By Robert Lackey
The litter-clogged drains overflowed onto the sidewalks. My left shoe let in the rain, soaking the shredded newspaper under my foot. I usually put my good sock on that foot when it’s wet out, but last night was mild. I still had my thin sock with the big-ass hole on my left foot.
The traffic at this end of Michigan Avenue was running slow because of the rain. The car lights reflected off the street like it was flooded in black water. Hundreds of ringlets pocked the surface like angry fish nibbling at the light. It was late for traffic up this way. The money earners rushed buy to get home before we came out. They don’t look as they drive by with their white-knuckled death-grips on their steering wheels during evening stampede.
I trotted to a bus stop shelter, the kind with clear enclosures to protect riders from the weather, but allow passersby to witness the muggings. An old man took up the single bench with newspapers draped over him against the cold. His snoring stopped as I ducked inside.
“Stay the hell away from me! I gotta knife,” he said, then went back to his snoring.
Combat sleep is light and easily disturbed, never deep while pretending rest. Under the next street light sat a Mercedes Benz with the engine off and the trunk lid up.
Might be good for a couple dollars, maybe even a twenty!
She screamed at me as I approached. She held up a tiny cylinder at arm’s length, her index finger cocked over its top. “Stay away! I’ve got Mace!”
“Just wanted to help, ma’am. You got a flat?”
She stepped back.
“I can fix it if you have a jack and stuff,” I said.
She pointed inside the trunk, spotless except for the rain puddle in the center.
I pulled out the spare and tools, then got down on my knees by the flat. The rain soaked my lower back, one of the few places that had been almost dry until then. Goosebumps ran up my spine through the water. She walked to the driver’s door and pulled something out, then stood over me as she opened a huge gaudy golf umbrella. I looked up and smiled my thanks as another car light showed her face.
Marsha! We dated in high school. She was my cheerleader. I was her quarterback.
I hesitated a moment and she leaned away, so I bent back down to the tire. It only took moments. It’s easy when you don’t care if you get dirty, and you’re already wet. I dropped the flat into the trunk and closed it. She smiled. The kind that went all the way to her eyes. I remembered how it felt to hold her, and was glad she didn’t recognize me now.
She shoved a couple hundred dollar bills into my hand.
“Thank you, Andy,” she said, then ducked into her car and sped away.
Writing flash fiction is like playing with matches held near the tip. Robert has written previous flash fiction pieces, published two historic novels, two collections of humorous southern short stories, and a children’s book.He is currently writing his third novel, which is a continuing family saga of the first two.