Copyright is held by the author.

HE’D HAD a bad day at work the day before, his boss reaming his ass in front of the whole department over being late on the Heinemann project. And that had not made for a great evening when he came home and made a flippant comment about Natalie’s sister coming to visit for two weeks (two weeks!). He’d wound up sleeping on the couch with the flimsy polyester blanket Nat’s mother had given them for Christmas three years before, even though the air was blowing on his face while he watched the Red Sox lose one more game to the Yankees. So, little sleep, rushing out the door, and now this.

A Ram pickup was following close behind. Roger was going five miles over the 35 miles an hour speed limit, under the theory that the cops would spot drivers going faster than that, but the Ram driver didn’t care. He was right on Roger’s tail, making, Roger could see in the rear-view, obscene gestures, screaming, the Yankees cap clearly setting on his head, making the tailgating and gestures even more infuriating.

Staring right in the rear-view at the bearded Yankees fan riding his butt, with nowhere to go, there being traffic in either lane to the left and right of him, Roger eased off the gas slightly, watching the speedometer drop from 40 to 39 to 38, the Ram guy going even crazier, throwing his hands up in the mirror and, if it were even possible, riding his Toyota’s butt even closer.

BAM! went the Ram, crashing into the back of the Toyota, making Roger bolt forward against the steering wheel. Whoa, Roger said aloud, not believing what was going on. Then BAM BAM! two more times and the guy was gesturing at him, clearly out of his mind, honking his horn, and one more BAM!, until the Toyota was careening to the right, barely missing a large truck blasting its air horn before swerving hard to the right. Roger was spinning around in the vehicle like he was at an amusement park until the car jerked to a halt in the middle lane, his head hitting the steering wheel, while some cars around him slowed while others sped by as if nothing unusual had happened at all.

When the officers arrived in a matter of minutes, their lights flashing, three cars surrounding his vehicle, and the ambulance, Roger was still shaking his head, wondering what the hell had just happened. He looked around him, as the officer questioned him through his window and, of course the Ram guy was long gone. The officer — a small guy with a baby face and receding hairline — was talking into his walkie talkie on his shoulder between questions: “Can you describe the vehicle?”

“A black Ram.”

“The driver? Besides a Yankees hat and a red beard?”

Nothing more he knew, Roger said. And he gave the officer Nat’s information.

When the officer asked how he was feeling, Roger was shaking his head saying “I’m fine, I’m fine,” despite feeling a little bit dazed. He reached for the door handle, but the officer was blocking him, telling him to hold on, just stay in his vehicle and let the EMTs check him out, to make sure he was OK. He saw them wheeling the stretcher out, a larger guy chewing a wad of gum pulling the wheeled stretcher and a slighter woman with a tattoo of some sort on her forearm. Roger was thinking he was going to be late and Rossini was going to be pissed again, but the officer insisted that they take him to the hospital, once he was out of the vehicle, the woman EMT saying “That’s quite a contusion on your forehead there. We just wanna make sure there’s been no concussion.”

He saw the back end of the Toyota smashed in on the left side, and waved at the officer, saying “But, my car . . .” and the officer just said, “We’ll take care of it, Mr. Porter, got your number here. I’m calling Mrs. Porter right now.”

Natalie met the ambulance and him at the hospital, and, as they’re wheeling him into the emergency room, he spies a familiar face, a lanky man with a red beard hurriedly slinging on light blue scrubs, a nurse with a clipboard following close behind him, saying “Where the hell you been?”

As the man glanced at Porter in passing, Roger thought he heard him say, “Some a-hole on the Parkway was going 35 in front of me and wouldn’t let me pass!”


Mitchell Waldman‘s short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous publications. He is also the author of the short story collections Brothers, Fathers, and Other Strangers and Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart, as well as the novel A Face in the Moon. He serves as fiction editor for the Blue Lake Review.