Quite Contrary

Quite Contrary
a short story about Mary Sue

It was pouring, and Mary Sue had just caused another accident. Her second this year. She had been sitting at a red arrow, focusing her attention on her iPod, when someone behind her honked. Misinterpreting the honk as “the light just turned green, so go” she tried to make her left turn without even a glance at the road, and was blindsided by an oncoming sedan. Mary Sue was not herself injured, but the other driver’s leg was pinned between her freshly-indented car door and the side of her seat. Paramedics were tending to her now. Over the din of the rain Mary Sue could make out someone’s car radio reporting on how traffic would be backed up for hours in both directions.

Everyone was glaring at her. Everyone was always glaring at her.

Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down…

Mary Sue’s phone was ringing. Her favorite song, ever since she was a girl. She was ecstatic when she learned she could set her ringtone to whatever song she wanted, but could never figure out why everyone groaned and rolled their eyes when her phone rang. Everyone at work and at school had their phones to set to whatever country or hip-hop music they liked, but only [i]her[/i] ringtone seemed to put everyone on edge. It was because everyone hated her, she was certain.

She didn’t know whether or not she should answer the phone. It seemed rude to turn her attention away from the situation, but the police had already taken her statement and she was just waiting on her tow truck and her chance to apologize to the other driver. She glanced down; it was the office calling. It could be important. She decided to take the call. “Hello?”

“Hey Mary Sue it’s– wait, are you outside? It’s pouring outside.”

“I know.”

“Why are you outside in the rain?”

“Nothing, I… just got into an accident. No big deal.”

“Another one? Really? Didn’t you just hit a firetruck with its sirens on like last month?”

“It was in April, and it wasn’t my fault! I couldn’t hear–”

“Whatever, listen, did you put the thing on Tim’s desk like I asked?”

“Yeah, that’s the last thing I did today on my way out.”

“Okay, because Tim said he didn’t get it.”

“Well I put it on his desk right where–” suddenly Mary Sue’s stomach jumped up into her throat. Oh shit.

“…where what? Hello? Hello?”

“…I might have put it on Tom’s desk my mistake.”

“What do you mean, Tom’s desk?”

“I mean, I might have heard you say Tom instead of Tim.”

“…why on earth would I say Tom instead of Tim?”

“I don’t know, I thought it was weird too because Tim works in my department but Tom’s all the way on the other side of the building… look, does Tom have it?”

“How should I know!? Tom’s on vacation!”

“Well I didn’t leave it on his desk, I left it with his secretary.”

“Wonderful. Just great. So Tim doesn’t have the thing, and he’s flying out for Guam an hour. If he can even make is flight with all this traffic.”

“I’m sorry! Really! I didn’t mean–”

“It’s okay… I guess we’ll just have the thing FedEx’d to his hotel in Guam. Overnight transcontinental delivery… that’ll run us a couple hundred bucks. Thanks a lot, Mary Sue.”

Click.

Mary Sue put her phone back in her purse. Just another seemingly simple task she’d managed to botch completely. Her boss would chew her out tomorrow morning, and she’d probably have to beg to keep her job. Again.

The paramedics had safely moved the other driver from her car and placed her on a stretcher. She looked to have a broken leg. Mary Sue took a couple steps in that direction so she could apologize in person, but one of the police officers blocked her path and shook his head at her. The other driver noticed Mary Sue and started screaming at her. The only halfway coherent words she could make out were “I’ll see you in court, bitch!” just before the ambulance doors closed.

After her totalled car had been towed away, Mary Sue called herself a cab. The ride home in bumper-to-bumper traffic took three hours, causing her to miss class. She and one of her classmates was supposed to give a PowerPoint presentation that would determine half their grade. She tried to leave her partner a message explaining the situation, but she’s pretty sure the only thing that got through was the cab driver screaming at his dispatcher on the radio in Arabic.

Mary Sue entered her apartment and made herself a can of condensed soup for dinner. She burned it terribly, but she barely noticed. She was such a terrible cook that she had become accustomed to the taste of burned and spoiled food. In fact, the leftover vegetarian lasagne that hospitalized her ex-boyfriend had barely even fazed her. She was certain he’d forgive her if the coma ever subsided.

After dinner Mary Sue laid down to a fitful night’s rest, knowing what an unpleasant day tomorrow would be. She needn’t have worried. Her mind was so preoccupied that she had forgotten to turn the stove off, and during the night her entire apartment building burned down. There were no survivors. Her parents were too ashamed to show up at her funeral.

The end.

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