She turned quickly in my direction and muttered, “Pigs.”
My first inclination was to apologize, fearing she had caught me checking out her ass while I pushed my grocery cart to my car. She was a tall, thin African-American woman, about thirty, wearing tight jeans that covered tan skin and a shapely rear end. She turned her head, and I saw the face of a woman obviously annoyed. The fact that I was more than twice her age made me feel worse.
I slowed to allow her space, staring at the All-Bran cereal in my wagon and feeling like a puppy caught in the act of soiling the bedroom carpet.
I was so lost in my embarrassment, I hadn’t realized she was talking to me.
“Excuse me,” she whispered. I looked up, ready to apologize. “Would you please stand next to me? Maybe that’ll discourage them.”
I hadn’t realized there were two black teenagers in baggy pants running towards her and shouting, “Yo, I got somethin’ fuhya.”
“Sure,” I said, relieved I wasn’t the pig she had in mind, but worried about the two teens now fast approaching. One was average height and weight, my size, but the other stood nearly a foot taller and was considerably more muscular. I had no idea what I would do if they threatened her.
“I’m so sorry to drag you into this,” she said, probably fearing that I might drop dead of a heart attack any minute.
I stood my ground between her and the teens. My stance wasn’t really a heroic gesture. The fact was my knees wobbled too much to allow me to run. I could feel my heart thump, my face flush.
The big one walked right past me as if I weren’t even there. I turned, unsure if I should grab his arm. “You dropped your wallet, Ma’am.” He handed it to her.
She took the wallet and thanked him profusely, offering him and his friend a reward.
“No thanks.” The big one held up his open hands. “We didn’t do nothin’. Just picked your wallet up off the ground.” The two youths turned and left as quickly as they had appeared, still ignoring me.
As luck would have had it, my car was parked next to hers. We avoided eye contact as we unpacked our groceries.
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories. His short story, “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film. Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife.