Have you ever looked back on a series of events and realized something out the ordinary has been occurring and you have been too wrapped up in every day events to notice? The first couple of times I saw the old guy in the weird clothes I thought it amusing the home let him out in public. He didn’t look out of place holding the cardboard placard standing on the boulevard outside Walmart. I even considered opening my passenger window and offering my emergency five, if it would help him pay for his nursing home care.
When I saw him in the grocery store squeezing and sniffing toilet paper, I was more amused than alarmed. Of course, I crossed wet wipes off my grocery list and added it to my drug store list so I didn’t have to get close enough to smell him. Old, unkempt people smell like stale grilled cheese and mildew. I have learned to avoid close proximity, since my bank teller days when I would watch them pull even smellier bills from places money should never be hidden. Is it any wonder I wash and iron old money when it comes into my possession?
In fact, I was in line at the bank the next time I saw him. My vehicle registration arrived in my mailbox as though someone in Springfield Illinois delights in getting it to me during financial irresponsibility. Why mail early when you can wait at the bank?, has always been my philosophy. I crept up to being third in line behind a guy whose attire screamed monster truck, when I happened to turn around to catch the old guy staring at me. He looked away, but I knew the car loan advertisement didn’t deserve close scrutiny. I am smart that way. I spent the next ten minutes pretending to scrutinize the mortgage loan ad while watching him out of the corner of my eye. Indeed, he was watching me as covertly as I was watching him.
I finished my banking business and high-tailed it to my SUV. As I backed out the parking spot I saw him coming out of the bank, a Dum Dum sucker stick poking out of his mouth and a stack of blank transaction slips clasped in his hand. That’s when I knew I was being stalked.
The next two days I holed up at home alternating between working on my book and mentally composing explanations to the police officer as to why I needed a restraining order against a nameless, old skinny guy in weird clothes. The work on the book was not as interesting as the bizarre explanations. By the third day I had had enough of my own company and the computer screen. I usually avoid malls, but since the temperature refused to come out of the basement, I decided clearance shopping for outer wear a smart choice. Besides, I reasoned, I hadn’t had an Auntie Ann’s pretzel in over a year. I was sitting on the hard vinyl answer to a mall’s easy chair, munching my pretzel, when I saw him again. I choked down the lump of dough in my mouth and sat staring in astonishment.
No more than fifteen feet in front of me the old guy sat on the bench strapping roller skates over his ratty sandals and black knit socks. The oversized back pack doubly secured over his shoulders and across his chest; and further wrinkling his brown homespun tunic, had me stumped. Had the senior citizen homeless taken to roller skating through the mall to keep warm on winter days? Was I going to be the unwilling witness to a geriatric heist and getaway via roller skates? I looked over my shoulder hoping to spot a mall security person and make sure my exit would be obstacle free. I didn’t get the chance to make a hasty departure, because the explosive sound of a rocket engine blasting to life and the smell of burning rocket fuel sent me hopping over the vinyl chair and cowering there. As the engine whine got louder I saw the old guy roaring past me, skate wheels smoking, robes flapping and backpack shooting fire. I heard him shout as he disappeared in a cloud of ladies lingerie and red cut out Valentine hearts, “I’m Father Time and you should be home writing your booooooooooooooook. “