After celebrating their sixth anniversary with a hearty meal at the Denny’s over on Erie Boulevard, Ed Pruitt is behind the wheel of his Honda Civic with his wife Bonnie at his side, driving on the boulevard at a furious speed, with blaring sirens in fast pursuit.
“What’s wrong with you? Slow down!” Bonnie shouts in a panic.
Ed laughs and scratches at the side of his face. “Cops can’t give me a speeding ticket if they can’t catch me.”
“Speeding ticket? I’m not worried about a damn speeding ticket!” Bonnie shouts, her voice still in a panic. “Stop the car! Please Ed, just stop the damn car before you kill us both!”
“That’s the plan sweetie, that’s the plan,” Ed says, a bitter smirk spreading across his long narrow face.
Ed weaves wildly through traffic, then swerves sideways, abruptly turning off Erie Boulevard and heading for the quiet residential streets, just beyond Syracuse’s city limits. With his thin fingers tightly gripping the steering wheel and his work boot pressing down hard on the gas, Ed continues at a furious pace, speeding through the winding roads of an affluent suburban neighborhood, with sirens still in fast pursuit.
Ed’s Honda Civic screeches around a corner and crashes hard into a large oak tree in the front yard of a cheerful yellow house where the Goldsteins, a family of four, are quick to come running out through their front door. The father dials 9-1-1 and the mother shields their two young boys. “Don’t look,” she says, tilting her head down and placing her hands on the two boys’ skinny shoulders. But the younger boy looks anyway. “You don’t need to call the police Daddy,” he says, “they’re already here.”
“An ambulance is needed,” the father says in a somber voice. Then, in a whisper, he turns to his wife and says, “Honey, better take the boys inside.” She nods in agreement and the older boy says, “Yeah Mom, let’s go inside.” She grabs both boys by their little hands, quickly ushering them away from the accident, with the younger boy still looking over his shoulder as his mother forcefully nudges him into the house.
Nine days later, in her hospital bed, Bonnie Pruitt; her light brown hair disheveled, her thin face full of exhaustion; is surrounded by a handful of her co-workers from the grocery store, doing their best to cheer her up. Bonnie doesn’t want to say too much about the accident, fully aware that there was nothing accidental about it, but she does feel obligated to offer some sort of an explanation.
“Ed was a troubled man,” she tells them, “he was driving so fast and I couldn’t get him to stop.” She pauses, licks at her lips. “He told me, ‘Cops can’t give me a speeding ticket if they can’t catch me’ and um, well, that was that, those were Ed’s last words.”
One of the co-workers, Colleen from the Deli, grabs Bonnie’s hand and gives it a tight squeeze. “Oh Bonnie, that’s so sad,” she says and then squeezes Bonnie’s hand even tighter. Another co-worker, DeAndre from Produce, steps closer to the bed. “Well, if there’s anything you need, anything at all, I’m here for you,” he says. The other four co-workers including the woman still squeezing Bonnie’s hand, echo DeAndre’s sentiment, each of them chiming in, one by one, with their own words of empathetic support.
Today, after nearly three weeks in the hospital, Bonnie Pruitt is finally going home. She desperately wants to put all thoughts of the so-called accident behind her, but she’ll have a permanent limp in her left leg as a constant reminder.
A deep-voiced nurse with ashy skin and dark brown eyes chats pleasantly with Bonnie who sits uncomfortably in a wheelchair. “I appreciate your help,” she tells him, “but I really don’t need to be wheeled out of here. I’m quite capable of walking on my own.” The nurse shakes his head and offers up a laugh that’s just as deep as his voice. “Hospital rules,” he says with that deep voice of his.
The nurse wheels Bonnie through the hospital’s doors into the fresh outside air where a dark blue sedan, with Vince Henley behind the wheel, is waiting for her.
Vince, a tall guy with neatly trimmed short blond hair, a strong jawline and pale blue eyes looking through trendy eyeglasses, is quick to jump out of his car and step up onto the curb. “I’ll take over from here,” he tells the nurse. The nurse smiles in an unfriendly sort of way and refuses to let go of the wheelchair. Vince rushes over to the passenger’s side, flings the door wide open, then both Vince and the nurse, gently help Bonnie ease into the car.
Vince pulls slowly into traffic and makes a conscious effort to drive at a snail’s pace, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Bonnie who sits uncomfortably in the passenger’s seat with her arms crossed and resting against her breasts. “I feel so nervous,” Bonnie says in a soft voice. “This is my first time riding in a car since the accident, so um, well, I just feel so nervous about it.”
Vince turns his head sideways for a quick look at Bonnie. With his pale blue eyes fully focusing on her, he says in a reassuring voice, “The worst is over; everything is going to be okay.”
“You think so?” Bonnie mumbles.
“I know so,” Vince insists.
After what Bonnie deems to be an appropriate amount of time, she starts introducing Vince Henley as her “new boyfriend.” But there’s nothing “new” about the tall guy with those pale blue eyes looking through trendy eyeglasses, nothing “new” about him at all.
Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, NY; with his dog April, a beautiful, strong and lovable Pit Bull mix. Germano’s fiction has been published in roughly 40 print and online magazines including *The Aroostook Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, The Drabble, The Fictional Café, Flash in a Flash, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Free Flash Fiction, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Sledgehammer Literary Journal* and *VIA: Voices in Italian Americana.* In his nonfiction adventures, Germano has worked as an editor/writer for Le Moyne College, Syracuse University and *The Catholic Sun* and as a freelance writer for *Syracuse New Times, The Post-Standard* and *Stars Magazine.* His CNF piece, “All Shook Up” appears in *WordCity Lit’s* September 2021 issue.
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