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Denny was still high.  He’d hit for $100 in the second shift 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, snagging 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 with 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 the line at McCabe Corp, thinking of Sue, the blond he’d met last year on first shift.  She was all he wanted.  Sure, she’d been married before, an abusive guy, 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.  When he got word they were done, he drove out to see her on the big campus with the vines growing over all the old buildings. It was no use—just his luck, her mind was made up.  To show there were no hard feelings, though, he helped her and her new boyfriend move into their new place before he headed home. The second was 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.  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.  Denny knew.  He even helped her pack up, no hard feelings, no reason to end things badly, but wherever she was she couldn’t hurt him now.  

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 heck.  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 those who needed help and let someone else take over, but, shoot, 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 learned even more about helping people during a tour of Iraq—he did a lot of helping there, almost every day.  No one ever thanked him, but he didn’t help others for the praise; he never saw one of them again and that was fine by him.  He turned off his engine and thought again of Sue, of calling her to tell her to get ready to go out tonight.  The scar over her eye was almost completely healed and 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 not in pain over another beating from his father but with joy that he had finally found someone, someone to share his life with, someone who wouldn’t find him odd or different and leave him.  People—especially those he helped—were always leaving 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, kind-faced woman, but Denny barely registered her presence when he raised his pistol and the sudden flash from the barrel exploded into her face.


John Jeffire was born in Detroit.  His novel Motown Burning won the 2005 Mount Arrowsmith Novel Competition and the 2007 Independent Publishing Awards Gold Medal for Regional Fiction.  Detroiter and former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine called his first poetry collection, Stone + Fist + Brick + Bone, “a terrific one for our city.”  In 2022, his novel River Rouge won the American Writing Award for Legacy Fiction.  For more on the author and his work, visit


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