(Photo: Dan Hendricks/Flickr CC)

“You’ll get a ticket parked that way,” I called.

A slim black woman in cleaning clothes

that workers wear at Regions Hospital

had parked her rusty car along the curb,

but pointed south, the wrong way on that street.

She smiled as if she didn’t understand.

Her coat was out of style and thin

for winter here. Did she speak English?

I hesitated as she walked away,

this late I didn’t want to frighten her.

“You might get towed. I wouldn’t park like that.”

I tapped her hood and pointed up the street.

“You show me,” she said, holding out her keys.

I shook my head, astonished by her trust.

“No, no, it’s not my car.”

“You show me. Yes?”

“Okay—” I got inside uneasily

as if I put on someone else’s shoes,

her large pink purse was open on the seat.

I could have driven off with everything,

but swung the car around and set it right.

I dropped the ring of keys into her palm.

It clinked like a handful of poker chips.

“Good luck,” I said. She smiled and off she went.

The hospital ahead was bright like a casino.

Published in North Coast Review, Winter 1998.


Photo courtesy Dan Hendricks. Browse Dan’s photostream on Flickr.