They planned to pick up their contribution to the Halloween party on the way. So, Jean and Maryann — dressed as Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz, not without some argument on who would be Ethel — stopped at the mall. Seeing others in costume, shoppers and workers, they weren’t surprised that Beetlejuice tallied up their sale and gave them their change. Whoever this guy was stayed in character, and that gave them an idea. They agreed to do the same for the rest of the night, no matter what. They were Lucy and Ethel, not Jean and Maryann.
“Hope there’s no traffic. We’re already late.” Jean put the car in reverse. Boom! Crunch. The impact forced them to jerk forward.
“What was that? What happened?” Jean let go of the wheel, her arms flailing, striking Maryann in the shoulder. “You okay?”
Maryann jumped, not from the impact but from Jean’s assault. With one hand on the windowsill and the other clutching her roomy, black purse to her stomach, she said, “You hit something.”
Jean glanced in her rearview mirror, now slanted a little more to the left from the impact. “Uh-oh.”
“You’re gonna have to come up with more than that when your husband hears the news. Give me a warning, and I’ll make sure I’m not there when you tell him. This is your third accident in five months.”
“You gotta help with this one. Promise. I’ll never ask you to do anything for me again.”
“Oh, no, you don’t. This one’s all yours, Honey.” Maryann glanced out her window, the point of contact with the other car perfectly framed in the side mirror. “He’s getting out. You better get out, too, and see what happened.” She glanced over at her best friend and could see that Jean was about to hatch a plan. “You’ve got that look in your eyes.”
“I’ve got an idea. You’re—”
“Leave me out of this. Get out of the car. He’s waiting.” Maryann folded her arms waiting for Jean to fix her makeup and fluff her wig, a pile of four-alarm-red hair. “The man’s waiting.”
“Lucy and Ethel, remember?” Jean said. “We’re Lucy and Ethel.”
Maryann smiled and nodded. “Got it.” She clicked her seatbelt loose and slid out the passenger side.
Jean put on a fresh swipe of red lipstick and a big, fake smile. She got out of the car and sashayed toward the man like a Zigfield chorus girl, long, sliding strides, hips exaggeratedly shifting from side to side. Maryann joined her. The friends winked at each other. “Hello,” Jean said shyly. Because of his neatly trimmed, salt-and-pepper beard and his large-framed glasses, she assumed the man would be kind to her.
He pointed to his broken headlight and accordion-pleated left front fender. “You backed up without looking, without caution or care. You backed up without knowing if someone was there. I honked with my horn. I flashed with my lights. Stuck my arm out the window and waved like a kite. You hit my new car. You crunched it, you bunched it. I am having a fit, and I do not like it, not one little bit.”
Jean and Maryann looked at each other, jaws hanging. Jean looked at the man, batting her eyes. “Hello,” she said again and slumped against the car like a balloon with a leak. “I can explain.”
“Explain all you want.” The bearded-man pointed to his damaged headlight and fender. “Explain this. Explain that. Explain all you want, but you can’t take it back. The damage is done. This is not a mere mar. What were you thinking? You backed into my car.”
Jean looked to Maryann, her eyes asking her to say something. Maryann looked away. Jean sidled closer to her friend and kicked Maryann in the ankle as hard as she could.
Maryann screamed. “What was that for?”
“You see, my friend here is hurt. Aren’t you, Ethel. You’re hurt. Umm… um… we have to get to the hospital. Yeah. That’s what we have to do. We have to get to the hospital right away. Right, Ethel? Right away.”
Maryann bent down to rub her lower leg. “I’m hurt all right.”
“She looks fine to me, not a hair out of place. Not a scratch on her arms, or her legs, or her face.” The bearded man pointed inside his back seat. “You’ve upset my cat. Like my car, he’s a wreck! He scratched his red bow tie right off of his neck.” He looked in on his pet, who was lounging atop some tousled papers. “You’ve made everything bobble and hobble and slide from the right of my car to the very left side. You hit my new Hyundai. You dented my door. What I just bought in Macy’s is all over the floor. Look what you did to my two-handled valise. I’ve had quite enough. I’m calling the police.
“Don’t do that. The airbags didn’t even inflate. Right, Ethel?”
Maryann pressed her lips together and tilted her head as if to say, really?
“It can’t be all that bad if the airbags didn’t inflate. And you’re forgetting, my friend is hurt.” She kicked Maryann again.
The grey-bearded man raised his arms in the air. “You’ve made quite a mess. You’ve upset my day.” He pulled out his red-striped cell phone and dialed 911.
“Whaaaa!” Jean cried, looking from Maryann to the man back to Maryann.
An unmarked car pulled up. Two men dressed as police officers got out. “Do you think they’re real?” Jean whispered to Maryann.
Maureen Mancini Amaturo, New York based fashion/beauty writer/columnist, teaches writing, leads the Sound Shore Writers Group, which she founded in 2007, and produces literary events. Her fiction, essays, creative non-fiction, humor pieces, and articles have appeared in many magazines, journals, and anthologies including: The Dark Sire, Flash Non-Fiction Food Anthology (Woodhall Press), Things That Go Bump (Sez Publishing), and Points In Case. At The 2009 Edgar Awards, she received a Certificate of Recognition for her efforts in promoting the works of Edgar Allan Poe. A handwriting analyst diagnosed her with an overdeveloped imagination. She’s working to live up to that.