Determine the Sequence Based on the facts, you should be able to determine the sequence of events. Was the employee walking, running, bending over, squatting, climbing, lifting operating machinery, pushing a broom, turning a valve, using a tool, handling hazardous materials, etc.?
Did the worker fall on the same level or from a height? Did the employee inhale hazardous vapors or get splashed with a hazardous chemical? What did the employee do: Grab a knee? Start limping? Complain about back pain? Put a hand over a bleeding wound? His cheeks and forehead were pimpled with the buckshot of the shattered windshield. He struggled to raise his head. Advertisement Jax was a blurter, a motormouth, a fantastic nicknamer, the name capturing the thing in you that was your weakness or your greatest exposure.
For instance, there was another kid we knew who spoke in chopped-up, sputtering excitement and as a young teen could often be found puttering around the Sound in his whaler, jumping waves. And so he became "Hooten, Hooten, Merrily. And Jax was fearless. I saw him dive madly at ungettable balls and later fly into a rage at his older brother or the class bully, scary for the fury of his attack, his willingness to sustain a hail of blows if only to land one. Now here he was, Jax, the once mighty berserker, laid low.
In legends, he would have been the knight felled by the act no one dared to make, the wading of some rough river, the arrow slung at the giant, the throwing of his body at Doom, sacrificing his life for something perhaps meaningless.
Or jumping from a moving boat. Or laughing that laugh that was on you and with you. What exactly had happened that night became a nagging mystery. Pixels of rumor and eyewitness account began to resolve into startling coherence.
Everything in life held a joke, except this, right now. He rolled his eyes, trying to focus, smacked his cracked lips, unable to produce saliva for all the painkillers mainlined through the IVs needled in his arms.
His tongue was swollen. He looked frightened, diminished. That was it. Whatever had occurred on that night before Thanksgiving—and he had little to no memory of the accident—he took full responsibility for it. His eyelids fluttered shut while I stood awkwardly, watching him sink beneath the surface as if bearing witness to a drowning. Then I was shown out. It happens sometimes with the dead.
A magnetic field builds around their absence, compelling silence—or, worse, repelling memory, driving it underground. Until, later, it rises again. So how do you pry yourself loose of the past?
We were teenagers then. We knew everything—and nothing. As the story got stranger, some of us acted out in unaccountable ways. There were those who disavowed the accident entirely, while others, like me, stupidly went looking for a second accident, to re-enact—or atone for—the first.
In the days and months after Jax hit the tree, we regularly visited him in his hospital room, where uneaten meals came and went on wheels, where he floated on the fine chemicals that inhibited his pain. When their powers dimmed, you could almost feel him sinking, wincing, fighting. Already thin, he quickly lost about twenty-five pounds. He had skin grafts, gnarled, scarred, screaming-red attachments on his feet and his legs, both of which were badly broken.
And yet over time, as he regained his senses one by one, he tried to create a whole life up there: nurses who laughed at his jokes, a parade of friends that revolved through. His mother and girlfriend were a ubiquitous presence, as were the wobbly Day-Glo blocks of uneaten Jell-O perched on the nearby lunch tray. But he pointed to a deck of glossy photos already taken by his brother. Fanning them in my hands, I found shot after shot of the ruined car.
Of course, Jax saw no miracle in his survival. And there was no miracle because, he knew, someone would be made to pay. Jax was a brutal realist. Hung like a tattered kite in the antibacterial blankness of his hospital room, held up by wires and sinkered lines, he awaited his fate.
But still, it was a desperate way to think. One other thing about the dead: With them, so, too, goes God sometimes. After he filled a bucket with them and a school of thrashing bunkers moved on they beat the water into a desperate froth above the blues that gave chase , we sat staring at the stars draped over everything and got into an argument about God.
I said He existed; Jax said no way. We ended up in his bedroom, paging through his World Book encyclopedia as I tried to press my case with "facts. People stood and said the right things. As if we were all part of one body that could be fixed somehow, as if we could tick off the checklist—airway, breathing, circulation—to find the hidden ailment stuck in the left ventricle, and be saved. Soon the enforced patterns of our quasi-martial school life reasserted themselves: We dutifully went to our classes, to physics where the teacher prattled on about the inadequacies of highway entrance ramps, chalking on the board in a swirl of scribbles all the horrible ways you could die while entering the faster flow of traffic and English we were reading Gatsby now, the green light, the deadly car accident, the body in the pool and calculus as if to solve a proof might put the universe back together, reveal a different god.
