Off kilter

I reached into my pocket and felt around for the shorty, a cigarette I put out under my boot when I had to duck into the butcher. I lit it.

The tip went cold and I shifted packages to one side awkwardly. A hand under my elbow held it steady while another brought ’round a match.

“Thank you green eyes, ” I said, and smiled, dropping the package of chops at his feet. “You saved me. I needed this smoke.”

We both bent for the package at once, bumping heads. I burned his neck with the cigarette, and dropped it.

Standing still, I let him pick it up for me, but instead of handing it to me, he put it under one arm and took my other packages as well. “Was that your last?” he asked.

“Yes. I smoked so many at a pub last night,” I said, wondering why I told this to a stranger. He started walking with my packages and my heels skipped over pavement to catch up.

“My bus stop is in the other direction. A cab would be nice, if I had enough cash on me.” I laughed lightly. The air felt warm and so did he.

“I have the car parked just around the corner, honey. Come on.” He turned his head and smiled and the wind ruffled his hair up and left a shock of it on his forehead.

In the car, we were still going the other way. “I really must get home. I promised to make pork chops with stuffing.”

“Really? I don’t remember,” he said. He kept driving, relaxed, one hand on the wheel and an elbow out the window.

I fell silent, and I don’t know why I did not protest more. Maybe because he put me at ease at the start. But I started planning how I would escape, should he not be as friendly as he seemed.

He pulled into a neighborhood, one so much different than mine, with yards and a swing set, a doghouse and a single mailbox at the end of a driveway. “Really,” I said, “I must insist.”

“I got here as quickly as I could,” he said, and looked a little hurt. I dropped the subject.

Like any other Tuesday evening, I cooked the chops and made my special mushroom sauce. He poured me a glass of white wine and called me ‘dear’. The two blond children called me ‘Mother’ and hugged my legs while I cooked.

After supper we sat and smoked together over coffee and chocolate cake with crushed almonds from the bakery. I thought to myself–I hope his wife made chops. My husband would be disappointed.

***

a re-visiting of this story from 2016 which began as a series of Tweets

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