Rachel can't sleep, so she paces through the house. She thinks about Big Jacky leaving her last year for that slut. She thinks about how she feels just fine, not sick at all, even though she always gets sick when her kids get sick. She thinks about sweet Cora and how she wouldn't have even known she was sick if she hadn't dragged her out of bed, because Cora never wants to be the center of attention, not for anything. Rachel thinks about maybe calling in tomorrow, and she wouldn't be the only one; there's plenty sick, they had a story on it on the news last night. No one would notice, really, that she was playing hooky. She could get all the kids in the van and drive east, drive back home to her mom's. Get out of the city, get some fresh air.
Rachel finally falls asleep on the couch at 3am. Cora's screams wake her up two hours later. Little Jacky's face is blue, and he's clawing at his throat. Rachel can't move, she just stares. His throat is so swollen she'd swear someone had stuck a tire pump in his mouth and gone to town. She doesn't even know what to do, she finally picks him up and he's so hot, he's so goddamn hot, and she's crying and screaming herself as she takes him to the van. She tells Cora to stay put, she's got to take Little Jacky to the hospital.
He's dead halfway there. Rachel pulls the van to the side of the road. No hazards, she can't remember how to turn them on. The car drifts forward because she never puts it in park, and after a bit her foot slides off the break.
It's a long time, she realizes later, that she sits there, staring at the brick wall of an elementary school. Not a single thought going through her head. The inside of the van is so quiet. Rachel comes to when a crow flies into view in front of her, a great big hulking one as black as midnight, and it starts pecking at something dead in front of the school. Rachel stares, trying to make out what it is. Most of whatever it is lies behind the corner, out of sight. Rachel leans forward over the steering wheel, watching the crow's head dart and bob as it tears off gobbets of flesh. Then she sees: it's a person lying there, a woman. A teacher, must be. The crow pecks at the woman's slender hand, which rests above her head; Rachel is just able to see the wispy outline of her hair. She feels no horror, no disgust, and it makes her able to think again, and she thinks, what am I gonna do with Little Jacky?
Rachel looks up at him in the rearview mirror; she can't bring herself to turn around and actually look at him. He looks so small, so much like the little baby he was just a few months ago, but his face is almost black. She sobs and sobs, the van drifting forward until it hits the curb. She can hear her sobs as if someone else were sobbing them, and after awhile the force of them actually turns her stomach.
Hank? Had she seen Hank this morning? And hadn't Cora been so much worse, too? The thoughts strike her with the sudden force of an asteroid plummeting into Earth. Rachel drives up over the curb as she slams on the gas, and she pops a tire. She races home, and she never even sees the car coming on the side street, never even sees the four-way stop sign, never even sees the blue sedan and the wide eyes of the driver and the screaming child in the car seat as she plows the van right into them. She hadn't put her seatbelt on, she'd been in such a hurry, of course, and the last thing Rachel ever thinks in this world, as she flies through the windshield, is that she misses her mom and wants to see her.