When Maria regained consciousness in the hospital bed, she didn’t understand why she was there. The last thing she recalled was having dinner at Spaghetti House with her friend Anna followed by some last minute Christmas shopping for her two grandchildren. When a patient care representative came in to get information, Maria debated if she should tell the patient care lady she was a medium, psalm reader, or a psychic. She used the latter and told the lady she hadn’t seen the car coming and laughed. Maria found her abilities were really less supernatural power than God-given common sense and intuition, and she found a sense of humor went a long way in helping the medicine go down, as Mary Poppins had said.
She replayed her evening when she and Anna split the fried zucchini appetizer and eggplant parmesan entrée at Spaghetti House; they mostly listened to a loud man telling his mama, who was humped and used a walker, that he didn’t drive two hundred miles to take any crap off of any of them and that if they so much as said one thing to him, he was going to light into them faster than a mad wasp could sting. He said he didn’t care if they kept their dollar store presents or not, that he wasn’t over all their shenanigans and carrying on about who got what and how unfair it all was when his Daddy died, and truth be told, they are the ones who finished him off with their stealing and sometimes borrowing when Daddy had needed every bit he had for his own care. He went on to tell her he’d tried to give up the hard liquor and stick with beer, and with that confession, his trembling hand dabbed tears. He said he knew he hadn’t done the best he could and that Jesus forgave him, even if family didn’t.
His Mama told him to hush, eat his spaghetti before it got cold, and try to enjoy Christmas for a change, that they were all flawed because they were human and he needed to try and behave himself on Christmas, that she’d made a rum cake just for him and they’d have boiled ham and sweet taters, too.
The man nodded, tried to get the noodles on his fork, but ended up with a wad of them too big for his mouth and resembled a child caught between chewing and choking, a child sixty- something-years-old with wisps of hair, a double chin, some gaps where teeth had been, and a gut that pushed the unsteady table back and forth, making small waves in the tea glasses.
Maria had hoped the son, his Mama, and their family resolved their issues this Christmas, that they didn’t know when it might be the last. She’d watched the cooks through the kitchen door pulling wet noodles from the pot, slinging them against the wall to see if they stuck, a sign the pasta was ready to serve. She hoped they tossed the thrown noodles in the trash and was glad she didn’t have spaghetti.
She and Anna had paid their check and gone across the street to the strip mall to pick up some last minute gifts. Anna had parked there and offered Maria a ride back to Spaghetti House parking lot after they shopped, but Maria said the walk would do her good. Besides she had her rabbit coat to keep her warm. It obviously hadn’t. Maria recalled that when she crossed the street, an old Park Avenue came out of the Spaghetti House parking lot and gunned it, leaving a trail of choking smoke that hung in the cold night air, and she sensed it might have been the drunk man and his Mama who’d hit her.
After a thorough assessment, with x-rays and scans, the Emergency Room doctor put Maria’s arm in a sling, told her to rest, that her bruises would heal, and to come back if she noted any blood in her stool or urine. He gave her a prescription for pain medication she couldn’t afford to get filled and discharged her. Anna had been the one to call 9-1-1 and stayed with Maria. They talked about attending mass at midnight. Sore or not, Maria felt blessed to be alive and to come out of the hit and run with a sprained arm and bruises. As they left the Emergency Room, an older fellow was brought in on a stretcher. His shirt was blood soaked and he was ashen. Maria noted it was the fellow from Spaghetti House.
Maria asked about him and one of the attendants told Maria that he’d been shot at a family gathering, that the holiday season seemed to highlight the best and worst in humanity. At the scene and even in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, he was drunk, kept accusing them of killing his Daddy, and kept saying he’d run over a big foot on the way home from the restaurant, that they needed to go back and find the proof, and that they’d all be rich and famous.
“Never been called a big foot before,” she told Anna and added, “They’ll think it’s the biggest rabbit in the world if they do a DNA test on hair samples from my coat.” She put on her rabbit coat and hood, a sizeable chunk missing from where the Park Avenue’s bumper had ripped it, figured she could get it mended after the holidays, and Anna helped her out to the car. As the automatic door opened, the fellow from Spaghetti House coded and couldn’t be revived.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven collections and in over two hundred literary magazines all over the world including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, With Painted Words, among many others. Website: http://nilesreddick.com/ // Twitter: @niles_reddick // Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/niles.reddick.9