Jon Saunders

Not Clade

Lights flash, drums beat, people shout. The sounds of the festival swoop and tumble down the narrow side street to the body on the wet tarmac.



‘Shit, man, you okay? Bro? You okay?’

‘I didn’t see him, I never saw him! He stepped right out in front of me, just came out of nowhere! Oh God, I hope he’s alright.’

‘Jimmy, get back here now, right now — that poor man doesn’t want you gawping in his face while he’s … while he’s … lying there like that.’


Clade lies on the cold road and gazes up past the angular outline of the truck into the velvety, pinpricked darkness beyond. A small white balloon briefly bobs in the glow of the truck’s lights before dipping and jerking its way across the sky.


‘Somebody talk to him, for Christ’s sake, somebody keep talking to him. Has anybody called an ambulance? Jesus, tell me somebody’s called an ambulance at least.’

‘His eyes are open but I’m telling ya, there ain’t nobody home.’

‘There was nothing I could do, nothing. Can’t believe he didn’t see me, look at the bloody truck, it’s bright bloody yellow! He can’t have been looking where he was going, can he?’



Clade can’t feel his legs. He’s feeling the warm sand between his toes on that beach in Aitutaki. He’s picturing the smile that used to light up his son’s face when he picked him up after school. He’s remembering all the good times he and Janelle used to have together.


‘Stand back, come on stand back everyone — give him some air.’

‘Aw, shit, man, this don’t look good at all.’

‘I wasn’t even going quickly, hey you, you saw it didn’t you, you were right here? I wasn’t going too fast, was I? Nothing I could do, was there?’

‘Right, Jimmy, we’re going home. Now!’


Clade’s head feels heavy even though it’s resting on the tarmac. He can’t seem to move it. The view of the sky’s pretty good though. He’s not in pain but he’s getting cold now, cold and very, very tired.


‘Can you hear me, mate, can you hear me? Don’t try to move, blink twice if you can hear me. Hang in there, buddy, the ambulance is on its way. Be here any second, I promise you.’

‘We’re losing him, man, I tell ya, we’re losing him!’

‘I’m a safe driver, I can tell you that. Twenty-four years and no accidents, not even a bloody cat. He just came out of nowhere, like he … I dunno, like he meant it or something.’



The voices gradually drift away as Clade stares up past the crowd gathered round him. He doesn’t rise up above his body, he doesn’t gently float away but he’s not in pain, he’s not hurting. He blinks one last time, his eyes close and then, after one last elongated heartbeat, he’s just … not Clade.

Contents | Previous Author | Next Author | About this Author