Issue #66

Spring 2018

passing on double lines

by JB Mulligan

The last person Hank expected to see drive past him on Main Street was himself. He looked out the car window, and blinked twice, and it was still him. It wasn't a look-alike, because Marcia was in the seat beside him as she was in this car, talking non-stop and with a breath every forty-five seconds or so, and the kids were arguing in the back of both cars. It wasn't possible, but that didn't seem to matter.

He recognized the car, too. It was the Green Pig, a big old sedan with an unfortunate tendency to squeal whenever he shifted gears. But Hank had sold that years ago (he should have asked for more but they needed money quick, the way they always seemed to do, since the stock in that drug company had dried up and blown away ten years ago), except that this other Hank hadn't sold it apparently. And he had maintained it pretty well, from the looks of it. And it hadn't squealed when he had shifted to pass… himself.

"Hey. Dammit, he passed on a double line."

Marcia tilted her head. "What?"

"That guy up ahead, in the Green… car. He passed me on a double line. That's illegal." Hank wondered if there was a criminal statute that covered impersonating a nonentity.

"We should call the cops, Darling. Kids, shouldn't we call the cops?"

"Call the cops. Call the cops," the kids chanted.

"Funny, funny, Marcia. I'm sorry, you were talking about something the neighbors did deliberately to insult you, even though none of them know who we are, or care."

"I just don't know why you let them do that."

"Call the cops," he told her.

She lapsed into a sullen and welcome silence, and Hank wondered if the other Marcia had done so as well. He realized that the other car had pulled quite a bit ahead of him, and sped up. He glared at Marcia when she muttered something about illegal, and accelerated as he realized that he knew where the other car was going. Home.

That made no sense, but somehow it had to be. And Hank was sure that it was a different home, maintained and lovely, the way the other Hank and Marcia looked well groomed. A watch had glittered on his wrist, and he had seen briefly flashes of a gold necklace on her throat. Maybe this Hank hadn't taken a hosing from stocks. Maybe he had been luckier, worked harder, or lived in a universe where the local God didn't hate His own creation.

Far ahead of him, the other car turned left at the end of the long straightaway, right before their development.

"New neighbors, maybe," Marcia said, preparing to be offended by somebody different.


"You can't be sure," she told him.

Hank laughed.

When he rounded the corner in the development and saw that his driveway was empty, Hank was shocked. Also a bit relieved: what would he have said to himself.

As they pulled onto the cracked, uneven asphalt of the driveway, the muffler fell off with an apocalyptic clatter and grind, and Hank cursed. They got out of the car, and he looked up onto the highway, between two houses much nicer than his would ever be again, and saw the green car flash by, and when, a moment later, he heard the distant screech of a gear shift, Hank smiled as he had never smiled before. Marcia looked at him, and even she smiled, for a little bit.

Author Bio

cup with bird

JB Mulligan has had more than 1000 poems and stories in various magazines over the past 40 years, and has had two chapbooks published: The Stations of the Cross and THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS, as well as 2 e-books, The City Of Now And Then, and A Book of Psalms. He has appeared in several anthologies, including Inside/Out: A Gathering Of Poets; The Irreal Reader (Cafe Irreal); and multiple volumes of Reflections on a Blue Planet. His work has appeared in The Cafe Irreal three times previously, most recently in Issue 35.