Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Coat Hanger"
© 2016 By Jack Bogut 

            Sunlight poured down through morning mist in the trees like golden hair; each strand perfectly straight, carefully combed, speckling the green grass and warming the sidewalk. It was the kind of a day you'd build on purpose if you could start from scratch.
            The sounds of Saturday started softly and spread like spilled water. A door slammed somewhere. Mushy footsteps grew louder and softer as a lone, overweight jogger passed, puffing like a blacksmiths bellows. Two walking dogs exchanged greetings as their owners ignored each other. A bottle broke in a dumpster somewhere. People wearing wrinkled pajamas, with hair in their eyes, pulled newspapers inside through half opened doors. And finally, someone jerked on a lawn mower until it roared to life and quiet was dead for the rest of the day.
            As I walked to get a morning paper, an immaculately dressed older woman came out of a doorway and passed in front of me. We didn't speak; our eyes never met. She was going somewhere and so was I.
            I paid too much for a newspaper at the local convenience store and was walking back to our daughter's apartment when the same lady crossed my path again. This time she had a coat hanger in her hand and was headed toward a small, late-model, foreign car.
            I slowed and watched her put scratch marks in the paint around the lock in her car door as she probed for some secret spot that would magically open it.

            We've all been there before: keys locked inside, composure slipping, someone watching, hope fading, embarrassment and anger building, time a'wasting.
            "Good morning", I said.  "Need some help?"
            "Why yes, I'm. . .I’m afraid I've locked my keys in the car. They're in my purse, there, on the seat. I don't know what to do. Someone told me once that a coat hanger would open a car door, but I don't have the foggiest . . .do you suppose you could help me?"
            "I'll be glad to." I said.
             I walked over to the door on the passenger side, reached in through the open window, grabbed her purse and handed it to her across the roof.
            "Oh, good lord. I am so embarrassed. I feel so stupid!"  She said, looking away, up the street.
            "Don't." I said. "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have  locked their keys in the car . . . and those who are going to  lock their keys in the car."
            "Have you ever locked your keys. . . ?”
            "Yes I have." I interrupted.
            "With one window open?" She continued.
            "Well, not exactly, but close."
            "Thanks for that!”  She said,
            "Don't mention it."
            "I certainly won't," she said.  "Not to a soul! And I'd appreciate if you kept it quiet too!"
            "That's a deal." We were smiling at each other now.
            "You don't think I'm stupid?"
            "Not at all."
            "Do you know who I am?"
            "No I don't. I'm from out of town."
            "Well, thank goodness for that too. . .and thank you again," she said as she got in and started the engine.
            "That's alright," I called to her as she revved it up in a cloud of smoke.
            Then she got out of the car, ran back in the building for something she apparently forgot, came out again and got back in the car.
            The last sound I heard as I went in our daughter's apartment building was the high pitched, metallic grinding of the starter as she tried repeatedly to start the car with the engine already running.

            I hope that lady's okay.

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