Jerry, new yet to Los Angeles, strayed from the quotidian beeline that he had established between his driveway and office and was backwashed into the city’s estuaries; his calf exhausted itself and his car slowed and stopped next to a molting soccer field, in an alien neighborhood that might have been his own, he could not tell.
“I don’t recognize this,” said Jerry. He twisted over his headrest to reverse but instead accelerated forward into the trunk of a sedan. The sedan rolled forward a foot or so and then its brake lights flared and the car halted and idled across from Jerry’s car, opposing it. Several eventless seconds passed. Then the door of the sedan eased open and a foot in a bandaid-colored stocking lowered itself onto the pavement, and then another, and then two hands flitted to the top of the doorframe, like bats, and an elderly woman hefted herself free of the car. She dusted her muumuu smooth with her palms and labored toward Jerry. Jerry left his own car, apologizing as he did, but the old woman waved him off. They were both uninjured, so “Look,” she said, pointing at her now-U-shaped bumper, “my car’s happier.”
“Ha ha ha,” said Jerry. Then, in a gamble: “In a way I’m a hero,” he said.
“Ha ha!” said the old woman.
“Ha ha!” said Jerry.
“Yes!” said the old woman. “You are. I was on my way to the orphanage but now I guess I’d better go home and watch some television.”
“Watch some CSI,” said Jerry, “then come back here and maybe we can figure out who hit your car.”
The old woman laughed again and then Jerry laughed again, and then the old woman laughed again and then Jerry laughed again, et cetera, until the affability crescendoed, and in its dénouement Jerry broke from the chuckling to retrieve his insurance information from his glove compartment.
“And this is my home number,” said Jerry, pinning a business card against his thigh and nearing it with a pen. But the old woman shooed him away again.
“I have a friend who’ll bang that out for nothing,” she said. “You just save your money and spend it on your wife or ice cream, or whatever young people buy.”
The old woman turned and labored back to her car. Jerry followed, offering his insurance information to the old woman, who would not have it. At her door, the old woman compressed herself into herself and rotated onto her seat. She waved once to Jerry by raising three of her fingers from the steering wheel and then drove passed the soccer field and made a left and was taken up by the traffic, like a pencap in a vein, and borne down the freeway and over a hill.
Jerry returned to his car and reversed successfully this time and continued to curlicue around Los Angeles. The usual quadrilaterals and lettering of all diffuse cities cycled over Jerry’s windshield like driving through a forest of Rubik’s Cubes, and then another forest of Rubik’s Cubes, and another, until, “I’ll have to eat where I sit,” said Jerry, “in whatever neighborhood this is,” and he looked to the left, for parking, but saw only a pet store, and drove his car into the passenger-side door of a sedan. The sedan yawed and squealed and halted. Time passed. Then the door of the sedan opened and the old lady emerged, this time as if in front of a tiger. Seeing it was absolutely Jerry she probed behind herself for the door handle. Jerry emerged apologizing and showing the woman his empty hands, but she hurried into her car, repeating, “That’s alright, that’s alright, that’s alright, that’s alright,” and fled.
They collided again four blocks later. She cursed him and threatened police through her windshield and sped onto the freeway. Jerry collided with her again ten or so minutes later, and then again, and again, and again: Jerry was batted from the old lady’s car to the old lady’s car, like electrons in a coffin, and with each new collision he would go to her, exposing his palms, apologizing, attempting to joke with her, and she would lock her doors, and scream, and weep beneath her air freshener, and stanch her face in the neckline of her muumuu.
Miles Greaves lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his fiancée and their two young boys. He’s an attorney who recently found the time to write more, and is currently working on several short stories.