Archive for Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Don’t you mean ‘what’?

April 30, 2008

One time, traveling west on 23rd street in Lawrence, we were stopped at a stoplight when someone ran into the back of the car. Whomp!

"Who did that?" I exclaimed.

"Don't you mean what?" my friend responded. Then she instructed me to get a dime and call the police. In the days before cell phones, pay phones were our only option. I rummaged in the glove box for a coin purse - kept there actually for ice cream purchases on the fly - and asked when the last time she'd made a phone call; reminding her that phone calls were a quarter.

She looked at me like she didn't believe me and reminded me that we were on our way to Baldwin for the Lone Jack festival and unless I wanted to spend the entire morning debating the cost of a phone call, I should hasten to find whatever coin was necessary and bustle off to a phone booth to call the police.

I was still rummaging around in the glove box when the apparent driver of the other car tapped on the window. I say apparent because as I dug around in the cluttered glove box I looked in the side mirror and saw the passenger and driver of the other car playing musical chairs.

"Don't say anything," I said, and "don't sign anything." My friend gave me one of those school-teacher looks. I blabbered on anyway, "and get his driver's license and insurance card." I pulled out the coin purse and said, "Besides, I saw them changing drivers; that is an actionable offense." I was using newfound language.

While I was trying to work the zipper in the coin purse, she got out and began examining the car. It was one of those Novas's-built like a fort.

"No damage," she muttered as she got back in the car. I was getting out of the passenger side to make the phone call when she started the car. "His car is a mess, but he doesn't have a driver's license or insurance; just wants to forget the whole thing."

"Get back in," she said.

I thought about that incident one early morning when the bed began to shake. I knew, without opening my eyes, it was an earthquake. I was in one once in San Francisco.

Friends drug me out of bed and made me stand under a doorframe.

This time, I determined not to get out of bed, not to make a phone call. I counted the seconds; fell back asleep at twenty. I knew there were no earthquakes in Kansas.

"Who did that?" I said to myself, as I fell asleep. I could hear that distant, long ago voice inside my head: "don't you mean what?" And you know the rest of the story.

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