Traffic was light. It usually was on the old Highway 11 Bridge across Lake Pontchartrain from Slidell to New Orleans. Most everyone traveled the interstate nowadays. Its straight concrete spans were visible in the distance, but if you were coming in from the fishing camps on the northshore, as Wheezy Wascomb was, the old bridge was the shortest way to the city. She was driving to town to pick up her grandchildren and take them back out to the lake for the weekend. They were at the age when fishing for crabs off a creaking wooden dock was just about the best fun they could imagine. A light breeze carried the smell of salt from the Gulf of Mexico, and the sunshine flashing off her fenders make Wheezy squint.
The bridge was long and narrow, built sometime around World War II when they were just learning to pour lots of concrete and everybody drove slower cards. They must have designed the roadway for midgets, too, because when a pickup truck cruising at a steady seventy zoomed past Wheezy's little Toyota, her car blew about three feet toward the battered gray stone-and-clamshell barrier. Her heart raced almost painfully as she watched the pickup fly away with a throaty roar from its chrome pipes. Truth was, she had been feeling light-headed every since she got into the car. She had not been well all week. Those Endflu capsules, promising eight hours of relief without drowsiness, had been keeping her upright, but this morning she was feeling positively awful.
Suddenly she found it hard to brethe. A car coming at her out of the bright sunlight had to honk to shove her back in her lane. She fought to control the steering, but the bridge itself seemed to twist in front of her eyes. Sweat poured out of her and a dark red curtain fell down over her field of view. She was too scared to scream. Sparklers began going off in her head.
She hit the concrete rail at forty-five miles per hour, and the determined Toyota tried to climb over it. The metal peeled away and the frame in front collapsed loudly in a rainstorm of sparks, but the old barricade held. The crushed Toyota spun once and rolled over on its side, blocking the highway. One tire rotated furiously, and fluids, purple and orange, poured dangerously onto the pavement. Wheezy Wascomb was dumped on the floor - her heart had burst.
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