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Doing Good

Simon A. Smith

The big, beautiful houses in Swan Manor – it’s like they’re laughing at me. Their broad, jutting windows, framed by knotted lace curtains, know about my layoff last month. The tall iron fences, their heads like rusty spears, gossip about my macabre porn stash hiding under the bed. The prominent brass knockers on thick wooden doors talk about the size of my johnson. They say it looks like a wounded turtlehead. I feel my pecker tighten and squirm at the thought of it.

I’m wondering why I persist walking through this neighborhood despite other options when I hear what sounds like brakes screeching followed by two cars colliding.

Fuck! I jump off the sidewalk. That’s exactly what it is. A mere twenty feet behind me a lunatic has veered out of the driving lane and rammed a parked car straight in the rear. If you didn’t know any better you might think it was done on purpose, that the driver had measured it, lined it up, swerved over and let the parked car have it. It’s such a direct hit.

But I can tell that’s not the case because after some adjusting I can see the driver’s face through the windshield. It’s a woman. She has the bleary, spinning eyes of someone who has fallen asleep behind the wheel and has woken up alone and strapped with a horrible headache.

A door flies open on one of the houses to my left and a frantic woman comes bursting out the door.

“Oh my God!” she yells. “That’s my car!”

It’s a Wednesday morning and right away I figure she must not work. Her long, straw-blonde hair, lithe skier’s sweater and high suede boots tell me I’m not wrong. She’s a classic swan all right.

The woman in the car is whipping the shock out of her system and throwing her car into reverse at the same time. She’s growing more alert and deliberate by the second. Her car sounds like a collection of broken, clanging cranks. It winds and farts its way clear of the spot.

“Do something!” The woman on the porch pleads. “Get her license!”

In a fit of swings and skids, the car whirls into the lane. It isn’t this car’s first rodeo. This maroon sedan has seen its failures. It’s at least fifteen years old, with a kinked, dangling bumper, a baseball-sized dent on the back door and a crooked wheel well.

As the car goes rattling past me I see the woman at the wheel. I see her startled, desperate eyes and Halloween hair. I see her stained white sweatshirt with a teddy bear on the front. I also think I see her young daughter sitting on a dirty sofa beside her bitter grandmother in a sad mobile home somewhere, eating fried bologna sandwiches and watching soap operas together. I see the girl’s father passed out in a cheap motel at the edge of town next to a wobbly end table crowded with MGD cans. I also see all the numbers and letters on her license plate.

“Hurry! Look! Did you get it?”

“I got it,” I tell her. I take my phone out. “I got it.”

I see the other car, too, the one that was violated. It’s a brand new forest green Jaguar. I see the wide, toothy indentation in the back and the crunched trunk lid. I look at the damsel on the porch. She’s a slender million bucks if she’s a thousand.

“Are you calling the cops?” she asks. She knows how important I am and it shows. It sickens her a little.

“I’m taking care of it,” I tell her.

“Thank you,” she says. “You’re a good person for this. You’re doing the right thing.”

I see that she means it but that she only means it for now. Later, when her stoic, square-jawed husband comes home, it will mean something else, something distasteful about the driver and something regrettable about me.

I put the phone to my ear and push all kinds of buttons. I walk away.

“Where are you going?” she yells.

Human beings are the only ones who get themselves into pickles like this, I think. “I’m taking care of it,” I say.

“Wait!” she says.

Oh, that felt nice. It’s enough to know how much she needs me. The other lady, the one I still hear grinding and sputtering in the distance, she needs things too. I keep walking. I feel a little dizzy, like a shaky, jarring camera shot.

“What’s your name? Can I get your name? Wait!”

I think about lying but I don’t. It’s not worth it. That kind of stuff does more harm than anything else.

Simon A. Smith lives in Chicago with his wife and a murderous orange tabby named Cheever. He is about one year away from receiving his MAT in Language Arts Education. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Quick Fiction, Whiskey Island, PANK, Bound Off, Dogzplot and a few others. He likes it here.