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[End Page 96]
The day Freddo got hit by the car, I was standing on the front landing in my basketball shorts smoking a joint while my wife cursed at the phone company inside and the kids played in the sprinkler. I’d been staring at my neighbor Deirdre’s car, an aging black Lexus, which she kept [End Page 97] immaculate. The kids had a game involving the sprinkler and a red ball and running around shrieking, and it was in the course of playing that Freddo charged out into the street in pursuit of the ball, and then I saw him, so I screamed, and the driver of the gray sedan looked at me instead of the road. The tires squeaked and the bumper smacked my child’s shoulder, and I yelled and his head slammed audibly onto the pavement. My first thought was that it didn’t look fatal. But I was already running to the road on the wet grass, saying, “Fuck! Fuck! Oh, my God! Fuck!”
The driver started to say something as I picked Freddo up, but I was already yelling back to the girls standing, stunned and soaked, that I was taking him to the hospital and they should run inside and tell their mother. “Get in the passenger seat,” I said to the driver, gesturing with my head.
“What?” He was Latino, puffy, middle-aged, and dressed for work as a waiter or, I don’t know.
“Get in the passenger seat!”
The man got in, and I laid Freddo across his lap. “Hold his head,” I said. He cradled the back of my boy’s skull with his hand, staring down at Freddo’s freckled face.
I got into the driver’s seat.
“What are you doing?” the man asked, terror in his eyes. I just started the car.
My wife, Vicky, was standing in the doorway. I yelled to her: “Providence! We’re going to Providence Hospital!” As Vicky walked toward us, I sped away.
“Is he breathing?” I asked.
He didn’t answer immediately, but then he said, “Yes. He is.” But that was when I realized that Freddo’s blood was spilling all over this man’s arm and lap.
At the hospital, I went around and got Freddo from the man. Then the man hesitated, as if maybe this was where we parted ways. No such luck. I said to follow.
Inside, the woman behind the counter saw us, and these double doors swung open. There, down the hallway, we encountered another nurse. There were questions: What happened? My name? Child’s name? I was barefoot, stoned, wearing a dirty T-shirt and paint-spattered shorts. I was that person. They wheeled Freddo away, and the nurse told me to sit. She gave me hospital socks, which are somehow less dignified than no socks. [End Page 98]
My companion and I sat together while I filled out the paperwork. At some point, I asked to see his wallet, even though it had been my fault. I was the parent out front with the kids, smoking a joint. I was the one who’d yelled.
Before he left, we shook hands, and I told him I would try not to sue him. He told me he would be praying for my son.
A few weeks earlier, my neighbor Deirdre, the one with the Lexus, had decided to destroy her spectacular garden. It was the same day she decided to put her house on the market. Dusk, right in the middle of that painful summer. Vicky and I were out back, grilling too many Costco chicken breasts. The kids screamed or laughed; it’s hard to tell at that age. Then the chain saw started up.
Vicky gave me a big eye-rolling look, like What the hell is that woman up to? Vicky used to be a rebel, a punk rocker. Now she spends a lot of time thinking about other people’s choices.
One of the dogwoods at the back of Deirdre’s yard finally...