"Do I know you?"
That's what she said to me that night as I picked myself up off the concrete walking path in Corporate Woods. The combination of two small, white, energetic, puffball dogs and the long leashes they were attached to had conspired to tangle up my legs and send me sprawling to the ground. My hands stung from hitting the rough concrete and the cool Autumn temperatures just added to the discomfort.
After surveying my newly-textured hands, I looked up and saw what I thought were two more small puffball dogs, only these were brown and stoic. Except they weren't dogs at all; they were the footwear of choice for this unusual woman in front of me. Her slippers were topped by what appeared to be turquoise silk pajama bottoms, peeking out from beneath a brown, full-length fur coat. The kind of coat that gets blood dumped on you. A faint red glow emanated from the cigarette she was holding in her non-leash hand.
"Do I know you?" she repeated, followed by a cough that indicated she'd been smoking since the Nixon administration.
My irritation switch had been flipped on by the two-dog take-down and I thought to myself, "What a stupid question. How the hell would I know if YOU know ME?" I took a moment to brush off the damp leaves that had pasted themselves to my knees and collected myself. I couldn't really see her face as the only other light besides her tobacco rod was a streetlamp about 50 yards behind her. As it was, she was backlit and the only feature of her head that I could ascertain was her salon-fresh perm.
The dogs did us a favor and pulled her in the direction of the streetlamp. While the cotton ball canines relieved themselves on separate trees just off the path, the unforgiving amber light accentuated her sharp features. Her bone structure indicated that her presence during the Nixon administration was accurate, but any wrinkles, creases or crevasses that would confirm this assumption were conspicuously absent. Bright red lipstick punctuated and completed the portrait.
Before she could assail me with the question again, I said, "I'm sorry. I don't believe I've met you before..."
"Weren't you a sack boy at the Hen House before they shut it down?" she cackled.
"Um, no. I've never worked at a grocery store before."
"Why are you so fidgety? Are you some sort of pervert?"
I thought to myself, If I was a pervert, would I be copping to it now?
The dogs had finished their business and were concentrating on re-wrapping their leashes around my legs again. The odd woman put the cigarette in her mouth and started digging around in her front left pocket.
Through cigarette-pursed lips, she said, "I'm going to flip a coin. Heads, you're a pervert and I call the police. Tails, you're the sack boy at Hen House and we'll part ways."
I stood there in shock for a moment. When I saw her finagle the coin out of her pocket and place it carefully on her cocked thumb, I started extricating myself from my tangled dog-web.
"Criminy, lady! I was only out for a walk and your dogs tripped me up!"
The judicial nickle twirled in the air while one of the dogs bit into my pantleg and started tugging. The coin missed the woman's hand and clinked on the pavement.
As she bent over to read the verdict, I managed to pull away from the dogs, leaving them with a khaki souvenir. As I took my first few steps to escape this surreal scene, I heard her cough and say,
"Pervert? Nah, I don't believe that. Come back here, sack boy!"
I impolitely declined her invitation and ran home, deciding that mind-clearing walks were best taken away from the suburbs.