UNITED STATES—”Hello,” she called out. She was in front of another body shop not 30 yards away from the first, with its yard of wounded cars. They were wounded, but they were the best makes, and their owners demanded perfection. In contrast stood what had been a payphone on the corner.

Danielle was old enough to remember, but for the kids they were remnants of an indecipherable past.

The young man, with the boots and faded red t-shirt, came around the corner. He was honest and hadn’t done a disappearing act.

“I am so sorry, I was about to run over to the other shop and find you,” he said. “I gave you this address off my phone and it was wrong. You must have been afraid I gave you a fake address on purpose.”

“I could tell you were honest ,” she said.

“You can’t be too careful,” he said. “My name is Denny.”

“I’m Danielle.”

“I could have been some hit and run artist.”

“Think about these people,” Danielle said. “How do they do that? Leave somebody there, wounded or dead.”

“I saw a poster in Beverly Hills with a $25,000 reward.”

You could tell he was grieved over the damage. He felt the cracked crystal over the headlight, as if he wanted to kiss the boo boo away.

Denny was a guy who had already been caught in the system, another fender bender and he would get his license taken away. And his livelihood. And the Bentley even if it was only a scratch would require a whole new bumper. There was no way. Denny had given her a slightly wrong address. But it hadn’t been wrong enough. He berated himself for not being faster on his feet.

Denny was the flipside of Danielle, a sorta actor/real estate agent not quick on his feet, handsome in a conventional way, but dumb as dirt.

He was screwed.

“I am screwed,” he said to Danielle. “Look at the bumper on my brand-new Mercedes jeep. It’s leased. I hate to keep this thing,” he chuckled to himself. “If I didn’t have it, I’d have a Kia. But I have to look good for my clients.”

“Keeping up appearances,” Danielle echoed.

In the city now, you had to show off for clients. He had a five o’clock to show the stucco bungalow on Dunsmuir, south of Wilshire. You had to be a millionaire to get a pretty little two-bedroom dump these days. Denny was calculating: how to get her off his case for good.

Danielle looked at her watch, surrounded by a hunk of gold. It had gotten late, it felt late. It was getting dark early this time of year. The mechanic looked at it and surveyed the damage.

“It will be 1500 dollars,” said the mechanic. Denny made his offer, to have it repaired or pay the cash. She went for the money. Alfonso wouldn’t be too happy, but his own body shop could handle the actual repair.

“Here,” Denny said, “Let’s go to an ATM.”

(to be continued)

Grady Miller, the Wizard of Fiction is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet” https://amzn.to/2rlTUy4

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)