“Just one more delivery,” Daniel had told Smile. “I know it was short notice, and you need to get back to your brother, but just one more run, and I think we’ll be okay.” Daniel had called Smile almost before he was finished showing Khalid and Sheerin his apartment (Sheerin had, of course, wrinkled her nose in displeasure in every room) and begged him to come in just for half an hour, he had no drivers and he was desperate, and he couldn’t get ahold of anyone else except Bill, who didn’t have a car right now. And so Smile had agreed. There had been a bit of pleasure in it–Khalid didn’t know he was just delivering pizzas, but if he was being called away in the middle of the night it must be an important job. He could see the assumption in his older brother’s eyes as he explained that he had to go, and it had felt good.
Of course, “half an hour” had turned quickly into two. Smile was low on gas and he really wanted to get back home and make sure that Khalid and Sheerin were doing okay–God knew what they were getting into, he imagined Sheerin snooping through his closets if left to her own devices too long–and Daniel had given him one last delivery, a long one. He’d jammed on out toward Pittsfield full tilt and done it and been rushing back to clock out, and he had known full well he was running the light, but no one was ever crossing at Washtenaw and Golfside at this time of night…or so he had thought until a little red car had shot out in front of him and there’d been no time to even slow down, he had just plowed into the side of it.
Smile had screamed, “No!” even as he was being thrown forward into the steering wheel, because he just knew that whoever was in that car was dead, he had a snapshot impression of the side of the car collapsing and the back window popping out and flipping up onto his hood and then the car was gone, spinning off to one side, and he was out of control, skidding sideways on the dry, cold pavement and coming to a stop halfway up the curb, facing the bowling alley.
“No!” he cried again. A part of his brain that was still five years old looked desperately around for a way to get out of it. Maybe he could just get out of the car and run away and they wouldn’t find him, it thought crazily. Maybe he could blame it on someone else. He could say the other car had run the light. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault, somehow. It couldn’t be his fault. He didn’t do things like this.
A person rushed up to him in the dark, backlit by the bowling alley and the gas station, and asked breathlessly if he was okay. Smile nodded, feeling wetnes on his face.
“Your nose is bleeding,” the guy said. He was wearing a shirt that suggested he’d rushed out of the Dairy Mart next to the bowling alley.
Smile touched his face and found the obvious. “Shit,” he said, looking at the other car. He had knocked it all the way onto the curb and turned it around backwards. It was a Neon, too, red just like Dori’s. The thing was crushed like an egg. He’d have to mention that to Dori, that her car wouldn’t do that great in a crash, ha-ha. There was a small crowd by the other car, helping the person out. So he hadn’t killed them after all. Relief started somewhere near the base of his neck and seemed to cascade downward from there. His life wasn’t over; he wasn’t a murderer.
On the other hand, the woman staggering to the curb with the help of two bystanders did look an awful lot like his girlfriend…
When Smile came to, the guy from the gas station was standing over him. As Smile looked up at him, a cop nudged the man aside and knelt next to him. He was an older cop, with a bushy, friendly mustache and sympathetic eyes. “How are you doing, son?” he asked.
Smile tried to get up, and the cop helped him into a sitting position. “That’s my girlfriend,” he said. “In the other car.”
“She’s all right,” the cop said. “A little banged up, but all right. He handed Smile something cottony to press over his nose. “Do you remember what happened?”
“I ran the light,” Smile said. “Hit her. It’s my girlfriend. It’s her new car.”
“Don’t you worry about that right now, son. Can you tell me your name?” Smile did. “You working at Pandora’s?” The jaunty light-up delivery box was still on top of Smile’s demolished Taurus.
“Not for long,” he said. Not only was this crash going to cost him his license in all probability, but Pandora’s routinely fired delivery drivers who had accidents on the job. Plus, he didn’t have a car any more. Smile was surprised at how little all of these probabilities bothered him. He was more concerned about how Khalid would react. And Dori, too. “Can I go talk to her?” he asked.
“Maybe later,” the cop said.
“I really need to talk to her.”
“She’s all right,” the cop said again. “Have you been drinking tonight, Mr. Kazimmi?”
“Kazemi,” he corrected the officer’s pronunciation. “And no, sir, I haven’t.”