The policeman said, “Sorry to hear this about your mother. Our condolences to you and your family.”
The reporter said, “I’m sorry the occasion brings me here.”
His mother’s best friend started a Go Fund Me Facebook page that filled with “Thoughts and prayers” followed by emojis for sadness and happiness and what looked to be anger.
His neighbor said, “I have your mother in my prayers.”
The night of the hit and run, his mother had her pelvis crushed and her legs broken on the main street of her small town that has a bypass looped around it for traffic that isn’t local. Cars on that street are driven by people who live within ten miles, tops. Mostly within five. Or fewer.
A witness remembered the make and color of the car so precisely a child could find that car. A police department computer did the work. Locally, the choices few. A jeep. White. Three or four at the most within a ten-mile radius of the small Pennsylvania town. Just one with recent, unrepaired body damage. Not even scrubbed to minimize the evidence. DNA still present. Two days it took. Police lab work was necessary. Analysis. Confirmation. Ok, he said, his mother on a ventilator. Ok.
When his mother left the ICU, the attendants applauded. “Good luck,” they said. “May your prayers be answered.”
Still a patient, his mother had a lawyer who said coping starts with justice. What wasn’t said was that everyone knew who the driver was. The newspaper used the phrase “a person of interest.”
“I cry sometimes,” his mother said. “I hear that POS sits there in a downtown bar a block from the hit-and-run with his beer like nothing’s happened. He still has friends who drink with him. It’s like they’ve been infected.”
When she was released, at last, from the hospital, a donor presented his mother with a motorized scooter. The donor contacted the newspaper. A photo was taken. The scooter’s owner said it had been a life-saver for him once upon a time. In the photo, the donor looked bent and fragile, his hand resting on the scooter as if for balance. In the story, the reporter called it by its brand name, Pride Go-Go.
His mother moved into his apartment. Only half an hour from where she had lived, it was large enough for her and her dog. He had literal banker’s hours and the rest of his weekdays to walk the dog. He did large loans. The people who wanted them were willing to wait if the dog kept him a few extra minutes.
His mother had always jogged with the dog, a golden retriever who never veered off the sidewalk. Who never needed a leash. She never tripped over it. “You start them off right and they never let you down,” she had said more than once.
The day after the scooter story was published, a bank customer leaned toward his desk and said, “I saw the picture in the paper. Your Mom’s the one who got busted up and the police know what’s what with the driver.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Condolences,” the man said, “but he’ll get what’s coming to him, right?”
When his mother’s lawyer spoke again, he heard the voice of mansions. Back at the hospital, he’d offered a free consultation. As someone who sympathizes, he’d said, as someone who could offer a legal take on where things stood.
The people who fired his mother made the call from Colorado. As if misery had no muscle if someone was entry-level and without seniority. They didn’t say, “We’re sorry.”
The newspaper published an anniversary story about the hit-and-run. The police said they were still waiting for the lab reports. His mother mentioned she was soon going to lose a kidney. “My heartfelt condolences,” the photographer said as he snapped her picture.
After the kidney was removed, his mother seemed lethargic. She seemed to pant rather than breathe. Her blood pressure, the doctor said, was troublesome. More surgery was possible.
During that surgery, his mother died. Instead of condolences, the doctor offered an explanation. He said “compromised” and “weakened” and “all we could.”
Gary Fincke’s latest collection is Nothing Falls from Nowhere (Stephen F. Austin, 2021). His flash fiction has appeared recently in Craft, Wigleaf, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, X-R-A-Y, Ghost Parachute, and Best Small Fictions 2020. He is co-editor of the annual anthology series Best Microfiction.