Maevis O’Leary startled at the sight of a pickup speeding around her old Buick, then slowing in front of her until both vehicles rolled to a halt at a stop sign. A scowling fellow wearing painter whites exited the pickup and stomped to Maevis’s window, which she partially rolled down. Squinting through thick glasses, she craned her head of gray curls toward the man and smiled: “Yes?”
“You were driving slow as hell down the middle of the road!” He was gruff, hurried.
“I’m what? Could you please speak more slowly?”
The man bent over, his face almost against her window. “I said you were driving down the middle of the road!”
“And who are you?”
“Doesn’t matter who. Frank. If that’s all the better you can drive, you shouldn’t be. Some people got places to go.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”
“And I was honking! Are you deaf?”
“Like I said, I’m sorry. I forgot my hearing aid at home, and…”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it! You’re unsafe.”
“You see, I never drive farther than the cathedral. Today is the annual bazaar.” She pointed to a dozen pints of strawberry jam boxed beside her on the car seat.
He sighed, shaking his head, then straightened to glance down the street behind them.
“Please,” Maevis said, rolling down her window completely, “have one of these.” She held out a jar of jam.
He stared at the jam but ignored her offer.
“You could get someone killed.”
“Well, I haven’t yet! I’ve been driving 60 years.”
“There’s taxis and buses…”
A car slowed briefly behind their vehicles, then crept by with a blast from the car horn.
“Jerk!” Frank shouted at the objecting driver, then added, “Cops aren’t sympathetic. Your excuses wouldn’t get you anywhere with them.”
“I grew these myself,” Maevis persisted, her hand still holding out the jam.
“Yeah, well…” He hesitantly accepted the jar from her hand.
“A dozen, they’ll raise nearly $100,” she said. “My jam has quite the following.”
His eyes softened as he considered the sweet red jam in his hand. “You…” but no further words came until finally he said, quietly, “Thanks for the jam. And for god’s sake, watch your driving!” He returned to his pickup and quickly drove off.
Maevis turned around her car, lurching over the curb, and drove slowly, carefully, back home. She bustled inside, grabbed a jar of jam to replace the one given to Frank, then headed back toward St. Bernard’s—without a hearing aid in her ear.
Darrell Petska is a writer from Madison, Wisconsin. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Frontier, Nixes Mate Review, Right Hand Pointing, Boston Literary Magazine, Potato Soup Journal and Loch Raven Review. See his published work at conservancies.wordpress.com