A Short Story by Janet Yung
The two cars bumped into each other in the parking lot the same way carts collided inside the supermarket. Virginia wouldn’t have known she’d hit anything except for the slight jolt she felt on impact.
Her first thought was she backed up without releasing the emergency brake. Previously, when shed failed to do so, the car had simply been more difficult to move. She checked the brake. It was off.
Virginia glanced into the rear view mirror. It appeared she’d collided with another car. She was certain she’d checked before she began to inch her way out of the spot.
Her fingers trembled as she unfastened her seat belt.
Parking lots were perilous in Virginia’s mind. More hazardous than the open road where the chances of avoiding collisions were a little better. There, at least, the odds were in your favor—something would be coming at you from a direction you had full view of and a lot of control to get out of the way. In parking lots, people and cars came at you from all angles. And not just people and cars, but shopping carts left whilly nilly, free to slam into your car, leaving dents.
“Oh, my baby,” the woman screamed and Virginia’s heart raced with the unthinkable. She’d run over a toddler. A toddler whose mother should have kept a closer eye on, but that condemnation did little to alleviate any guilt on Virginia’s part.
“What happened?” A crowd gathered quickly.
“My baby, my baby,” the woman’s voice rose above all the confusion. She pointed to the meeting of the fenders.
Virginia felt faint, regained her composure immediately, and raced back into her car, put it in drive, and went forward a few feet. She got out of her car as quickly as she had gotten into it and raced to the space between the cars. From where she stood, her car appeared to be undamaged and, though she could not imagine how anyone could be wedged between the two vehicles, she glanced under the car to see if the baby had fallen beneath it.
Virginia took good care of her car, changing the oil, rotating the tires and replacing parts as necessary. It was always washed, waxed and garaged to protect it from the elements. Her local mechanic loved her and never failed to compliment her on the mint condition of her automobile.
She hated to think something would happen to it and the notion it might have hurt someone’s baby was even worse. But there was no baby
beneath the car. There was no blood. There was only the meeting of two
cars in a parking lot.
“My baby, my baby,” the woman was frantic.
Years ago, she’d been pulled over for speeding. Not really speeding. On a downhill part of the road near her parent’s home, the car picked up speed. Her father warned her that stretch of road was a speed trap, but it was late and she didn’t heed his warning.
The shock of being pulled over combined with emotions running high from
a recent break up. She had burst into tears when the officer asked to
see her license. Young and vulnerable, he’d let her off with a warning
and she’d been careful going downhill ever since.
She looked at the space between the cars again. It could be hysterical blindness, but the second, hard look revealed no blood, no mangled body parts, no torn fabric. Not even the slightest dent to any part of her vehicle.
Then, she looked at the car she had hit. It was hard to tell which, if any dent, Virginia’s car had inflicted on the rusty banged up auto.
“My baby, my baby,” was all the woman sobbed, and stretched her
body across the fading paint job.
Virginia burst into tears of relief, retrieved her purse so the two women could exchange information, gained her composure—because she
knew she would need it—and began to write down her phone number to give to the woman who was still sobbing, but was obviously unharmed.
And one woman who had pulled out her cell phone to call the police disgustedly threw it back into her purse. The crowd faded as quickly as it had appeared leaving the two women alone with their undamaged cars in the parking lot.