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Berkeley, California

Mel and I were stopped at a red light, reminiscing about the time I stayed in her parents’ house while a poison ivy rash swept across my body so fiercely that we thought it might be an STD.

We were in the left turning lane, second in-line behind a beige SUV. It was an Explorer or some rectangular beast with curved edges like the head of a sledgehammer.

Our left blinkers.

The driver of the caucasian-colored sledgehammer waited for the green arrow, then took a graceful, arcing left through the intersection. His tires traced the painted dashes on the pavement. Perfect.

As far as I know, he then died immediately thereafter. He died while taking a left. Or had a seizure, heart attack, narcoleptic fit, or in some essential way closed his eyes and left this reality for the next half hour at least.

Unsuspecting Dude was wearing a stupid red polo shirt with the OfficeMax® logo embroidered on his heart when the dead guy’s sledge hopped the curb, knocked down a light pole like a spare bowling pin and bounced jerkily into the parking lot.

There was nobody in control.

He didn’t see it coming. He stood next to the driver’s door of his SUV and dug into his pocket for his key. The sledgehammer of death and broken bones was relentless. The grill was an angry face. It pounded his twiggy human body into his SUV, bounced back and stalled.

Taking a A Left Dan Brooklyn Short Stories


Unsuspecting Dude crumpled to the pavement.

Imagine that.

The car in front of you makes a left turn, drifts wide, too wide, hops a curb, hits a light post and then — OH GOD NO smashes into a dude, crushing him into another car. What would you do? Or, if this has already happened to you, what did you do?

I can speak for myself and Mel and say she called 911 while I said oh fuck oh Jesus what the fuck, navigated into the absurdly large parking lot and parked next to Unsuspecting Dude. He was laying on his back.

I knelt next to him and in a soothing, yet casual voice, said, “hey man. Just lay here. Don’t try to move.”

He was awake.

“Oh, fuck!” He said. What would you say?

His head leaned up to look at me, but his body remained oddly immobile. Then, his head fell back to the pavement and he looked up at the sky.

I held my hands over his hips. I imagined the bones of his shattered pelvis fusing back together. I imagined white light pouring from my hands, soothing his pain, healing his body.

I tried not to think that there was nothing I could do. I tried not to think he was hopeless or crippled or that there was no light coming from my hands — I just kept trying to be a good, soothing presence for a temporary moment in his life. Mel paced the parking lot, explaining the situation to her phone.

An ambulance roared in, screaming sirens. Paramedics swarmed the Unsuspecting Dude and I slid away. I glanced into the sledgehammer. A man was still not awake in the driver’s seat. His head tilted back at an odd angle.

That was it. We left.