look over. Blackpoint Road was treacherous even by day, driving a familiar car. She usually avoided it, taking the bypass to get to town. This was unzoned county property, essentially a swamp used as a dumping ground for unwanted sofas and rusted-out refrigerators. From time to time the sheriff fished a body out of the water. Callie knew they’d made a mistake taking Blackpoint, but John had insisted, desperate to get home so she could wrap his ankle and find him a Tylenol. He hadn’t even been able to walk to the car, but instead had waited on the ground by the cabin until Callie pulled the car close enough for him to pull himself in, cursing all the while.

It had been the only way to get him into the truck. John was a big man, well over six foot and heavy with muscle, and Callie was, if not the slender size six she’d been as a bride, still just five-five, and nearly 60. She should have taken him straight to the emergency room, but in 30 years of marriage Callie had developed the habit of giving in to John’s wishes more often than not, just to keep the peace. For his part, he treated her with gentle courtesy, even chivalry, bringing her flowers out of the blue, holding her chair at the table, and tying one of her dainty aprons around his solid waist to do the dinner dishes every night, even after the most grueling day, insisting that she sit down in the den and find a program they could enjoy together. Callie didn’t have any complaints, not really, except for the one subject they never spoke of, the one that had about broken her heart.

“Honey, go a little faster,” John said now. Callie ignored him. Even with the moon peeking through the stippling of branches overhead, she could barely follow the outline of the white stripe down the center of the road. Without that stripe, she risked going off the pavement altogether. There wasn’t ever good cell service this far into the swamp. Callie rolled down her window and leaned out, better to guide the car along the narrow lane.

“What the—” John exclaimed, just as Callie saw it, too. Not 30 feet ahead, off in the woods on the swamp side, a flash of white through the trees. Callie eased the big truck to a stop. John had already taken his Guardsman flashlight out of the glove box and now he held it out the window.

“Somebody done gone off the road,” he said softly. John handed Callie the flashlight and fumbled with his cellphone. “No bars, dammit. Check the odometer, honey. We’ll call it in soon as we get home.”

Callie hesitated. She held the big flashlight with both hands, trying to get a better look at the crashed car, but it was impossible to see more than the gleam of white. “I should—”

“Callie,” John said firmly. She turned to him and was frightened by the grim set of his mouth in the dim cabin light. The cords of his neck stood out in stark relief and he looked suddenly old. “It hurts like hell. I don’t think I can—”

“John, what if there’s someone still in the car? They might need help.”

John shook his head. “Probly not. No tellin’ how long that wreck’s been there. But just in case, we’ll call soon as we get home. Honey, please. I …” He blinked hard and groaned, and Callie shuddered. John was old-fashioned. He hated to let her know if he was in pain of any kind, physical or emotional, and that told her this was bad.

Callie started the car. “One hundred thousand, two hundred eighty-four miles,” she told him. “Help me remember, so we can guide 911 right to it.”

John didn’t answer. He had both hands on his thigh, now, pressing hard against the pain.

Callie accelerated and nearly missed the sound over the rumble of the engine.

“John! Did you hear that?”

He looked at her, pure misery in his face.

“I heard someone call ‘Mama.’ I’m sure of it, John!”

“Callie. There’s birds in the swamp callin’ at night. Animals, too. Plenty of ’em can sound like a person.”

“It was a child,” Callie said. But she kept the truck moving slow and steady on the road.

“We’re almost to McClintock,” John said. “We’ll have cell service there.”

“No.” Callie stopped the truck. “I’m sorry, John. I believe your ankle is broke and I know it hurts like the devil. But you’re not gonna die from it, and whoever that was callin’ out, they well might.”

Slowly, awkwardly, she maneuvered the truck on the narrow road.

“Callie! Don’t you turn this truck around!” John took a deep breath. “I — I forbid you.”

Callie narrowed her eyes. She felt the front tires drop as they went off the paved road into the soft dirt. “I’mma let that pass, John, under the circumstances.”

She put the car in reverse and had a nervous moment as it hesitated, but the big off-road tires grabbed the blacktop and then they were heading back the way they’d come.

John stared straight ahead, furious. Callie stole a quick glance at him and then looked back at the road, searching for the glimmer of white through the trees.

“John,” she said, softening. “I swear to you, I heard a child.”

He grunted and pointed with his chin and she saw it there. White. Shining.

“I’m still a mother, you know. Even though—”

“Oh, for the love of God,” John exploded. “Don’t make this about John Jr., Callie! Do whatever the hell it is you think you have to do and get back here fast as you can. If there’s a gator down there, or a, a snake, or a goddamned whip-poor-will that needs rescuing — I can’t help you!”

