a brief encounter to flesh out one of my novel characters
|Mike Helmsley kept mostly to himself, not that he was particularly private, he just didn’t have much to say to strangers other than an occasional “morning” or “how are you”. But that was all about to change with the literal blink of an crystal blue eye.
The coffee machine sputtered a few times before it let go the flow of steaming hot joe into Mikes store refill mug. He secured the red cap with the full weight of his arm, checking for leaks and was about to head to the check out when he felt a sharp nudge to his right side. He looked down to see a tattooed elbow belonging to a young woman, Mike guessed to be about 23 or therefore, pushing him away from the coffee stand. He tried to excuse himself politely while he finished, but she was having none of it. Still digging in her elbow to the point he almost dropped the mug. Mike pulled away to a safe corner and watched.
Something about her was off. It wasn’t just the scabs on her face or the fact that she was wearing what appeared to be men’s summer pajamas, no it was the way she couldn’t seem to focus on just one thing at a time. She reached for coffee and then a minute later was wandering away to read the bulletins posted on the entrance wall and then back again for the coffee. This strange dance of behavior went on for several minutes until she finally got her coffee. Mike paid and was already tethering his mug to his bike when he saw her again trying to balance her coffee a cell phone and what appeared to be several small white stones she had apparently grabbed from the front of the store.
She headed for a small blue Toyota parked haphazardly in the side lot. Mike could tell she was seriously under the influence of something and to make matters worse a small curly head suddenly popped up in the back window of the Toyota. Quickly Mike peddled to the driver’s side tapped on her window and waited for her to roll it down or not. She obliged albeit reluctantly while Mike was searching for the right words, then those beseeching blue eyes peeked out from the back of her seat and he couldn’t stop himself. “You shouldn’t be driving, you seem to be under the influence and you might hurt someone like this child here… he blurted loudly hoping someone else might hear him and intervene. A few heads turned but no one else stepped up.
By then she had sobered up enough to tell him quite bluntly to “fuck off and mind his own business” just before she backed out nearly taking him and his bike with her. The child looked out the side window curious, with innocent concern. Mike didn’t know what to do he couldn’t get a license number from the front of the car and she had sped off before he was able to turn his bike. His only hope was that she lived nearby and that maybe his words would at least caution her, that others might notice her behaviors, enough to find her way safely.
He rode home slowly, shaken, not just for the child’s welfare, but that he had been a participant to that little scene there in the parking lot. Was it the right thing? What could he have done differently, all the usual self-talk that kept Mike mostly to himself around strangers.