Issue #43, Honorable Mention #2

Tony Concannon grew up in Massachusetts. After graduating from college with a degree in English and American Literature, he taught in Japan, where several of his stories are set. He began writing in 1979 and his work has appeared in On the Premises, Columbia Journal, Litro, and THEMA.


by Tony Concannon

Ellen waited in her car outside Bill’s apartment building. One morning about a year earlier she’d seen him limping to the bus stop and she’d impulsively pulled over and asked if he needed a lift. He’d accepted and it had turned out he worked several blocks from her. Ever since then she’d been giving him a ride. Now she wanted to stop.

He came out, opened the car door, and tossed his bag into the back seat.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning.”

He had a bad right hip, the result of a drunken crash, for which he’d lost his license, and getting into the car was a three-step procedure for him. First, he sat sideways. Once he was seated, he would swing his left leg, his good leg, into the car, and then he would lift his right with both hands and bring it into the car as he pivoted and settled back into the seat. Being a big man didn’t make it easier for him.

He closed the door and fastened his seatbelt.

“Wait,” he said. “I forgot my sandwich. It’s in my bag. I’m sorry.”

This happened at least once a week. His injured hip prevented him from turning around and reaching for his bag and Ellen got out and opened the rear door. The bag was stuffed with everything he could possibly need. She took out his phone, which she knew he would want, and placed it on the roof of the car. She found the sandwich and handed it to him.

“Thank you.”

Ellen got back into the car and they were off. Bill unwrapped the sandwich and began stuffing it into his mouth. It drove her crazy how he ate in her car, making a mess, and never asking if it was okay.

“I saw a really funny movie last night,” he said. He told her the name.

“What’s good about it?”

“Sort of a black comedy satire. I won’t say anything more. I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

“I’ll check it out.”

That was the other thing about Bill. Once you got past his self-centeredness, he was quite intelligent and charming. He’d helped her think things through after her divorce, which had been finalized around the time she’d started giving him rides. He could get right to the heart of the matter. She’d even thought for a while that he might be interested in her.


That evening her doorbell rang. It was Bill. He held out his phone. The screen was shattered.

You dropped my phone in the parking lot and it got run over,” he said.

Putting the phone on the roof of her car came back to her. She couldn’t recall giving it to him or putting it back into the bag.

“I didn’t drop it,” she said. “I left it on top of the car while I was looking for your sandwich. I meant to give it to you.”

“I didn’t need the phone this morning,” he said.

“You always want it.”

“I didn’t ask you to get it.”

She looked at the shattered screen.

“I’ll pay to have it fixed,” she said.

“I don’t think it can be fixed.”

She looked at the phone again.

“Let’s find out.”

“The Apple store is open until 9,” Bill said. “If we go now, I can get it taken care of this evening.”

“I’ll get my coat.”

The associate at the Apple store, a tall young man, didn’t think the phone could be fixed and even if it could, it might cost more than a new one.

“I want a new one,” Bill said.

“How much would this model cost?” Ellen asked the associate.

“I’m getting a newer model,” Bill said.

The associate told Ellen the price.

“I’ll pay that much,” she said to Bill. “If you want a newer one you can pay the difference.”

He didn’t look happy. She waited while he had his data transferred. He asked numerous questions.

The next morning Bill was late, as usual.

“I still can’t believe you left my phone on top of the car,” he said once they were underway.

Two hands gripping the wheel, Ellen concentrated on the road.

“I did, so let’s not talk about it anymore.”

“Touchy this morning.”

She didn’t respond and Bill didn’t mention the phone the rest of the way to work.


She made the decision on the weekend. Paying for the phone had brought home how much she resented giving him a ride every morning. She thought she would tell him her hours at work had changed. Then she realized she’d have to leave early every day so as not to get caught up in the lie. On Monday morning she told him the truth.

“Friday is going to be the last day I give you a ride.”

“What? Are you changing jobs?”

“No. I just don’t want to do it anymore.”


“I just don’t.”

“There has to be a reason,” Bill said.

“Giving you a ride messes me up. It puts me in a bad mood to start the day at work.”

“It seems awfully coincidental that you decide this a week after you have to pay for breaking my phone.”

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

He shook his head. She’d learned he did this whenever he didn’t agree with you.

“Do you know how hard it is for me to walk to the bus stop every morning with my bad hip?” he said. “Never mind get on and off the bus and walk to my office.”

“You didn’t have to get drunk and smash your car into a truck,” flashed through her mind. She didn’t tell him that, though.

Instead, she said, “I know it’s hard but I can’t help you anymore. You’re going to have to figure out a way to get to work on your own. How about looking into getting an Uber?”

