Stranger

Lily wrestled with what to do. Walk towards the front of the Wal-Mart? What would Brandon do? Darlene stood cross-armed in front of Lily as if daring her to deny hitting the LTD’s massive right door.

Lily felt the morning sun now mocked her. The March wind continued to whip napkins from inside the LTD’s opened door. They fluttered insanely over the black asphalt of the parking lot in ridicule. Lily felt pierced by the contrast of brilliant blue light above and the faded black of Brandon’s AC/DC t-shirt. And the white napkins continued to flutter from the car.

“Brandon, where are my pajamas?”

“I ain’t got’em yet. I left my wallet in the car. I was just coming to get it when I seen this,” Brandon said, staring at Lily.

“Lady, you done got yourself in a mess. What you gone do about our door?”

“Brandon, listen. In short, I’m not going to do anything about your door. I was parked here when you pulled in beside me. As I was preparing to get out, I noticed your girlfriend here and I watched her for a moment before I got out of my car,” Lily said.

“Lady, who talks like you? What kind of person are you who watches people who pull in a parking space they have as much a right to as you?” Brandon interrupted.

“You watched me, lady? That’s kind of creepy. Then you hit my car door,” Darlene said. “You’re strange.”

“I was simply paying attention to my surroundings,” Lily said.

“Don’t sound like it, lady,” Brandon interrupted. “If you’d been paying attention, you wouldn’a hit our car door. Now, what you gone do about it? That’s what we want to know now.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I’m going into the store. I’m sure they have cameras. We can straighten this out. I’ll prove to you I did not hit your car. You are quite mistaken,” Lily said.

“You’re strange, lady. What’re you doing here, anyway?” Brandon said, as Lily began to move towards the store.

“I really don’t think that’s your concern,” Lily said.

“But I’m going inside. I’ll find the manager. I’m sure the store has cameras. That’ll put an end to this foolishness,” Lily said. Immediately she regretted her words.

“Who you callin’ a fool, lady?” Darlene erupted. “I knew you thought you was special when you hit my door with your little rich lady car.”

“I did not call you a fool. I only said this conversation is foolishness. And I’m neither special nor rich. I teach English at Covenant, and I’ve had this car for years,” Lily said in defense.

“I figured you thought you was smarter’n me. That’s why come you hit my car door,” Darlene continued.

“I’m going inside now,” Lily said. She avoided looking at Darlene as she sidled past Brandon, making her way more towards the store, regretting now the great distance with each heavy step.

“You’re strange, lady. We ain’t gone forget about you, believe it,” Darlene said. “We know where you work and what you drive. We been in Glim all our lives. Odds are we know lots of folks at that school.”

Lily continued walking. When she approached the sliding glass doors, she caught her reflection. Neither Darlene nor Brandon was behind her. They had not followed her into the store at all. The Wal-Mart doors slid open. Lily became aware of how hard she’d been walking when she stepped on the filthy gray doormat inside the store. She was suddenly disoriented. Why had she come to the store? She knew she had written on a Post-it items to pick up, but she could not recall any of them. An old man in a blue vest standing by some shopping carts spoke to her.

“Ma’am, may I help you find something?” he asked.

“Oh, good morning. I know this sounds strange, but I cannot remember what I came for,” Lily said.

The old man smiled. “Young lady, you’ll say that a lot more the longer you live.”

Lily turned around and looked at her car across the parking lot. It sat there undisturbed. There was no sight of Brandon, Darlene, or the LTD. Lily walked past the old man in the blue vest. He was talking with another employee about Lily. Lily overheard him say, “Strange folks around here some days.”

But That’s Not It, You See

Saturday morning near 9:30 Lily pulled into Glim’s Wal-Mart parking lot. She needed ingredients for salads, as well as apples and bananas. She had slept well Friday night. She felt rested and her hips did not hurt, as they often did.

March was cool in GA, similar to late fall, but with fewer colors. The sun shone brilliantly in the cerulean sky. Lily liked the feel of the morning spring sun on her skin. She was eager to walk.

She parked at the farthest end of the parking lot from the store. She could then walk the breadth of the Wal-Mart parking lot, feel the sun and the light March wind brush her face.

She shifted the car into park and reached over to the passenger seat for her purse. When she grabbed it and turned to open her door, a massive brown 4-door Ford LTD from the 1980s rocked into the parking space beside her.

A young man and young woman, both smoking, were in the front seats. All four windows were rolled down. Cigarette smoke billowed from the car. The young man driving appeared to be in his thirties. He had brown hair that curled in the back. He was very thin. He wore a black T-shirt with faded raised letters that read AC/DC.

He pulled the massive Ford into the space so quickly that it rocked when he stopped it. He had rammed the transmission into park. He exploded from his side of the car and walked with rigid wooden steps towards the front of Wal-Mart. He appeared jilted.

