Warm up

Whoa. Something just happened in this room. I can tell. It's not a smell or a broken vase, like in a movie. But the air's electric and even though there are three people here, looking at each other, no one is saying a word. I stop and the glass door slowly closes behind me.

Sandy, the usually friendly lady at the counter, is staring at a spot on the wall behind me that I know
contains nothing of interest. Bultowski, the guy my age, who's always late and can only talk about his freaking bicycle, I swear, looked up at me when I walked in, but now, he's looking at the floor at his feet like he's counting tiles, and Jenga, I honestly don't know what his real name is, just lowered his hands to his side and is looking around like there's a snake somewhere here if only he could remember where he put it.

I stop in my tracks, "What? What did I miss?"

Sandy won't look at me and Jenga holds his right hand up in a stop position while he continues to hunt for the snake. Bultowski slowly looks up at me and then back and forth to the other two quickly. I see his eyes click, his little mind has hit on a response.

"What do you mean?" Eyebrows up, shoulders jerk up and down in an exaggerated stage gesture and his mouth stays open at the end of the line.

"Come on. What the fuck? What happened? Did somebody fart of something?" I'm beginning to wonder if I'm in danger or is that my paranoia talking to me from watching too many movies. I look back forth between them, then quickly around the room to see if I can spot the problem. Maybe there's a guy with a gun behind the Coke machine or a Federal Marshall standing to the side with a Kevlar vest, but there's nothing else out of place.

Everyone remains silent and in their places.

"Seriously now. You're starting to freak me out here. What's going on? You guys did something or -- what?" The hair on the back of my neck just stood up and I'm thinking something's really wrong. I glance back at the door to see if the coast is clear. Nothing there.

"It's nothing, Al. Nothing. We were just having a discussion and-- then you walk in. That's all." She said this matter-of-factly. I started to buy this line, but then stopped. There's more to the story, it didn't fit.

"OK." I say slowly. "What, can I ask, were you discussing?" I keep looking back and forth to each of them for some new indication. So far, they're holding their positions.

"I mean, was it important? You stopped when I came in. What were you talking about?" I waited.

Now they all looked back and forth at each other and I swear, if I was a cop, I'd arrest all three of them right now. I wouldn't read them their rights or nothing. I'd just start beating them.

"Nothing. Really, nothing. Just the usual. Nothing important." This was from Bultowski, but he looking at the floor again.

"Officially freaked out now. That's it. I'm taking off. Call me if you decide to let me in on this. Good luck dealing with it. I'll check in later to see if you guys made it. Bye, bye."

I meant it. I'd seen too many of those movies where the guy didn't take the hint and the next scene he's lying on the floor with an ax in his back. I turned around got out of there and I'm just driving around now.

I'll pull into this Winchell's and get a donut and some joe. I'm waiting a little longer before I drive by the shop again.


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