No Warning: A Christmas Tale
By R. D. Flavin

A Few Years Ago: 

     "Oh, God," she thought, "he's looking right at me!" 
     Cheryl regarded her neighbor across the street as a primal dork.  He wasn't 
skinny, or didn't dress in bad plaid, but he acted and spoke like a lead-paint victim.  Whenever she was leaving for work in the morning and he'd stutter some inane greeting or advice about the weather, she'd feel wet under her arms, like she was being held hostage in a bank robbery or something potentially painful.  The guy gave her the creeps... 
     "Merry Christmas!" he yelled out, stepping off the curb. 

     Marty took all his fares down Freehold Street because he could zip along and get to the bridge without stopping at any traffic lights.  Actually, his "shortcut" was the same length as waiting for the lights, however the customers always felt like it was FASTER because the taxi was MOVING.  FASTER=TIP.  Marty always enjoyed Freehold Street and had probably earned enough money with the "shortcut" over the years to buy his own taxi, but his drinking problem prevented any real possibility of savings.  When he hit the guy stepping off the curb and saw the blood on the windshield, he admitted to himself that he'd have to stop drinking for awhile. 

     He had her schedule down pat and knew she'd be outside at eight-thirteen 
exactly.  The handmade scarf from Korea had cost him the price of breakfast, but he truly believed this sexy neighbor would be worth it.  Eugene called out to her, held up the wrapped gift, and began to cross over to her side of the street. The yellow cab coming toward him seemed to be speeding. 

     It was over in a second and Cheryl felt her morning glass of orange juice shift 
position in her stomach.  Not that she wished the dork any personal harm, mind you, but the way his body was all twisted on the other side of the street could mean answering questions from the police, and she'd already been late twice that week.  Her year-end bonus could be effected by another tardy, and wishing the dork a pleasant afterlife, she walked to the train-station, and went on with her life. 

     Eugene felt the curb buried into his spine and thought about doing one of those KUNG FU flips, righting himself, and landing on his feet.  Unfortunately, for Eugene, he couldn't feel his feet.  But, he could CLEARLY hear the taxi-driver screaming at him...  He knew he was in trouble. 

One Year Later: 

     The wheelchair gave Eugene a sense of control, being able to speed up, slow 
down, or perform real nifty turns.  It had been a year recovering from the accident and though he'd NEVER walk again, Eugene was thankful that he was the only one who'd gotten hurt.  Every day the newspapers have reports about the tragic deaths of innocents trying to cross the street and what guided him along the long road of recovery, was the sure knowledge that HE had crossed the street to meet his neighbor, hadn't been lazy, and called HER to him.  He couldn't have survived if he'd cause pain to another.  Especially not someone he was going to marry... 

     Cheryl left her apartment feeling GREAT!  Her rent was raised a mere three 
percent, her college-loan payments were caught up, the crazy dork across the 
street was out of her mornings forever, and her recent promotion was a sure sign 
of better things to come.  Her family was actually telephoning more often and she'd had three dates in the last month!  If only her male cat would stop peeing on everything she owned, her life might come close to being ...wonderful! 

     "Merry Christmas!" he called from his wheelchair across the street.  "I still have your present from last year..." 

     It had taken months in front of review boards and standing in line at City Hall, but Marty had eagerly jumped through every hoop the system put in front of him.  Driving a cab was his only livelihood and he believed he was good at it. Apparently, so did a state judge and the licensing review board.  A stiff fine, night classes, probation, and he was back behind the wheel doing what he loved. Marty loved being in control, taking his fares wherever he wanted, and using his Freehold Street "shortcut."  He didn't see the wheelchair until it was too late... 

     She watched the wheelchair fly in one direction and the crippled dork another.  Cheryl immediately comprehended the fragility of the human body, as the dork bounced off of several cars and showed clear signs of extensive injuries, while the wheelchair landed on the sidewalk, bounced twice, and seemed to survive the crash fairly well.  The dork had been carrying a package in his lap when he was struck by the taxi, and Cheryl stared at it for a moment as it lay in the middle of the street, gift-wrapped, and with a shiny red bow.  "It's probably an animal organ," she thought, hurrying to work and trying (again) to forget. 

This Year: 

     Electric motors and a computer allowed Eugene much more freedom than he 
thought he'd ever be able to achieve after the last accident.  His extensive injuries had left him severely paralyzed from the neck down, only being able to move his left, third finger an inch back and forth.  It was just enough to operate the controls of his new electric wheelchair.  For the longest time during recovery it seemed like he'd spend the rest of his suffering life helpless to the whims of nurses and social workers, but this new chair was GREAT! 

     Her new haircut was short, sassy, and befitted a vice-president in charge of 
advertising.  Cheryl had slept with the president of the company, gotten pregnant, and the subsequent abortion was rewarded with a new office, a title, and a hefty raise.  The condo she'd just closed on would need work, but with the right contractors, she hoped to be out of her old neighborhood by springtime.  The neighborhood came with baggage, memories, and reminded her of things she wanted to forget. 
     As she left her apartment, she saw the dork across the street in his new 
wheelchair.  "Oh, God," she thought, "he's looking right at me!" 

     "Merry Christmas!" Eugene yelled out, pushing the toggle forward and commanding his wheelchair to cross the street. 

     He hadn't had a drink or a cigarette in almost a year.  The judge had ordered 
that he chauffeur old people and the handicapped around free-of-charge for four 
months as his fine.  The inside of the cab reeked of too much cheap cologne and 
burst colostomy bags.  Sometimes the stench was so bad, fares would ride with the windows down, even when it was raining.  When he turned down Freehold Street, a tiny voice screamed inside his head, "Marty, watch out for the dork in the wheelchair!" 
     "Son of a witch!" Marty swore, slamming on his brakes. 

     Eugene turned his head, saw the yellow taxi a few inches from his wheelchair, and smiled.  "I still have your Christmas present!" he called out to his sexy neighbor. 

     "Damn!" Cheryl swore, noticing the dork had a beautiful scarf in his lap. 

     Herbert's wife was out of town visiting her sister and he was racing to get his kids to their last day of school before Christmas break, as he'd overslept and they'd missed the bus.  The taxi he'd been following for three blocks gave no warning whatsoever when it stopped.  As the airbag smashed into his face, he wondered if his wife would ever forgive him for killing their children. 

     All she could think about was the aquamarine scarf, how it was a perfect 
accessory for her gray evening gown, and the dork was babbling something about her taking it.  So, she did.  It was a miracle there was no blood on it, as when the taxi was struck from behind, it jumped forward and crushed the dork under its wheels.  She'd wear it that night at the office Christmas party, but wouldn't dare tell a soul where it came from. 
     Oh, maybe she'd say Santa came early this year. 

The End. 

c. 2002 by R. D. Flavin 

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