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By James Lawson Moore
So, a weird thing happened to me the other day.
It was around 3PM, and I just picked up a half dozen unique donuts from this place at the strip mall near my house at school, called Amazing Glazed (corny name, but they have good ice cream and coffee so who’s complaining?). I don’t have a car and my girl had a class down in Norfolk, so I had about a 12-minute walk back to the house, right? I make this trip all the time, so what’s the worry?
I made it down the sidewalk that’s plastered up beside the neighborhood just before mine; it was brisk and comfortable that day, it was dead out in the street (not a car in sight), and I was, as usual, by myself on a leisurely walk. Which of course added to the eerie nature of what was to unfold, like the rough draft to a script for a Hitchcock movie.
The gentleman was bald, with glasses affixed to his bulbous alcoholic nose, and he was on the wrong side of fifty. His wife was more than likely around the same age but she carried it well on her petite avian frame. They walked up from behind me with barely a sound of their footfalls, and as they passed me by the guy pointed to my donuts and said, “You know, people can get murdered for less than those.” He had a creepy grin painted on his face, as if to accentuate the joke.
Of course I didn’t respond right away—who could—and the dude wouldn’t give me a chance to formulate a response either. He promptly noted the odd glint in my eye, and his smile quickly turned into a scowl. He then leaned in on me, and shouted, “It was a joke!” With that the dissenter and his wife shared a look marked by deep offence and they walked on ahead.
They left me in the dust to think things over.
As the happy couple began to trudge on I started to apologize, trying any form of stammering consolation that my dumbfounded brain could put together. But just as soon as the pang of sorrow escaped my lips it just as soon retreated into the bowels from whence it came. I started to think better of it, and I even asked myself: why should I be the one to apologize?
The truth was that I hadn’t done or said a damn thing to these people. All that had been exchanged on my end was an odd glance. And really, how else is one supposed to look upon a stranger—someone I had never seen before in my life and didn’t know from Adam—who somehow sees it fit to go up to someone, on a sparsely populated side street, and make a reference to a heinous crime over pastries (even in jest)?
With police shootings, and mad people driving cars into Planned Parenthood clinics, and round-the-clock Doomsday news, how else is a man supposed to take such an off the wall start to a casual conversation? To what purpose did it serve? What did this guy want to get out of the exchange?
Many mornings I walk to school (I don’t have a car). Some afternoons if it’s not too bad outside and I don’t have a ride I walk back. It’s a hefty walk but it’s manageable, and it helps me to drop a little weight. Until recently I didn’t think anything of it; until recently I had no reason to complain.
But now every time I go down that same side street, I worry about running into them; if we do meet again what would I say to them? Would they even remember the encounter?
Can a man expect more conflict to arise, or am I just being paranoid here? Is there a way out of this mess?
I have no way of answering these questions, and I’m all out of donuts. Damn it all to hell.
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