Beefcake burst through the door of Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. He didn’t remove his shoes the way our sign requests. It’s three days away from the summer solstice, and the man is still gadding around in dreadful snowmobile boots.
“Can I help you?”
Beefcake disrespected the barrier imposed by our front counter. He came around behind it, as if it represented nothing to him.
He shouted, “What’s with you!”
He called me a nasty name. Then he grabbed the front of my shirt up by where my collar would be if I had that kind of blouse on. He pushed me—I’d say “slammed” because that sounds more exciting, but really his style of violence was smoother than that—up against the wall. “You break into my property again and that pretty BMW isn’t going to look so pretty anymore.”
He jerked me back and forth, clutching me by the shirt. “And neither will you.”
Then he let go. He didn’t retreat, though. He didn’t even take so much as one small step away from me. His face was less than a foot away, and his pupils darted between my two eyes as if he couldn’t decide which one to concentrate on. “Tell me you understand what I said. Tell me, ‘Henry, I hear you.’”
I heard him.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.