The swim season had begun, hours lost in bubbles, lap after lap staring at the black lane line of my own failing. And of course I continued riding the ambulance, showing up at random accident scenes to splint the broken femur or bandage the bloody hand. Advertisement There was a night when we were called to help a man hit by a car. He was drunk and belligerent, and as the cars came and went and the strobes lit his face, it slowly dawned on me that he was my old swimming coach, Mr.
Wharton, a guy I really revered. How many times had he pumped me up, or screamed at me in the pool to quit slacking, or celebrated a come-from-behind win, all to show he cared? From his first return to consciousness, Jax had no memory of the accident, none whatsoever, but accepted his guilt as a reflex. For instance, I had friends who, at the time of the accident, had just finished playing paddle tennis at the country club up the road.
Could it have been true? When confronted with the theory, Jax was incredulous. First of all, [Flynn] and I are damn good friends. By spring, Flynn had been charged with negligent homicide, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, and evading responsibility. The narrative that had Jax in a moment of singular teenage elation and irresponsibility now opened to another possibility: two cars traveling at a high rate of speed when one car passed on a tight turn and drove the other off the road.
Advertisement So much of what happened in my town—the ancient town I knew and loved, the sprinkler-fed garden that existed during the Reagan Pleistocene in one of the outer rings around Manhattan—was never spoken of, or if so, only in whispered gossip. No matter how egregious or boorish the behavior or betrayal, to say it out loud, to reveal it beyond the social circle for which it was meant, was an affront almost as egregious.
Every scarlet letter was partially hidden. This is true of many places, or perhaps true of every place. However unsettling the news, a year or two or three and it can be relegated to the snowdrift of memory and then forgotten, replaced by the new drama of the day.
As a child, I found this disorienting. The parents were whispering about something, something with intimations of pain or dread, dark fairy tales of some sort, but what? The charges against Flynn made the story uncomfortably public, and soon the paper ran a long article detailing the events of that night before Thanksgiving; the strained, surreal situation at our high school of friends trying to pick sides, or figure out what to believe in the first place; and the tragedy of alcohol-related car accidents in our town.
Was it suburban privilege, or our access to cars, or the dark, winding roads? The police captain was quoted as saying that over the course of the past three years, a dozen young residents had died in automobile crashes. This particular evening included the awarding of special gold stars, reserved for the members of a particular crew for an exceptional call, our version of the Medal of Honor. This crew, as I remember it, had responded to a very bad crash on the interstate, had performed CPR under harrowing circumstances, and had brought someone back to life.
It meant that for at least that moment the prophecy was true: You were so good, in fact, that you could raise the dead. Dear God, I found myself praying, give me something horrible and bloody. Let my next call be a multiple-car crash with gasoline glugging all over the highway, or a cardiac arrest in a house fire, or a kid electrocuted on the railroad tracks.
Let it be a shark attack or an alien invasion, whatever makes the best movie. Whatever is the most impossibly fucked-up, Lord. Just let me lay my hands on some big, honking, metal-twisted tragedy, so I can work my own miracle this time. Jax came out of the hospital with snow on the ground, then convalesced at home for a while.
When the police asked to talk to him, he went without his lawyers, against their advice, and tried to answer what he could about the accident. But at least on the surface, everything carried on, despite the awkwardness.
College applications were completed and sent out; no one got dumped by his girlfriend. Advertisement Time accelerated.
The snow melted, the season changed, and our town bloomed: daffodils and forsythia at Easter, the dogwoods and cherry trees not long after. Lawns turned green again, the leaves drawing lush curtains over everything. The pier was repainted; boats were put back in the Sound, their sails snapping in the wind. With the passage of time, Jax doubled his efforts to retrieve some shard of absent memory.
It was some cruel, cosmic joke. His antipathies, guided inward by guilt, now had an outward target. It was simple: Knowing what Jax believed they knew, how could they have left him there? And where had they gone? It was hard for him to concentrate on anything but the accident—it all went back to that stretch of road. We drove it every night, in our minds. And Jax tortured himself with trying to remember.
