Strangers (March 2019, Week 2, Day 3)
Ellie panted as she rounded the corner and stopped at the blinking Don’t Walk sign. It was hot enough that not all the sweat she was producing felt earned and, even though she hadn’t wanted to leave her house at first and every mile had been something of a challenge, she was contemplating adding another mile to her run when she noticed the old man. He was down on one knee, holding onto the base of a streetlamp, and seemed to be staring at something on the ground. It was odd behaviour for any day, and with the heat she wondered what was wrong.
Ellie jogged in place while she waited for the light to turn and shared a glance with the young man standing next to her. He was well dressed and quaffed enough for her to become very aware of how red and blotchy she probably looked. She blushed a bit and looked back across the street at the kneeling man.
The handsome fellow next to her said, “drunks ruining the neighborhood,” before he snapped a picture of the old man and continued on his way.
Ellie looked after the young man, then back to the old one, and decided she’d jog over to see what was going on.
“Sir? Do you need anything, or, I mean, are you ok?”
Up close, Ellie could see the man’s red nose full of broken capillaries and she wondered if the other guy had been right to keep on keeping on. When the man looked up at her his eyes were brimming over with tears.
“Oh, dude! I mean sir. Can I help you? Do you need help getting up?”
“I’m Ellie. Wait, yeah – you don’t know me so you totally weren’t saying my name. I fill in the blanks when I’m nervous. Stay there – I’m going to go get some help.”
She darted away and ran into the first open shop door she found. The place didn’t seem to know who its target market was and Ellie was confronted with an odd assortment of items piled high in every direction. It took her a moment to orient to the shop and find the narrow opening on the counter where the clerk was standing, idlely flipping through a skin magazine.
“Hey! I need some help. There’s a guy out here who needs some help.”
“Well ain’t you a fresh drink of water.” The clerk grinned at her and glanced back down at the magazine that was sitting open on a picture just shy of centerfold quality.
“Really? Now? Will you HELP me?”
“There’s a guy, outside. He needs help, maybe an ambulance.”
“I don’t know no guy and I ain’t leaving the shop.”
“Just. Ugh. Will you call 911 then?”
The clerk eyed her up and down before letting his hand float over to the phone. “For you? Sure.”
Ellie rolled her eyes and ran out of the store. When she cleared the corner, the spot where the man had been was empty.