Two Red Tail Lights
She’d smashed the left tail light. On the stanchion of the light pole across the way and directly behind her parking spot. At the super market. Where she’d gone for bottled water, paper towels, and a box of the Weight Watcher Dark Chocolate Covered Raspberry Popsicles. Now, this.
She eased back into her parking place and turned off the engine, trying to gather herself. After sitting for a minute or two waiting to see if anyone was going to come and yell at her. Realizing finally that it wasn’t going to happen, she pulled over the grocery bag to prepare herself to get out and to do something about the glass that had to be smash-splintered and scattered on the parking lot pavement behind her. And yes, glass. Standard tail lights were now plastic. But her husband, Sam, was a purist. No matter the expense or the difficulty, he never accepted plastic in place of the real. Not even in tail lights. There was glass. One smashed glass tail light Damn.
She tore one of the two paper towel rolls out of its plastic wrap, took up the six pack of water along with a an old paper bag of fairly good size, and stole out of the car. Still afraid someone might have heard and be coming to yell at her. But more afraid of leaving the broken glass on the ground.
She walked to where glittering shards of red glass lay at the foot of the light pole. Bending over to assess the damage, she was grateful to see that there were a lot but less than she’d feared. Thank goodness a tail light wasn’t all that big.
Kneeling down carefully, she pulled a bunch of paper towels off the roll, freed one of the water bottles, opened it, and poured enough on the wad of towels to make a sodden mop. Wringing most of the excess out first, she then placed the clotted clump on top of broken glass pieces and began the job of cleaning up in the only way she could see was available to her at this minute.
She worked slowly, re-folding and re-folding each new wad of wet toweling, being sure to secure the mopped up shards as she did. TIme became a matter of wiping and wiping, again and again, using fresh paper towels as needed, wetting each down to make a new mop, and wiping thoroughly, in a large area, all around the obvious point of impact. She even squat-crawled over to reach beneath tires of cars parked nearby in case glass splinters had flown. Which her mother said broken glass always did.
When satisfied, she’d used up two and a half bottles of water and the whole of the roll of towels. Gingerly stuffing the mass of wet towels and broken glass down into the paper bag she walked briskly to the nearest of the market’s tall swing-top trash receptacles, standing just outside the automatic doors -- which opened, automatically, just as she’d finished dumping, scaring her so much she gave up any attempt at dignity and simply scurried back to her car, tumbling in, and then sitting for a bit, trying to recover her nerve, her breath, and some semblance of calm.
First of all, she’d smashed a tail light. Which would need to be replaced. Which meant cost. QUite a degree of cost. Both in money and in time. Because it would have to be replaced with glass. -- Damnation.
Second of all, she’d seen the light pole but hadn’t calculated the distance right. Proof of her uncorrected myopia. You have to get glasses is what her husband, Sam, had said to her, again and again. Adding the last time to please, Trude, will she just get real. -- Hell.
Third of all, she hoped whoever emptied the trash receptacle where she’d dropped the damp bag wouldn’t get cut. She didn’t see how. She hadn’t wanted to be cut either and used an inordinate number of towels to be safe. It was all bundled up in the paper bag. It should be all right. She crossed her fingers and wished fervently that the mischievous sprite that sent her backwards into the light pole would at least do the right thing and protect the innocent and unsuspecting. OTHER innocents and unsuspecting’s, she added darkly, wondering why she’d fallen outside of that dictum.
Fourthly and finally, she’d kept a few of the bigger pieces. Well, she had. Wrapped the few biggest chunks of deep red glass in a damp paper towel and stuffed them in her jacket pocket. She pulled the wad out now carefully and gazed at her prize bits of true red glass with passion and zeal understandable only to another artist who worked in beach glass.
Well, you almost never found red beach glass anymore, she justified her swag. The glass tumbler would frost these big shards until they were beautiful. Yes, it would be fake. But catalogs and stores sold far worse stuff than she would make of this deep red glass. At least it was real glass. Real, transparent, deep red glass. Her husband should be sympathetic to this urge to salvage a few pieces of rare red glass. He never accepted ersatz in place of the real anything. And a touch of red would be spectacular in the new piece.
But she knew what her husband’s deeper reaction was going to be. Money and time would be spent to replace the broken tail light with glass. That was a given. Unavoidable. Also an unavoidable given that he wouldn’t let her near this car for awhile. Not because of costs, but because of the ongoing argument about her myopia. And safety. Sam would see this as due to her being too lazy to get the glasses she needed. He would insist now. Blast! It wasn’t as if she’d need them all the time. Just certain in moments, in some situations.
But she’d soon have them hanging around her neck. She owed it to him. On one of those chain-things. Where they can swing out and bang her hand, break a piece of glass, make her drop something. She’d tried arguing this point with Sam but he just told her to tuck them inside the neck of whatever she was wearing on top. He was right, of course. She did need them, she just didn’t want them.
Oh, hell! WHY did this happen? Maybe to make Sam’s point. Which, okay, on thinking it over, she saw, and yes, she’d be a big person and pay her dues. She’d to get glasses. But if she had to get the stupid glasses that would hang on a stupid chain round her neck, she by god was going to have this red glass in her new piece. And Sam needn’t know. His mother always said that what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over.
All was quiet in the market parking lot. No one seemed aware of the accident. She’d done a good job of cleaning it up. At the end, she’d even poured a whole bottle and a half of water where the glass mostly had been. Only now, she thought maybe that was a dumb thing to do. She wasn’t bending down to let the water gently wash out and around. Instead, she was standing up and just dumped it out. In two kind of swish-splats. Dumb. If the the pavement wasn’t really clean of splinters, the water would only spread them further around. And then --- .
She turned her thoughts off. Like stopping the glass tumbling machine, her thoughts were making the same kind of crashing smashing, shattering noise of the glass tumbler going full tilt, so she’d shut them off. No more thoughts, she instructed herself. Not about what happened. Now was now and not then. Time to get a move on.
She turned on the engine and backed out, this time, planning to exit in the opposite direction. She was starting to swing the car that way rather than the other when she felt the jolt as the car jounced to a stop, motor still running and trying to drive the car up the damned light pole. Oh GOD! She’d done it again. Smashed into the light stanchion. Oh, sweet Jesus. TWO red tail lights.
She rubbed her hands on her thighs and shook her head. Then, straightening up, she turned off the motor, reached for the groceries and plucked out the box of Weight Watcher Dark Chocolate Covered Raspberry Popsicles and tore it open. Time to have a popsicle. Maybe two.
Two Red Tail Lights