by Maureen Mancini Amaturo
Boom! Crunch. The impact forced both of them to jerk forward.
“Aaahhhh! What was that? What happened?” Lucy let go of the wheel, her arms flailing like a sixties go-go dancer, striking Ethel in the shoulder. “Are you okay? Are we dead?”
Ethel jumped, not from the impact but from Lucy’s assault. With one hand on the windowsill and the other clutching her roomy, black purse to her stomach, she said, “You hit something.”
Lucy glanced in her rearview mirror, which was now slanted a little more to the left from the impact. “Uh-oh.”
“You’re gonna have to come up with more than that when Ricky hears the news. Give me a warning, will ya, and I’ll make sure I’m not in the apartment when you tell him. This is your third accident in five months.”
“You gotta help with this one, Ethel. I promise. I’ll never ask you to do anything for me again.”
“Oh no you don’t. This one’s all yours, Honey.” Ethel glanced out her window, the point of contact with the other car perfectly framed in the side mirror. “He’s getting out. You better get out, too, and see what happened.” She glanced over at her best friend and could see that Lucy was about to hatch a plan. “You’ve got that look in your eyes.”
“I’ve got an idea. You’re–”
“Leave me out of this. Get out of the car, Lucy. He’s waiting.” Ethel clicked her seatbelt loose and slid out of the passenger side. She folded her arms waiting for Lucy to fix her makeup and fluff her four-alarm-red hair. “The man’s waiting.”
Lucy put on a fresh swipe of red lipstick and a big, fake smile. She got out of the car and sashayed toward the man like a Zigfield chorus girl, long, sliding strides, hips exaggeratedly shifting from side to side. Ethel met her near the driver of the other car.
“Hello,” Lucy said shyly. Because of his neatly trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard and his large-framed glasses, she assumed he would be kind to her.
The man pointed to his broken headlight and accordion-pleated, front, left fender. “You backed up without looking, without caution or care. You backed up without knowing if someone was there. I honked with my horn. I flashed with my lights. Stuck my arm out the window and waved like a kite. You hit my new car. You crunched it, you bunched it. I tell you right now I am having a fit, and I do not like it, not one little bit.”
Lucy batted her eyes at him. “Hello,” she said again and slumped against the car like a balloon with a leak. “I can explain.”
“Explain all you want.” The bearded-man pointed to his damaged headlight and fender. “Explain this. Explain that. Explain all you want, but you can’t take it back. The damage is done. This is not a mere mar. Why were you not looking? You backed into my car.”
Lucy looked to Ethel, her eyes asking her to say something. Ethel looked away. Lucy sideled closer to her friend and kicked Ethel in the ankle as hard as she could.
Ethel screamed. “What was that for?”
“You see, my friend here is hurt. Aren’t you, Ethel. You’re hurt. Umm…um… we have to get to the hospital. Yeah. That’s what we have to do. We have to get to the hospital right away. Right, Ethel? Right away.”
Ethel bent down to rub her lower leg where Lucy had kicked her. “I’m hurt all right.”
“She looks fine to me, not a hair out of place. Not a scratch on her arms, or her legs, or her face.” The bearded man pointed inside his back seat. “You’ve upset my cat. Like my car, he’s a wreck! He scratched his red bow tie right off of his neck.” He looked in on his pet, who was lounging atop some tussled papers. “You’ve made everything bobble and hobble and slide from the right of my car to the very left side. You hit my new Hyundai. You dented my door. What I just bought from Macy’s is all over the floor. You sent my things flying. You rattled my stuff. My cat could be dying! I’ve had enough. Look what you did to my two-handled valise. Yes, I’ve had quite enough. I’m calling the police.
“Oh, don’t do that. The airbags didn’t even inflate. Right, Ethel?” Ethel pressed her lips together and tilted her head as if to say, really? “It can’t be all that bad if the airbags didn’t inflate. And you’re forgetting, my friend is hurt.” She kicked Ethel again.
The grey-bearded man raised his arms in the air. “You’ve made quite a mess. You’ve upset my day.” He pulled out his red-striped cell phone and dialed 9ll. “I’m phoning the police to take you away.”
“Whaaaa!” Lucy cried, looking from Ethel to the man back to Ethel.
“Cry all you want. I’ve just two things to do. Call the cops is thing one. Fix my car is thing two.
Ethel put her arm around Lucy’s shoulders. “If you call the cops, she might go to jail.”
The bearded man with the glasses folded his arms. “Oh, the places you’ll go when you drive like a wack.” The man sighed. “She should go to jail.” He huffed. “For hitting a man and his cat.”
“He’s not hurt. Nobody’s hurt. Right, Ethel? We’re all fine.” Lucy did a few steps of the Charleston.
After a few seconds of silence, the man said, “I guess you are right. My car can be fixed. If you pay the bill, I’ll consider this nixed.”
The exchanged information, and Lucy promised to cover all the damage. After the man drove away, Lucy was relieved and grateful. She said to Ethel, “Maybe it’s true. Maybe people do mellow with age.”
“I guess so,” Ethel said. “Too bad you’re only old once.”