Eventually, in conversation with his doctors, it was agreed that he would visit a Yale psychiatrist who used hypnotism.
It was maybe something Jax would have once regarded skeptically, but what other choice did he have? The session lasted nearly two hours. Jax could only confirm what the psychiatrist had said, that things had gone "very well," whatever that meant. A few weeks later the videotape arrived.
Jax called, I drove down to his house, and we joined his parents to watch it for the first time. When Jax appeared on the television screen—or what I remember of Jax on that screen—he sat straight up, wearing a button-down shirt.
His eyes were shut, and he seemed fairly relaxed, answering some basic opening questions. He was apparently already hypnotized, and the psychiatrist pointed out a needle stuck halfway into the flesh between his thumb and pointer finger, though Jax said he felt no pain and seemed to have no knowledge of the pin. The psychiatrist then asked Jax to navigate the first four-fifths of the night in question. Then the two cars emptied through the high school parking lot, turned left onto Coral, and took a right onto High.
At this point, they were a quarter mile from the tree. In the videotape, Jax, whose eyes are closed but tracking beneath the lids, seems at ease charting their progress. He reaches to turn up the music, presses the gas. The lights are reflecting in the rearview mirror, the other car right on his tail. He is talking to Seger. The music is blaring. Leaves are skittering.
The road takes a turn. Music, leaves, dark branches. Seconds from hitting the tree, he looks in the rearview mirror, answers the psychiatrist. He looks stricken, thin lips pressed together. And then his body rocks once, very hard. Did it happen like this? At the very least, it gave Jax a narrative to which he could finally cling as the courts began to parse the evidence of what had occurred that night. First came the criminal charges against Flynn that hovered over him for a year, ending in a courtroom drama that found Jax hobbling in on crutches and Flynn home from college accompanied to court by a dozen family members.
Nearly four years later, the newspapers covered that trial blow by blow.
Nearly four years later, the newspapers covered that trial blow by blow. If he had something he needed to say—or a question to ask—he thought better of it. But he pointed to a deck of glossy photos already taken by his brother. If I were never to see him again, this would be my memory of him, of that year: the bucket full of blues, the encyclopedia without God, the energy of his wiry body flying, bowed in the sun, trying to remember why he ever wanted to leave this earth in the first place. Until, of course, it did. Advertisement Still, there were those in town who wondered: Could a year-old EMT someone who had only recently learned to drive a car really help at, let alone handle, the worst accidents?
Jax could only confirm what the psychiatrist had said, that things had gone "very well," whatever that meant.
Also, describe how other co-workers responded. And some of us tried to turn away but never quite could. Now here we were, perched on a cold November night at what felt like a certain end, in a state of suspension, as the seconds flew.
It was hard to look at; but for the few marks, the tree itself seemed to flourish, carrying no memory of that night. This night, however, the darkness was almost a substance, and even as we directed our spotlight up into the trees, the rays were absorbed, leaving nothing to see. Now here he was, Jax, the once mighty berserker, laid low. The charges against Flynn made the story uncomfortably public, and soon the paper ran a long article detailing the events of that night before Thanksgiving; the strained, surreal situation at our high school of friends trying to pick sides, or figure out what to believe in the first place; and the tragedy of alcohol-related car accidents in our town. Leaves are skittering. The woman was in a deep vegetative state, on her way to death by morning.
Afterward we sat all night—our circle of friends—stupefied, empty.
But still, it was a desperate way to think. Also, if the hazard still exists, the supervisor needs to immediately eliminate it. He was handsome like his son, with a smooth face, but now his expression contorted and he let out a high-pitched keen that made us all tuck our heads lower, knotting our hands over our stomachs.
Then I was shown out. And so he became "Hooten, Hooten, Merrily. The crash drove the engine through the dashboard.
Just let me lay my hands on some big, honking, metal-twisted tragedy, so I can work my own miracle this time. In the years after, Jax built a hectic, successful career in finance. Advertisement At the hospital that night, the waiting area was flooded in bright light and the stench of antiseptic.
He was so pale I could see a network of veins under his face. And how guilty I'd feel for years after about it. That was it. We swung on rope swings and swam in pools or at the beach.
Then, it was housed in a defunct red train station that rattled every time a passing commuter train rushed by on its way to Manhattan. And so I missed the accident, too.