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Page 15

I donít remember much of what happened after that. I was in a daze. Iím told that I carried on full-fledged conversations during this period of time, but I donít remember a word of it. I do remember considering the irony of the fact that I had dropped my full coverage insurance two days earlier. I thought I had been paying too much and scaled it down to just liability and uninsured motorist coverage. Tomorrow I had been planning to switch to a different insurance company and pick up full coverage there.

The truckerís insurance company decided that they didnít want to cover damages for the accident. So it turned into a big court battle. The opposing council brought some guy into court who claimed to have seen the entire incident. Strangely enough, the spot that he purported to be sitting at during the accident is covered by massive hedges. Apparently, the truckerís insurance lawyers didnít feel that it would be an abnormal thing for someone to be lurking in the hedge, waiting for an accident that he could be a witness to. As it turns out, this witness was also an expert mechanic, who said that he could tell by the sound of the engines revolutions that I was going over eighty miles an hour. In addition, he testified that I didnít use my signal and that the trucker used both his signal and his brake.

Despite the complete and utter crap they kept throwing, I still managed to get about seven thousand dollars out of it. In the final analysis that wasnít enough to cover the replacement cost of the car, my medical, and attorney fees. Though I had been banged up in a nasty way, I really suffered no long term debilitating physical effects from the accident. The repercussions, however, were just as serious. Iím not sure if the car accident was the trigger, or if it was just the signal for things to start going wrong.

Immediately after the accident things started going sour at work. Tom Hammond insisted that the accident was Godís way of telling me that I was off track. He took me aside one day and told me, "Sometimes God needs to hit us in the side of the head with an iron beam to let us know that weíre screwing up." Though he certainly was not an imposing man, shorter than I and of an average build, behind his mild countenance was someone that was used to being listened to and obeyed. Tom Hammond was a successful business man. Heíd made a lot of money, and knew how to use it to exert influence over other people. He was used to getting respect without question. I made the mistake of questioning.

"So youíre telling me that every time that life stops running smoothly it is a sign from God?"

"Iím telling you that you are getting off track and God decided to let you know it was time to straighten up," he answered.

I was a little baffled at what part of my life he thought that God was indicating that I should straighten out. It wasnít until later that I realized Brent Palmer had considered me somewhat of a rival, and was slowly and surely poisoning Tom Hammondís opinion of me. To be sure, I had faults and wasnít beyond reproach. Sometimes I came into work ten, fifteen minutes late, but it was just Brent and I running the show and he would as often be as late as I. We would both work late into the night to see that the printer tables were assembled and shipped out on time. If I was guilty of taking certain freedoms with the flexibility of the situation, I was no more guilty than Brent was, and I thought that I more than made up for any liberties, I took, by my commitment to seeing that the job was done and done well.

I had considered Brent Palmer one of my best friends. Tall, lanky with a long face and tight curly hair- he could come across morose to someone who didnít know him, but beneath was beating the heart of a speed demon. We had bonded over long hours of work, occasional alcohol binges, and our love of fast cars.

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