©Sam Husseini, 2009

©Sam Husseini, 2009

“Here’s the word on Traffic Jam Benny.  Spectacular weather, but four drivers on 280 South didn’t watch the road and now the back up from 85 to Saratoga Avenue is as bad as the highway out of Houston ahead of Hurricane Rita.  Get it? We’re naming every kind of chaos.  Ha!  Ha!”

We wait.  I’m thinking, plenty of time.  I mean I took forever.

I call Kaiser anyway.  My sister, Polly, lies on the back seat, knees bent, while her spouse barks “Breathe, 2, 3”, watching his Rolex.

“Holy shit, 30 seconds apart!”

I look into the mirror.  His face turns ashy.

I tell Kaiser who says, “We’ll send an ambulance.  Where are you?”

“Car pool lane.  De Anza Boulevard.”

Polly moans.

I murmur, “All right.  They’re coming.”

She yells, “I have to push!”

I holler, “She has to push.”

Kaiser says, “Her helper should hold her legs.”

I turn to Jason.  He says, “Oh, my God, I think I see hair and it’s not Polly’s.”  Beads of sweat appear.  Eyes roll up.  Head slumps over.

We shout, “Jesus, Jason!”

I pull the car onto the shoulder, open the back door, pull him off the seat, and he slides down onto the pavement.

I reach in to hold Polly’s legs.  She groans.  She screeches.  I think, how can I listen to Kaiser and hold on too?  Where’re my earphones?

A hand taps my shoulder.  Smile on her face, a woman says, “I know how to do this.  Just get me a towel or blanket.”

I think, earthquake supplies in the trunk.  I step back, tripping over Jason who’s coming to.  He sits up, conks his head against the open door, and really knocks himself out.

I paw through the trunk and discover a blanket and towel.

The woman croons, “There, there.  I was a Peace Corps nurse in Nigeria in the ‘60’s.  I did this all the time.  You’re lucky.  This is no dirt floor.”

I locate towelettes and give them to the woman.

“Better than dirty water in Darfur,” she remarks.

“Oh, Lord,” I say.

I lean over to wipe the bloody gash on Jason’s forehead. His eyes blink.

He squeaks, “Is she all right?”

I nod.

Two ambulance sirens wail.

The woman crows, “It’s a girl!”

Over her shoulder I see this small thing on the towel.  The woman lifts the baby, wipes inside the little mouth, pulls out a Q-tip, cleans her nostrils, pats her and a tiny “Wah!” escapes from baby lips.

Polly whispers, “Let me see.”

Ambulance guys, loaded with equipment, leap over the concrete divider.  I bawl as they lift Polly and baby out of the car into the ambulance.  Also Jason.

The woman hugs me and pats my back.  “You’re crying now, but when you’re 60, you’ll laugh your head off.”

I sit, head between my knees.  I’m going to pass out.

Legs quivering, heart thumping, eyes blurring, I think, Yeah.  Traffic jam.  Funny.  I’m already laughing.  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!

©Claire Noonan, 2009

Claire J. Noonan, an elementary teacher for thirty-five years in large urban schools, has expertise in bilingual education, English Language Development, and the reading/language arts curriculum.  She has been a teacher-consultant for the Bay Area Writing Project since 1985 and was Assistant Director of the San Jose Area Writing Project from 1987-92.  Retired, now she writes.

2 Responses to “Traffic Jam Benny by Claire Noonan”

  1. Tureeda Says:

    Thanks so much
    This was so beautifully funny.
    New life emerges in Traffic

    1. Diane Says:

      Forgive me, but did you teach at all in Los Angeles, CA?

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