June 13, 2018 0 By John Jeffire

Denny was still high. He’d hit for $100 in the office numbers and Sue said yes, she’d marry him. The hundred dollars would allow him to take Sue out, all out, dinner, a movie, plenty of drinks after, a great time. At 31, he had learned to completely accept having no luck, nothing, never being the one to find the $20 bill on the sidewalk, getting the steal on the used convertible he’d always wanted, guessing the final answer on Jeopardy to impress Cecil at the barbershop when he was getting a trim, so this day pumped his spirit into an unreal euphoria. Was this really happening to him?

+++++He pulled off I-696 and took the Groesbeck Highway exit like he did every day since he’d been working at McCabe Corp, thinking of Sue, the blond he’d met last year on first shift. She was all he wanted in a wife. Sure, she’d been married before, but she was beautiful, blond haired and full figured, a hard worker with deep green eyes, and if anything the failed first marriage would just make her appreciate his love and devotion even more. Heck, he’d had two engagements broken off before—one by his high school sweetheart, who met someone else when she went off to college, the second from his army days by a girl who saw Denny as her ticket out of her parents’ house in the decayed military town where he was stationed, but she got cold feet when the reality of marriage hit her. She disappeared just after the break-up, and not even her parents knew where she went; most people said she’d had enough of the smalltime and headed out to find her fortune, but all Denny knew was that wherever people thought she went off to, she couldn’t hurt him anymore.

+++++Sometimes the failures still hurt him, but Sue was proof that bad luck was worth taking if you waited it out.

+++++The traffic was unusually light and as he turned off Groesbeck to head to his apartment building he saw a Buick on the side of the street with its hazards on. What the hell. He’d been the guy broken down how many times in his life and no one ever stopped to help him. Once again, he would stop, this time to share his good luck with someone else, it was only fair, he thought. He had told himself that if Sue said yes, he’d give up helping the helpless like he always did and let someone else take over his role, but, hell, one more time wouldn’t hurt anything. He pulled up behind the car and wondered who was behind the wheel and how the person would react when he or she realized that he was there to help.

+++++He never helped anyone near his home—he didn’t want attention and didn’t want the neighbors making a big fuss over what he did, but since this was the last time, heck, he’d make an exception. He turned off his engine and thought again of Sue, of calling her to tell her to get ready to go out tonight. She would be beautiful, maybe even wear that red dress that clung to her and made him fall in love with her every time she wore it. They would order steaks and she would have wine and her smile would warm him and they would laugh and the world would be his.

+++++As he walked to the driver’s side door, he noticed that the window was already down. His thoughts took him away again as he pictured calling his mother when he got home and he could hear her begin to cry over the phone, cry with joy that he had finally found someone, someone to share his life with, someone who wouldn’t find him weird or different and leave him. He looked around again and saw no one in sight, not even another car in front or behind them.

+++++“I’m so glad someone finally stopped…,” began an older, kindly faced woman, but Denny barely registered her presence when he pointed his pistol and the sudden flash from the barrel exploded into her face.

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John Jeffire was born in Detroit. In 2005, his novel Motown Burning was named Grand Prize Winner in the Mount Arrowsmith Novel Competition and in 2007 it won a Gold Medal for Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishing Awards. Speaking of Motown Burning, former chair of the Pulitzer Jury Philip F. O'Connor said, “It works. I don't often say that, but it has a drive and integrity that gives it credible life....I find a novel with heart.” In 2009, Andra Milacca included Motown Burning in her list of “Six Savory Novels Set in Detroit” along with works by Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates, and Jeffrey Eugenides. His first book of poetry, Stone + Fist + Brick + Bone, was nominated for a Michigan Notable Book Award in 2009. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine called the book “a terrific one for our city.” His most recent book, Shoveling Snow in a Snowstorm, a poetry chapbook, was published by the Finishing Line Press in 2016.

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