Braking Away

Illustration by Bob AulHey, thief! I was the guy driving a piece-of-shit car in Huntington Beach two weeks ago when you suddenly stopped—slammed on your stoppers, braked for a hallucination, ceased all forward movement. I hit the brakes and—as my car settled forward and then back—gently tapped your bumper. We got out to examine the damage. There was none—or almost none: on the bumper of your Mercedes SUV, there was indeed a microscopic scratch perhaps an inch long. It was possible to take it for a trick of the dusky light but impossible to tell whether my car—owned by a series of meth addicts; home to the homeless; held together by rust, rope and the remnants of 20-year-old paint—was the source of said scratch. I pointed out that the mark was nothing, that there was no evidence I was responsible, and that only one thing was clear: as we stood there arguing in the street, you were holding a cell phone and a Starbucks and had stopped for no goddamn reason. You went into hysterics. You nearly wept, telling me that your car was the source of so much joy and [sob] had entered the day scratchless. You were determined to exact justice. I have a little problem with the DMV involving residency, so I offered to solve this without involving the authorities. I said I'd give you the cost of repairing the scratch—established by a reputable body shop—in return for keeping my name away from California's Fritz Langish Department of Motor Vehicles. Three days later, you presented me with a note saying you'd undertaken several estimates (none of which you would show me), and the low bid was $2,200. Twenty-two hundred fucking dollars. I weighed my options and then made my decision: I have moved, leaving no forwarding address.

 
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