Jerry parted his grey hair and looked at the meter maid through the flower shop window. He lost track of time, and he didn’t have change in his pocket. He hurried through the door, feeling a great injustice as the meter maid checked his license plate. He tried to hold back his pushy attitude. I’m a retired Marine Lieutenant for God Sake, he told her. Charm was never his game so he pushed harder. He spoke of a Bronze Star in the first Iraq War, a forced retirement, an ailing wife. What would you do if you were me?
“Put money in the meter next time,” she told him. Her short bangs didn’t move in the stiff breeze. Jerry grabbed the ticket from the windshield. Her electric cart slipped away down the street. Around him people and cars moved about in a blur, but he felt numb to the normalcy of the spring day that ticked along. To hell with them I’m going to fight this, he told himself, and he dove down to the station.
“I’m not paying for this,” Jerry told the administrator. He plastered the ticket against the three inch thick glass. He spoke of his service to his country. He spoke of flowers for his wife, he got specific: irises.
“What’s the problem here,” she asked him,” you exceeded the time limit?” His mouth became a tomb and his words didn’t move. I would pay it and be done with it she told him.
Jerry returned home and lifted his feet up the concrete staircase to his apartment. His wife, Janis, sucked on oxygen in her lazy boy chair.
“How are you my love?” he said.
She smiled through the plastic bubble, and turned her attention toward the TV. Oprah spoke from the flat screen. The audience welcomed a new guest, a doctor who talked about the health benefits of antioxidants. Jerry placed the flowers in a vase near the clicker, and hid the ticket in a drawer. But it turned inside him like a worm.
That night he saw his wife’s face in a dream, tired and colorless. I’m not paying that damn ticket. You can have my car, my only car. You can chase me to the ends of the earth. In his dream he found himself, without explanation, in a salvage lot with vehicles stacked in rows. He woke in a sweat, his wife wheezed next to him in the barren light. Wide awake and irritated, he walked out to the living room to check the expiration date.
Sean Daly lives with his family in Ojai CA. He an be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org