The Attempted Kindness of Well-Meaning Strangers
Dexter Pruitt was of an age and appearance where simply being outdoors and alone caused concern. He was walking through a field beside a highway. It was raining. A woman in a yellow van pulled over.
“Here,” she said, extending an orange polka-dot umbrella through the passenger-side window. “It’s okay. I have several. I don’t need this one. You’re getting wet.”
Dexter never used umbrellas. He thought them an affectation, an encumbrance, a waste of an arm.
“No, thanks. I’m fine. But, thanks anyway.” Dexter kept walking. When the yellow van passed, the woman touched the horn … Beep! Beep! … and waved, like they were friends now.
Dexter stood in a CVS parking lot waiting for his prescription to be filled. The pharmacist said twenty minutes, which could mean anything. He’d get a text message when it was ready.
A car stopped. It was purple. The couple inside stared at Dexter. He panicked. What if they asked for directions? He was bad at that. A girl stepped out of the car and walked toward Dexter with arms extended as though he were a possibly injured and potentially dangerous animal.
“Are you okay?” she said. “Are you in trouble? Is there someone we can call?”
Dexter growled and lunged toward the girl, who scampered back into the car, which quickly pulled away.
The cops might be coming. Dexter decided to wait inside.
Then again today, walking in the same field, beside the same highway, only now it was snowing and cold, but not unpleasantly so, a VW Bus, the kind Dexter drove when attending UCLA in the late 60s, came to a screeching stop and slowly backed up. A man with a beard like Dexter’s, but orange instead of white, orange as a polka dot umbrella, leaned out the window.
“Hey! Old timer! You need a ride somewhere!?!”
“I’m fine! Just getting some exercise!” To prove his point, Dexter did several deep knee bends and then jogged in place.
“Are you sure!?!”
“I’m positive! Absolutely positive!” Dexter wondered why they were shouting. The younger version of himself gave a thumbs up. Dexter returned the gesture and added a wink.
Sometime later, Dexter Pruitt saw his reflection in a storefront window, and suddenly everything made sense. He was a homeless person, and would remain one, until he arrived back home.
Dan Nielsen is a fulltime open-mic standup comic. His flash manuscript Flavored Water was a semi-finalist in the Rose Metal Press 2017 SHORT SHORT CHAPBOOK CONTEST. Recent work in: Cheap Pop, The Collapsar, Ellipsis Zine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and OCCULUM. Dan has a website: Preponderous, you can follow him @DanNielsenFIVES. He and Georgia Bellas are the post-minimalist art/folk band Sugar Whiskey.
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