I heard her whisper, "Pigs."
My first inclination was to apologize, fearing she had caught me checking out her round ass while I pushed my grocery cart to my car. She was a tall, thin African-American woman, about thirty, wearing tight jeans that covered tan skin and a shapely rear end. She turned her head, and I saw the face of a woman obviously annoyed. The clucking sound she made deflated any hope on my part that I appeared as anything other than a dirty old white guy with children her age.
She quickened her pace. I slowed to allow her space, staring straight down at the ground and feeling like a puppy caught in the act of soiling the living room carpet.
So lost in my embarrassment, I hadn't realized she had slowed her trek to her car and was speaking to me.
"Excuse me," she whispered again. This time I looked up and saw that she wasn't chastising me. "Would you please stand next to me? Maybe that'll discourage them."
I hadn't realized there were two black teenagers in baggy pants running towards her and shouting, "Yo, I got something fuhya." The one who spoke grabbed the front of his oversized trousers as he ran.
"Sure," I said, relieved I wasn't the pig she had in mind, but worried about the two teens now fast approaching. One was average height and weight, my size, but the other stood nearly a foot taller and considerably more muscular. I had no idea what I would do if they threatened her. The most I could hope for was that I wouldn't embarrass myself.
"I'm so sorry to drag you into this," she said, probably fearing that a guy my age might drop dead of a heart attack any minute. Turning towards the two teens, she shouted, "Go home. You don't want trouble."
I stood my ground between her and the teens. My stance wasn't really a heroic gesture. The fact is my knees wobbled too much to allow me to run. I could feel my heart thump, my face flush.
The big one walked right past me as if I weren't even there. I turned, unsure if I should grab his arm. "You dropped your wallet, Ma'am." He handed it to her.
She took the wallet and thanked him profusely. She even offered him and his friend a reward.
"No thanks." The big one held up his open hands. We didn't do nothin. Just picked your wallet up off the ground." The two youths turned and left as quickly as they had appeared, still ignoring me.
As luck would have it, my car was parked right next to hers. Without making eye contact, we unpacked our groceries from our carts in silence.
After teaching writing and literature in college for twenty-five years, WAYNE SCHEER retired to follow his own advice and write. He's been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, The Pedestal, Pindeldyboz, Eclectica Magazine, flashquake, Flash Me Magazine and