“And how am I supposed to pay for that?”

“Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure it will work out for you.”

He shook his head again.

“This is about the phone isn’t it,” he said.

“It’s not about the phone. It’s about me and my happiness and not wanting to do this anymore. It’s as simple as that.”

She could feel herself about to cry.

“I don’t care what you say,” he said. “We both know this is about the phone.”


The following Monday morning Ellen felt free, almost as though she had been released from captivity, until she saw Bill limping along the side of the road. She thought of stopping and giving him a ride to the bus stop but she realized doing that wouldn’t solve anything. The image of him limping along the road stayed with her all day.

Every morning Bill was out there, hobbling along. Anyone she talked to about the situation: Gary, her ex-husband, Katie, her best friend, or Tom, her supervisor at work, congratulated her. They’d been telling her for months that Bill had been taking advantage of her good-naturedness and she’d should put a stop to it. She listened but didn’t say much. Every time she saw Bill, or drove past his apartment, or even thought of him, she felt guilty.

She broke down on a morning when there was a torrential downpour. Bill was making his way along the road, holding up an umbrella. She stopped and rolled down the window.

“Get in,” she said. “I’ll give you a ride to work.”

He looked at her before he spoke. “Are you sure I won’t be ruining your day?”

“Just get in.”

Having to manipulate the umbrella made his getting into the car take even longer. When he was settled, he turned to her and said, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

The sun was out the next morning and she didn’t stop when she saw him. She would save her offers of rides for the days when the weather was bad, she decided. She felt better about herself.


One morning a few weeks later she passed Bill getting into a car in front of his building. She didn’t want to stare and she caught only a glimpse of the driver—a woman with long blond hair.

The next day the same car was there. Bill waved when he saw her. He had a look of triumph on his face, as if he’d won something. The woman turned her head and Ellen saw the woman was younger than her and quite pretty.

It wasn’t until that evening that Ellen figured out what was bothering her. She was jealous. She knew how ridiculous it was to feel that way. Her problem had been solved. Not only was she no longer giving Bill a ride and but she also didn’t even have to feel guilty about it anymore. She realized, though, that deep down she had gotten some perverse pleasure from being the one to help him. Now the blonde-haired woman was.


The woman had been giving Bill rides for about three months when Ellen ran into them at the supermarket. Bill had a cane, the first time Ellen had seen him with one. She was about to duck down one of the aisles when Bill noticed her and called out, “Ellen.” She walked slowly toward them.

“How are you doing?” Bill asked.

“Not bad. Yourself?”


Ellen looked at the woman.

“Ellen, this is Lisa,” Bill said.

“Hi,” Lisa said.

“Hi. I see you every morning.”

“I see you, too,” the woman said.

“I used to give him rides.”

“I know. Bill told me about you.”

I bet he did, Ellen thought.

“What’s with the cane?” Ellen asked Bill.

“Lisa makes me use it.”

“I’m a PT,” Lisa said.

“That’s how we met,” Bill added. “She was one of my PTs after my accident.”

“I hope it helps,” Ellen said.

“It does. Lisa, show her the ring.”

Lisa held up her hand and Ellen saw the engagement ring on her finger.


“Thank you.”

“How did you guys reconnect?” Ellen asked.

“Bill called and asked if I could give him a ride to work. I live nearby,” Lisa said.
“Well, I’m glad it worked out.”

Ellen listened to their talk about the wedding plans for a few minutes before she said she had to get her shopping done. Bill had landed on his feet, she thought, as she pushed her carriage down the aisle.


Several more months went by. Ellen would wave to Lisa whenever she passed her car outside Bill’s apartment building. Then Ellen didn’t see the car for a whole week. Every morning she looked for it. Another week went by. One morning she saw Bill limping to the bus stop. He wasn’t using his cane. Ellen stopped and rolled down her window.

“Do you need a ride?” she asked.


“Where’s Lisa?” she asked once Bill was settled in the car.

“She broke off the engagement.”

“I’m sorry that happened.”

“I am, too.”

He looked crestfallen, almost like a child who hadn’t gotten any presents on his birthday.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Ellen asked.



The next morning Ellen waited outside his building. When he came out, she put down the window.

“Are you going to give me a ride today?” he asked.

“It depends. Are you ready to listen?”


“Okay. There are some rules. First, you’re out here on time every day. Second, you get whatever you want out of your bag before you get in. Third, no eating. Finally, you’re nice to me. Agree?”

He nodded his head. “Yes. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She took a deep breath. “You can get in now.”

Copyright 2024 by Tony Concannon