Reverse Gear – By Richard Grossman

I didn’t see the purse fall, just heard the sound. A second later we were both on hands and knees. No Saturday night special. No makeup. Not much of anything except a roll of bills. I had her driver’s license. 26 Eastbrook Road.

You know where that is?

Our eyes locked. Hazel eyes, gold flecks. Something else as well.

Yes, I know where that is.

She put the bottle of aspirin back on the shelf, looked at me again.

Thanks. That was very kind.

She turned and half waved. Was there a message in that? I followed her from the store not knowing why. It was easy to keep a hundred yards behind, which was just as well. I had no idea why I was doing this. Twice I almost turned off. Could I knock at 26 Eastbrook, Excuse me, I helped you when your purse fell, I think I love you. Headline: Amorous Lunatic Arrested in Suburbs.

A garage double door rose as she approached 26 Eastbrook, one of a series of matching houses optimistically called garrison colonials. The door closed with similar automation as I parked across the street. A passage connected the garage to the main part of the house with an outer door, glass panes in the upper half.

When I see her go through that passage into the house, then what? We met at WalMart when your purse fell? You left your… What could I find in the car I could claim she had left? There was an ad with coupons. Too far fetched. I followed you home because…because what? If not a lunatic, then a criminal.

She didn’t go into the house. More than one door? I couldn’t see another. Was something wrong with the car? We met at the store, can I help you with that? Nonsense. I crossed the street and stopped, almost turned around. I forced myself to look through a pane in the overhead door. The car was running! I couldn’t see her. Could she have reached the house without my seeing her?

I walked to a side window. She was curled in a fetal position on the front seat. The door between the house and the garage was unlocked. I remember hitting the garage door button but carrying her to the grass of the yard is a blur. How does one do this? Breathe into her mouth. Nose closed. Chest pressure. Let her pass from death to life. What was the rest? As was promised to the children of Abraham. Did Abraham have blonde children? Damn it. CPR. Come, please return? Please pass from death to life. She’s slipping away. I can feel it. I was thinking of pickup lines while she killed herself. It’s not fair. I shook her in despair. Breathe!

There was a rasping sound. In my mouth? In hers? There was a breath! I lifted her back. Exhaust fumes in my face. She was breathing. Both eyes opened. For a second, shock. Then something else.

It was such a bad dream.

The words came one at a time. There was saliva covering her lips. Mine? She mustn’t see that. No reminders. Tissues were in the car. Use a sleeve? I kissed her lips and took the fluid back. She put my hand back on her chest. Of course it must hurt. Should I say I’m sorry? What did they say in the CPR course to do next? Call 911?

Just breathe. A little deeper each time.

She looked at me.

I don’t want to go to the ER.

Pause.

You guessed in the store. You guessed and followed me.

I thought you were calling to me. I didn’t know why.

Was I gone long?

I don’t think so.

In a few minutes, could you get my purse? I keep dropping it. Could you wipe the door handles, anything your hands touched? And help me into your car?

So that it looks like you just left?

So that it looks like I left.

We’ll go for coffee.

Do you live…?

I’m alone now. I’ll make coffee.

Thank you. It’s better to be thought a runaway than found a corpse.

You didn’t leave a note?

I had no idea what to say. It might have been thought an accident.

Perhaps I guessed. I don’t know.

Could you give me a new name? I don’t want to take anything from the other life. Well, maybe the cash. That’s impersonal.

I think you’re Eve.

Eve that God gave you? You’re sure I’m not Pandora? I’ve already put an ill wind in your face.

Eve. Do you need anything else?

Hair coloring? I don’t want to be blonde. Light brown?

Reddish brown?

To go with my eyes? OK.

I don’t know how I drove. Reflex I guess. I went into the drug store with her.

I’m not going to escape. I’m not the same person. Maybe I did die.

I just wanted to walk beside you. I didn’t think you planned to run.

As soon as we were in the apartment, she finished the coffee and began to undress.

I can’t keep any of this. They’re not mine. We’ll leave it all with Goodwill. I can wear some of your clothes. After the hair color, I have to shower. Stay in the bathroom with me. I know you’re afraid I’ll look for razor blades.

I’m not but I’d love to bathe with you.

Her eyes widened as it came clear to her. Then she smiled.

Let’s continue in reverse gear. We started with my death that didn’t happen, now we’ll make love and then we’ll get to know each other.

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Grossman used to operate factory equipment but became too old, so switched to polymer science. The pay was poor but the hours were better. Spare time led to writing textbooks with humorous titles, such as The Mixing of Rubber. From there it’s a short step to amusing a general audience.

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Joshua Scribner
    March 2, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    This is a very ponderous story for me. I wonder what’s going on beneath it all. I didn’t unfold how I expected and the ending sewed it all together in a satisfying way, but without giving away too much. Good job.

  2. Reply
    Mukesh William
    March 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Good story. I liked it. The story develops through quick subtle strokes like a painting and then pushes the reader into the mystery. If the second half was shortened a bit it would have a stronger impact.

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