She guided the truck to the side of the road, flipping on the hazards. John handed her the flashlight. “For what it’s worth, Callie,” he said, calm now, “I am telling you not to go down there.”

“For what it’s worth, John,” Callie replied pertly, “maybe if I’d stood up to you a little more often …”

John grimaced. “I love you, Callie.” He pulled off his worn leather gloves and handed them to her.

“I love you too, John.”

She slipped out of the truck and into the black night, feeling the soft swamp soil move beneath her tennis shoes, thanking God she’d been dressed for the cabin and not for a restaurant. The air was damp and cold and smelled of brackish swamp water. The flashlight lit Callie’s path just enough to make the surrounding darkness even blacker. The Ram clicked and settled on the road behind her, metal relaxing after a long drive. Insects chirped and whirred all around, and from the dark woods, the crack of a branch, the murmur of an animal, and then —


Callie froze. “Who’s there? I’m here, I’m here, I can help you!”
She was close to the wreck now, and John was wrong. It hadn’t been there long. The little Kia Rio gleamed in the yellow light of the torch, as if it had been recently washed. The back end looked fine, but the front end was nearly gone on the passenger’s side, collapsed against a big cypress.

“Hello? Baby, can you hear me?” Callie called. The night was like a cold cloak around her, muffling sounds. The moon shone nearly full, but it was impossible to see through the dark canopy of trees.

The driver’s window was down, but Callie couldn’t get the door open. The girl in the front seat had curly dark hair and she sat collapsed against the steering wheel atop a deflated airbag, head down as if she was looking for something on the floor. Callie shined the light on her. Through the open window, she touched the girl’s shoulder, then reached under her hair to feel her throat. Nothing. Callie lifted the girl’s head gently and pushed it back against the headrest. She touched the girl’s face, saw her wide staring eyes that glinted in the dim light. The girl was dead.

Callie heard a gasp, then soft breathing. “Hello? Hello?” She moved the flashlight all around the wreck and was astonished to see, held fast but not crushed beneath the dashboard, a child’s car seat. A small brown foot poked out … and wiggled.

“Oh, dear God!” Callie reached through the window and touched the little foot, unable to avoid leaning against the dead girl. “I’m here. I’m here. I’m going to help you.”

She couldn’t see the baby. Somehow the force of the impact had pushed the passenger seat against the dashboard, but praise Jesus the mother must have had the airbag turned off. Now the car seat was wedged under the crushed dash. It seemed impossible, but evidently the baby was alive, and even able to call for his mother. Callie thought that the baby must surely be in shock; otherwise he’d be crying.

A horn blasted, long and loud, from the road. The headlights flashed. “Callie?”

“I’m okay, John!” Callie called back. “Don’t burn out the headlights! Turn ’em off.”

John didn’t reply, but the road went dark, only the steady flash of the hazard lights telling Callie he was still there.


“There’s a baby, and it’s alive,” Callie told John, back at the truck. “The mother is dead. I can’t get the baby out, but it’s moving. … God, he must be so cold.”
John groaned. “Oh, Lord. We can’t just leave him.”

Callie nodded. “The way I see it, I can stay with the baby, and you can try to drive to town … or I can help you get down to the wreck, and then I’ll drive.” She paused. “You decide, John. You know best.”

John grinned, and for a moment, there in the dim cabin light, Callie saw the boy she’d married 30 years before. Confident, strong, almost devilish. “Oh, now I know best, Miz Taylor,” he said weakly. “Great.”

Callie’s heart was pounding hard, but she smiled.

“I think I can drive,” John said weakly. “And I’m pret’ damned sure I can’t get down through those woods. If you can help me move over into the driver’s seat, I can put my bad leg up. I’ll have to drive left-footed, but … I can do it. The only thing, Callie … it’s gonna hurt like a son of a gun. I don’t like for you to—”

Callie leaned over and kissed him, fast and hard. “I have to get back to the baby. Let’s go.”

She moved around the side of the truck and opened the door. “I’m going to lift your leg,” she said briskly. “Scream if you want to, but while you’re screaming, lift your butt and scoot it over into the driver’s seat.”

John nodded. “Ready. Go, baby. Do it now.”

Callie lifted John’s leg by the calf and foot, horrified by the size of his ankle. It spilled over the top of his work boot. The fabric of his jeans, below the knee, was as tight as a drum. They should have taken both boot and pants off as soon as he’d injured himself.
John screamed words that Callie had only read in books or heard in films. She bit her lip and didn’t put his foot down until she had it settled on the passenger seat. John’s legs were spread-eagled and the weight of his body leaned hard against the driver’s door, but he’d made it.

