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Helping Hand

Phil Temples | Tanvi Chunekar

It was a hot, summer day. The bag of groceries in her hands weighed her down. Even so, the old woman stopped to cast an observing glance in both directions. The self-defense class she had taken recently recommended that senior citizens should try and be more aware of their surroundings—especially of the persons who were in their immediate vicinity. The course emphasized that one must use good judgment in going about one’s everyday chores. It also encouraged the seniors to not take any unnecessary risks. She had learned not to assume that one was necessarily safe in broad daylight in a busy public place.

The neighborhood seemed friendly enough. And the people walking nearby appeared to be a normal cross-section of everyday people that one might expect to find out and about. To her left, walking briskly towards her was a well-dressed businessman in a suit and tie, late 40’s, slightly bald with a moderate build. And off to the right crossing the street, she saw a mother with two children who looked impatient and bored.

She saw two young lovers across the street holding one another, smooching. The woman didn’t necessarily approve of such public behavior. Young people today seemed to have a different set of morals than those of her generation. Still, it was nice to see the two people in love. Gosh, how long had it been since her Johnny had passed away?

Off to her right about twenty feet away she spied a suspicious young man—a hoodlum if ever there was one. He looked to be in his late teens or early twenties. His head was totally shaven; he possessed some sort of wild, checkered tattoo on the back of his skull. The black and white design made her nervous. She had heard stories of Satanists who had carved these sorts of tattoos into their heads. And his ears—his ears were a fright to behold! They held more safety pins than her pincushion. At least, they looked like safety pins; she could not be sure. His nostrils were also pierced. The boy wore a beat-up black leather jacket and baggy pants.

The boy glanced briefly in her direction; then he looked down, as though he had chosen to avoid further eye contact.

The self-defense class teacher warned them about anyone who was oddly dressed, and who stuck out from the crowd — especially someone with sneaky eyes. She was sure that he didn’t want to give his sneaky eyes away by looking at her. She would have to be wary of his presence. She must ensure that others were close-by. She didn’t want him sneaking up on her and assaulting her.

As the woman started across the street, the heel of her shoe snagged a corner of the sidewalk causing her to tumble to the ground. She hit the sidewalk hard; her bag of groceries scattered and her purse went flying. It was a horrible assault on her senses; one moment she was happy and vividly aware of her surroundings, the next she was lying face down on the pavement, dazed and scared. It took her a moment to realize what had happened; the realization of her fall slowed dawned on her.

Am I injured? Is my hip okay? Am I bleeding? I lost my groceries. Where is my purse?

Her heart was racing a mile a minute. She rolled onto her side. She could see the businessman give her a startled glance. For some reason, however, he kept walking and pretended to be unaware of her predicament. The woman and her two kids had passed out of sight. And the young lovers were too involved with one another to take notice of anything else but each other. A sudden panic set in. Where was the hoodlum? Would he choose this moment of vulnerability to attack? Should she cry for help?

“Are you okay, ma’am?” asked the young punk/Satanist. She looked up into the face of a strange, metal-infested, but yet not-uncaring young man. He wore a concerned look on his face.

She did not answer at first.

“You took quite a nasty fall, there. Let me call an ambulance.”

“No—thank you, young man. Please don’t. …”

“Here. Let me give you a hand, then.”

The man extended his arm—then, both arms. He knelt down on the sidewalk and wrapped his arm around her waist and gently lifted her up on her feet.

She was trembling slightly. She wasn’t sure whether it was from the trauma of the fall, or her close contact to this strange, young man.

“My name is William. I’m glad you’re okay.” He added, “I know I probably look really strange to you. But don’t worry though—I’m harmless.”

The woman put aside her prejudice and suspicion and smiled at him.

“Call me Sally,” she replied. “And yes — you do look a little strange to me, William. But, probably no more strange than I did sprawled out all over that sidewalk.”

They both laughed.

About Phil Temples

Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a computer systems administrator at a university. He has had over 115 works of short fiction published in print and online journals.

Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil's full-length murder-mystery novel, “The Winship Affair." He has two books due out this year: a paranormal-horror novel, "Helltown Chronicles" by Eternal Press, and a short story anthology by Big Table Publishing, "Machine Feelings."

Find Phil on his website.

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