Short Story: Bump in the Road

the graffiti of life

by Stevan Jovanovich

I arrived at the office a little later than usual. I dropped my briefcase on the desk, took off my jacket and hung it on the hook behind the door. I closed the door, sat down at my desk, and stared at the blank computer monitor. 

So far it hasn’t been a good day and it’s early yet.  A car sideswiped me on the way to work.  I replayed it in my mind frame by frame in slow motion. The galling part was that I didn’t do anything wrong. I stopped at a red light, waited for it to turn green and proceeded. Then an SUV came barrelling down the cross street. The driver saw the red light and hit the brakes too late, too fast.  If it hadn’t been for the light dusting of snow on the street, he might have stopped on time, but it had lubricated the road just enough that he slid ever-so-slowly, ever-so-irrevocably, right into the side of my Lexus and stopped with a gentle crumpling crunch. 

I replayed my hi-res memory of the event. The blazing running lights of the Jeep Grand Cherokee glared down at me, coming right at me like the bugged-out eyes of a crazed animal. Instinctively, I threw my hand up in front of my face. Through my fingers I watched the lights look slightly away from me and heard the Grand Cherokee’s big, black bumper nuzzle firmly into the fender of my lovely, white, recently leased Lexus.  The fronts of the two vehicles made a nice neat vee in the middle of the road.  What the fuck—I thought.  Whaaaaaat the fuuuuuuuuuck.   

I sat in my car for a few seconds looking straight ahead, repeatedly thinking what the fuck.  When I looked up, the driver of the Grand Cherokee was at my window gesturing for me to roll it down.  As the window descended, I heard the driver’s voice.

“Are you all right? You okay?  Man, I am sorry.  I couldn’t stop on time. I didn’t realize how slippery the road was.”  Thoughts of what the fuck continued to circulate in my head.

“Right.” I said glumly. I opened the door and unfolded myself into the space between the two vehicles. I faced the unleashed Grand Cherokee aggressor.  We were similarly dressed. I was looking at a variation of myself. Sure, lots of people wear highly detailed navy trench coats with a suit, shirt and a red tie beneath. Maybe a Bay Street trader. 

“I’m okay.  Let’s check the damage.” I said resignedly. 

Silently, ballet-like, we pivoted away from each other and directed our critical gazes to the spot where our vehicles had kissed and stood in rapt appraisal for a moment.  Our mutually tacit and irksome evaluation yielded the following: the Jeep was fine, it had suffered no damage; the Lexus was crumpled above the wheel well on the driver side.  I winced. What to do?  What the fuck to fucking well do? 

The traffic had begun to flow around us, bubbling like a cheerful brook around a rock.  Drivers nodded and smiled their condolences as they passed, each assessing the situation and attaching a private estimate to the damage. Fuck.

Are we not civilized men?  The rote procedure of minor accidents ensued. We politely exchanged driver’s licenses, insurance policies, business cards even, with decorum and restraint.  Our ritual was concluded with a warm, relieved handshake and sincere utterances of “Take care.” 

We each clambered back into our vehicles, pulled delicately back, and after a perfunctory but respectful wave, continued on our Monday morning workaday missions.  No big deal.  This is why we pay insurance.  Just a little wrinkle in the fabric of the day.   An inconsequential matter, a trifling.  Hardly worth thinking about.  A trivial upset, negligible really.  Just a major goddamn fucking nuisance.

It was only after I had nosed the Lexus into the nether regions of the dimly lit car park that I noticed the driver’s side headlight wasn’t working.  Somewhere under the crumpled fender, a wire had snapped, a circuit had shorted.  Fuck.

I turned on my computer and surfed the web for porn.