“The fleece ones!” the young woman from the front passenger’s seat screamed at him. The young man was already several paces through the parking lot.

“Brandon! You hear me?” she shouted.

Lily looked at the young woman from the inside of her car. The woman appeared to Lily to be about the same age as the man, probably in her thirties. She had her right arm thrust out of the right side of the car. She flicked cigarette ashes with her thumb and middle finger. Lily watched ash float across the parking lot before it landed on the asphalt.

The young woman was frustrated, but did not appear to be leaving the car. She inhaled deeply on her cigarette and thrust her arm back out the rolled-down car window, and flicked ash constantly between her thumb and middle finger. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back upon the cracked upholstery inside the massive old Ford.

Lily was unsure what to do. She found it difficult to turn her face away and not stare at the woman and their squabble.

The woman’s right ear had four silver hoops piercing its upper regions, and her black hair was pulled back into a greasy ponytail. Lily thought the young woman was going to fall asleep with the cigarette ash still burning in her right hand hanging from the passenger-side window.

Lily clutched her purse again and opened her car door carefully, trying not to disturb the young woman who seemed to be asleep on the blanched headrest. Lily closed her car door and mashed the electronic lock on her keychain, and her car horn honked. Suddenly the young woman’s head sprang up from the sun-faded headrest.

“Hey lady! You hit my car with your door!” the young woman shouted.

“Excuse me?” Lily said, turning to face the woman.

“You heard me, lady. You hit my car with your door!”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I did not,” Lily said.

“You did. I felt it!” The young woman opened the massive door. It squeaked on its hinges and a napkin from the car’s floorboard flew out into the parking lot.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry. But you’re wrong. I was parked here before you and your hus—“Lily said.

“He ain’t my husband, lady. He’s my boyfriend!” the woman shouted.

“Besides, what do you know about it? You think you’re special?” The young woman continued to shout.

“No ma’am. Not at all. I was just saying that I was parked here when you and your, um, boyfriend pulled up and I saw you both,” Lily explained.

“What does this mean, lady, that you saw us both? You think we’re some kind of freaks or something?”

“No ma’am. I just—“ Lily said.

“Why you keep calling me ‘ma’am’, lady? You think you’re special?”

“Of course not. I just came to the store for some groceries. Then you guys pulled up beside me and…”

“And then you hit my car door! Just wait till Brandon gets back, lady!”

“Ma’am…” Lily said.

“If you call me that again, lady, I’m gone show you ‘ma’am’!”

Lily scanned the parking lot for help but there was none. She had parked this far away from the storefront in order to walk and feel the sun and–

Lily swallowed when she saw Brandon walking towards them. His stiff, long, skinny legs made clapping sounds on the asphalt.

“What is it, Darlene? What’chew doin’ out of the car? This lady botherin’ you?”

“Yes she is! She hit our doggone car door, Brandon. She opened her little car door right into my side when I was sitting here. I bet she thought I was asleep. But I wasn’t. I seen and felt the whole thing!”

“Ma’am, I did not!” Lily protested.

“Lady, you have a habit of damaging other people’s cars?” Brandon asked accusingly.

“Sir, as I told your…Darlene, I did not hit your car. I was parked here first and was about to get out when you pulled in beside me!”

“Free country, lady!” Brandon said. “Now what you gone do about the damage? That’s what I want to know.”

“There is no damage,” Lily said, glancing at the massive LTD. But there was damage, a lot of damage. It was not from Lily’s door, but the LTD looked as if it had been used on safari trips.

Darlene stood with her arms folded over her chest. She wore a blue and white flannel shirt, ripped and faded jeans, and low top Converse basketball shoes. The cigarette continued to burn in her right hand.

“Well, lady? How ‘bout it? What’chew gone do to make it right?” Brandon said again.

“Nothing. I did nothing wrong. I did not hit your car, and she knows it!” Lily exclaimed. “I will go see if the store has cameras. That will settle this.”

“You ain’t from here, are you lady?” Brandon said.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Lily said, exasperated.

“You think you’re better’n us, don’t you, lady?” Brandon said. “You think you can just damage other folks’ car doors.”

“This is preposterous,” Lily exclaimed. “I was getting out of my car when you pulled up in that tank, and—“

“We drive a tank, huh? So you figured you’d hit it with your rich car door, is that it?” Darlene said.

“That’s not it, don’t you understand?” Lily said.

“We understand, lady. You hit Darlene’s car door. And you think you’re bettern’ we are, and that you ain’t got to pay for it. But you do,” Brandon said.

“But that’s not it, you see. That’s not it at all,” Lily said.

Lily looked up at the sky as if for answers. More napkins fluttered from Darlene’s open door of the LTD. They danced across the black asphalt parking lot as if in mocking.

(To be continued)