Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
The images of cable cars passing behind me and pigeons flying overhead reflected in the store windows on Powell Street. Tourists crowded around the cable car stop and the conductor called out, “Stand back, stand back, now.”
At crowded times like this I hug my purse close to my body for fear of pick-pockets, but today I suspected I was being followed. I caught sight of a stranger pausing each time I stopped, and he moved only after I started walking again. I decided that if he made a move to grab my purse, I would scream. It is ten minutes after five and the streets are crowded with people who just left work and have come over to Union Square and Macy’s to shop or meet a friend for dinner. In San Francisco, this was a way of life after work. I reassured myself, Hayley, you’ll be safe.
Just the same, I used the skills I learned in an Investigative Journalism class. I made mental notes of what he wore – a white pullover sweatshirt underneath a dark brown leather jacket, a navy blue neck scarf, and jeans. My quick glimpses of him caught this much but I couldn’t recall ever seeing his feet. Tennis shoes?
The dark clouds hovering over my favorite shopping area grew ominous. They were signals, like flashing red lights by the train tracks, or trumpets blaring announcing the arrival of the King. These clouds were signaling that doom was coming. Thank goodness I remembered to carry my umbrella today. Though if it rained right now, I wasn’t too far from my apartment on Bush Street. I speculated that I might make it home fairly dry.
Suddenly, heavy raindrops fell like a million mini-bombs. Good grief! My trench coat was sopping wet before I even got my handy umbrella opened. Darn, I should have splurged and bought the coat labeled “Waterproof.”
I fought the howling wind and the heavy rainfall as I climbed up the last block of Powell Street to Bush. As I dashed up the speckled marbled steps to the mailboxes and front door, old Mrs. Johnson, who always baked us cookies on the weekend, stood at the top of the stairs shaking her cane in the air at me.
I started to say, “Hello Mrs. J…,” but right then she fell against me. She looked like a frail old lady, but the weight of her caused me to fall on my knees as I tried to protect her head from hitting the cold and hard wet floor.
The pain made me angry. “Oh, fish food!” I was about to swear, but saved myself by changing phrases. I’d been trying to break the bad habit for a while. Then a deep and long “Boom!” sounded right behind my back. It frightened me so much I leaned forward to cover old Mrs. Johnson with my body from whatever it was. That’s when I saw her bloody face. Was that blood from a nosebleed?
I turned toward the street to call for help and saw someone dashing away. Was that the same man who followed me earlier? I had forgotten about him when it started to rain. Or, was that just someone running for cover in this storm? All I saw this time were hunched shoulders and a jacket collar pulled up. Did I see a touch of brown and blue, or did I imagine it?
The front door swung open. My roommate, Jeanne and her friend, Krista, came out laughing, “Oh my God! Was that really thunder and lightning, or did someone just shoot a giant garbage can across the street?” said Jeanne.
When they saw me on the floor, they spoke like twins, “Holy Cow! What happened to Mrs. Johnson?”
Copyright 2014, MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California