The cold was rising from the earth now. Callie could feel it through the thin soles of her sneakers as she slammed the door shut and went back to the driver’s side. The baby had probably been kept warm enough, pressed against the engine of the Kia, but the engine would soon be cold. “Go, honey,“ she told John. “Go. Send help fast as you can.”

John nodded. Callie pressed John’s hand to the key in the ignition. When she leaned close to kiss him, she was horrified to find his cheeks wet with tears. John started the truck and flipped on the headlights. “Use the lights to get back down there before I pull away,” he told her.

Callie picked her way back down to the wreck as quickly as she could. “Clear!” she yelled. “Go, honey!”

The dwindling throb of the engine was the loneliest sound Callie had ever heard. She reached through the open window and unfastened the girl’s seatbelt, then put her hands under the girl’s armpits, still warm. “I’m sorry, Miss,” she said softly. She strained, pulling the girl’s arms and shoulders out of the car as gently as she could. The girl was probably not any bigger than Callie, but it was a tough job to pull her dead weight. John’s leather gloves helped. Callie struggled and strained and finally got the girl through the window. There was no time for niceties; she let the body tumble to the ground, and then she eased through the window, wedging herself into the driver’s seat.

Callie took off John’s glove and wrapped her warm hand around the baby’s foot. The baby didn’t make a sound, but the foot moved in her hand like a little bird, warm and alive. “You hang on,” Callie murmured. “Callie’s here, baby. Callie’s here.”


Three hours later, John sat in his big recliner, ankle encased in plaster halfway to the knee, still wearing the filthy split jeans the paramedic had chopped off at the thigh. He nursed a glass of scotch and closed his eyes against the weariness.

After supervising a thorough exam by the E.R. doc, Callie had sent John home in a taxi, bribing the driver to see him into the house and settled in his chair. She had decided to stay at the hospital with the baby, who had turned out to be a dangerously cold, but otherwise unharmed, 18-month-old — a stocky little brown-skinned boy with the plumpest, sturdiest little arms and legs Callie had ever seen. They were letting her hold him, the two of them wrapped in warming blankets, in a rocker in the nursery.

John sighed. He was proud of Callie, of the way she’d stood up to him and probably saved a life in the doing. His ankle hurt like hell, but he’d felt worse. He had just drifted off when the phone buzzed in his hand.


“Johnny Junior?”

John had resolved many times to hang up if the boy ever dared call home. But now that it was real, his son’s soft voice in his ear, it was just one more strange and unlikely thing in this very unusual day.

“Dad.” Johnny’s voice was vibrant and insistent. “Where’s Mom? I’ve been calling her. Listen, this has gone on too long. I’m coming home.”

John smiled despite himself. “Yes, son. Good.”

“Daddy, I’ve got a surprise. Two, actually. I — I met a girl. You’re gonna love her. Serena is … just wait and see! She’s meeting me there at your place, and … we’ve got a surprise! Just watch for her car, Daddy. I’ll get there soon as I can. It’s a white Kia Rio, and she’ll have … a passenger. Watch for her, hear?”

John took a sip of his scotch. The world was moving too fast. He felt it spinning. He felt his heart pulse in time with the throb in his leg.

“Daddy? Did you hear me? Just watch for Serena, and I’ll be there soon!”

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  1. Woow- the suprise ending really blew me away. On the one hand, the long awaited reconciliation is happening, but they will have to forge through a new valley of sorrow and joy together.

  2. I loved this story “ON Blackpoint Road”. When I read the last sentence, I was horrified. All the characters in this story have been affected. If this story went on, I could see the pain of yet another family, and also maybe some healing in both families. As you can see, I am not a writer, but I do like to read. John found that his wife Callie was stronger than he thought her to be, John JR was coming home but he had no idea what a waited his arrival at his parents’ house. John Senior and Callie now had a grandchild, but John JR wife was dead. Terrible things happen to everyone, but this story has hope and a new beginning for everyone to look past themselves as one person, but a family that is in need of one another. There is hope for this family, the pain will be great for everyone but finally coming together will be a blessing for all of them. No one person is more important with weakness shrouding over them, pain can bring the love out so a new beginning and can bring the family together again.

  3. An excellent, realistically told short story Ms. Scotti, with a shocking ending I didn’t see coming. A lot more pain and suffering lies ahead for this family. Reading between the lines I’m sensing the son is young and naive, but that’s about to quickly change.


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