The Ambulance Driver
A woman works as an ambulance driver. She saves lives every night.
Every morning she goes home and crawls into bed happy.
But one night something terrible happens.
One night the woman's out driving the ambulance— rushing a
heart attack victim to the hospital— when a boy steps out
from behind a parked car.
She hits the brakes, but it's too late.
She runs him over.
It all happens so fast— the woman can't believe it. She jumps
out and runs to his body. She picks him up and loads him into the
ambulance, drives to the hospital as fast as possible.
She stands by the doctors as they work on him.
She keeps standing there after they walk away.
She keeps standing there for what seems like a lifetime, until the
nurses finally lead her away.
The woman goes home. She doesn't know what to do. She sits on the edge
of the bed. She looks at the TV, but turns it off. None of it makes any
The next day the woman sees a notice in the paper. She goes to the
boy’s funeral. She doesn't know what to do, what to say, how
to act. She stands in the back.
Up in the front, she can see the boy's mother, standing beside the
casket. She wants to go up there, she wants to say something, but can't
begin to think how to apologize.
So in the end, she turns away and walks on home. It's cold out, the
wind whistles by. She goes inside and sits on the bed again.
After a while, she closes her eyes.
At work, the people are understanding.
It wasn't your fault, they say. It was a terrible accident. It could've
happened to anyone. Take some time off. Everything will be okay.
The woman takes some time off, but time off doesn't help, so she goes
back— it's all she can do. And she has to do something; she
has bills to pay.
But she can't drive the way she used to.
Somehow, the city's become a completely different place— a
crowded, endless maze; every turn the woman takes is a trap about to
spring, people and cars and bikes darting every way.
The woman tries to quit, but her boss is insistent— he's an
old friend and is trying to be supportive.
It'll get better, he says. Just hang in there!
But the woman still dreads every day.
Then one night, going into the break room, the woman hears two other
drivers talking. They're discussing the mother of the boy she ran over.
Did you hear she killed herself? one says.
Shh, says the other, as they notice the woman.
Sorry— It wasn't your fault, they say.
The woman doesn't answer.
She backs away.
She turns. Her keys fall to the floor.
Outside the hospital, the woman walks down the street. She gets to the
corner where she takes the turn for home. But this time, she doesn't
turn, she just keeps walking. She keeps going, aimlessly, alone.
The woman walks through the night, then through the morning. Finally,
she sits on the curb. She hasn't eaten, hasn't even thought about it.
After a while, she gets up and walks on.
Later that night, the woman lies down in a tunnel. She watches the cars
go by. At some point, the cops come and move her along. She doesn't
argue, just trudges on.
A few days later, it starts to snow. The woman pulls her hands into her
sleeves. She lies down and curls into a ball by the curb.
But then the cold seems to leave.
Late that night, the woman takes a short breath and lets it all out in
a plume. She watches it go, melt away into the air.
Then a car pulls to the curb.
The driver leans over and rolls down the window.
Are you the ambulance driver? a voice says.
The woman doesn't answer. She lies there, unmoving.
The door opens, and the driver gets out.
The driver walks over and stands by the woman.
The woman blinks— it's the boy's mother.
You, she says, I thought you were dead.
Shh, don't talk, the mother says.
The mother opens the rear door and helps the woman in. The woman lies
down across the seat. The mother takes a blanket and drapes it across
Then she swings the door shut.
The mother climbs in front and starts up the car.
I'm so sorry, the woman says from the back.
I know, says the mother. I hated you for a while. But I just couldn't
leave you like that.
She puts the car in gear and it slowly moves off. As they go, they
start to pick up speed.
Ahead, an old man is crossing the road.
And they move right through him like the breeze.
Ben Loory is the author of the collection Stories for Nighttime and
Some for the Day (Penguin,
2011), and a picture book for children, The Baseball Player and
the Walrus (Dial Books for
Young Readers, 2015). He lives in Los Angeles.
Read more of his work in the archive.
Detail of painting on main page courtesy
of Shohei Hanazaki.
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