(Beattie’s story appeared in The New Yorker, 11/23.)
Heidi and Bree were rear-ended on Route 1 by Sterne Clough, driving his brother’s Ford pickup. Neither girl seemed hurt. Sterne, though, felt the oddest sensation. It was as if someone had clamped an ice bag under his right armpit. It felt frozen and burned at the same time. Your body pulled all sorts of tricks on you when you turned sixty, and now he was seventy-four, so those tricks were less like pranks and more like extended jokes. He groped under his arm with his good hand, but felt only sweat. Nothing accounted for the pain, which was worse in his knee. Damn! His bad knee had banged the dashboard when the little car in front had accelerated and then stopped with no warning, just as the light turned green.
He got out of the truck, his knee none too helpful. It was distracting to have to stand there scowling at the damage while his armpit felt like a smoldering coal. Maybe later he could run a bamboo stick through a piece of steak and cook it in there. Meanwhile, he had some awareness that the car’s driver was still sitting in her seat, not even looking over her shoulder. The other girl stood by the mashed-in bumper of the car—at least the thing had a bumper—her hands on her hips.