By Cecily Jane
It took him a full five minutes before he mustered the courage to dry his hands on his khaki pants, leaving a thick, dark streak in their wake. He knocked on the door. The sharp yapping of a dog started before Wilbur could bring his knuckles back to the flowers, and it was the kind of barking that came from a dog that would bite.
He was opening the door to the passenger side of his Buick before he knew it. What did she say her name was? He should write it down somewhere, just in case. She had a hard time getting in at first, and had to recline the seat a little to fit. He was relieved to see that she was about as heavy as he was; one less thing that he had to worry about. He usually reclined the seat a little, too. He waited for her to buckle her seatbelt before he started the car and pulled out to the empty street.
“You didn’t put your blinker on,” she said.
“Your blinker—you’re supposed to put it on when you merge into traffic.”
There was silence in the car before Wilbur managed a strained, “So how do you know Cheryl?”
“We used to work together,” she said. Wilbur could see a scowl start to form on her face.”
“So where do you work now?” he said.
“At the DMV.”
“Ah,” Wilbur said, making sure that he had turned his headlights on and checking his mirrors an extra time. He could tell by her voice that she really wanted to work just about anywhere else.
“How do you know her?” she finally asked.
“I’m sorry, who?”
Wilbur gulped loudly. “I work with her now.”
“At the capitol?”
The wheel was starting to get slippery in Wilbur’s hands, and he hoped that she wouldn’t notice as her eyes periodically darted towards his speedometer. As they went down a hill, he saw her clutch the armrest out of the corner of his eye. He checked his mirrors again.
The stop at the light wasn’t as smooth as Wilbur meant it to be, and he closed his eyes for a second so he wouldn’t see her shake her head at him.
“It’s green,” she said. She hadn’t loosened her grip on the armrest.
“So, tell me about yourself,” she more demanded than requested.
“Well, I . . . I . . .” The wheels squeaked a little.
“Are you purposely staying in that van’s blind spot?”
“No, I . . .”
“Slow down! You’re going forty in a construction zone!” she shrieked.
“Um . . .”
“Did you just change lanes in an intersection?”
He let off the gas, but the car kept going faster, and faster, and somehow the steering wheel melted away as he tried to put on the break, but the car was screeching out of control even louder than his date was. And then, though the car was speeding up, time seemed to slow down. He saw the intersection come closer and closer, but he couldn’t do anything about it. They were doing to die.
When the blue Buick collided with the side of the Chevy, Wilbur could hear the scratching of metal against metal. He could smell the burned rubber. He could even feel the impact throw him against his seatbelt. But more than anything, he could hear the incessant screaming that came from the passenger seat. If only he could close his ears.
Wilbur opened his eyes to find himself still on the front porch, holding carnations and sweating like a pig. It had all been in his head—the woman, her job, the crash. Realizing how long he had been holding his breath, Wilbur took a deep breath and hailed a cab.