"Well, Mike, what's the tally for this week so far? Teresa asked, with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She then squeezed a lemon wedge all over her pizza slice as her mind wondered over the number that Mike would admit to her.
"Slow week, but then school is out. It will pick up again in about six weeks. Just three so far, but there's two more days left to go for this week. Squeezing lemon juice onto your pizza slice is disgusting, you know?" Mike snapped playfully. He smiled as he spoke. "I am willing to try your crazy lemon juice recipe if you promise to make me some of your chocolate brownies with the peanut butter ingredients.
"It's a deal!" Teresa shot back without having to think. The scene reminded her of when she, herself was once conned in a very similar situation.
Teresa pushed the newspaper towards Mike as he picked up his glass of iced tea.
"You're famous once again," she said. "One day you might pay the price, though."
"If that ever happens, it would still all be worth it. It's so much more therapeutic than seeing a shrink," Mike responded with obvious contentment in his tone. "It's a brutally, addictive contentment, and very affordable, as well. I love it!"
Mike didn't look at the newspaper. There was no need. He was also preoccupied with thinking about his brownies.
"Better jump in the shower, Mike," Teresa said. "Your folks at work will be looking for you in about two hours, and you want to be sure to allow yourself enough time in case you need it."
"The walk to the job is only thirty minutes. If an incident should occur, I'll get there even quicker. Want to come help me get clean?" Mike suggested, hoping that he would catch the fish.
The fish, however, had an appointment at 2:15 pm with the dentist. Well, that is what she had told Mike. The dentist fixes teeth. Teresa was about to purchase something that may occasionally do the opposite!
"See you later tonight, Mike," Teresa yelled to the shadow behind the shower curtain. She could have kept standing there simply to watch Mike shake, rattle and roll. However, Eric Schneir would soon be parked and waiting for her at the nearby Ace Hardware store. A red Honda Element, license plate ending in 1145 would be the vehicle that she should seek. Teresa had no problem locating it.
"Hi Eric," Teresa said as she extended her hand. "You're not at all like I pictured you when we spoke on the phone. I thought that you would be much older. Don't know why?"
"I hope that you like it," Eric offered. He pulled it out of the back seat. "It's as you requested," he said in a booming voice as he placed it into Teresa's hands.
"Speak softly," Teresa remarked. She inspected it, perfect, so smooth! "Thanks so much. He'll love it!" She gave Eric the envelope containing the agreed fee.
Mike left for work just twenty minutes behind Teresa. Not uncommon, he had arrived very early, and decided to sit and eat an ice cream sandwich once he had composed his usual demeanor. He passed through the door of the big facility, and proceeded to the first restroom. He only had to wash and rinse the lipstick from his lips and remove the light tan gloves. The wig had been removed just minutes earlier as he was running. The downtown traffic was thick, and as he ran, he progressed at a faster pace than his traveling cohorts. They mostly were aggravated and mad, but he was glad! He felt great, as his tensions today had found an escape.
"Well, the birthday boy has made his entrance!" Jud exclaimed. "You don't work tomorrow, so go celebrate the birthday, bud. Just don't drive, though. The "Windshield Warrior" struck again yesterday, close to here. It's on page 4 in today's newspaper. If you need to drive, just don't honk the horn. That's how she picks you out. Weird, some say a strong woman or maybe a hippie-type guy. You know about it? A sort of pedestrian rage..."
"Oh, I heard about it. That's why I will celebrate tomorrow on the other side of town. Sounds like someone is trying to create an urban legend or a folk hero. I mean really, a car-destroying maniac in a downtown scene is pretty outrageous. Next, the alligators will be blocking the left lanes," Mike mocked.
"Well, young man, tomorrow you'll be a year older," Cheryl applauded. "So, Happy Birthday one day early!"
Mike walked home very satisfied. The work shift had been pleasant, and his coworkers had been, as well. Traffic was light on the downtown streets, and now he found himself to be the turtle of his traveling cohorts. The tables had turned, and so also had his demeanor. The thirty minute walk was pleasant and his soul felt relaxed. He greeted seven people, and conversed with one while waiting to cross the street. This was a part of the reason that he enjoyed working the evening shift. The other part was the easy ability to relieve his stress and to do his share in helping to make the world right. After all, he was a world citizen, wasn't he?
Hello, honey, I'm home. It's me," Mike announced as he made his entrance.
"Come and sit down with me. A great movie is just about to start. I won't say which one. I'll let it surprise you. Let me get you a beer. I have a small pizza ready to pop into the oven, and in just a few minutes, at midnight, I can give you your birthday present. I think you will really like it. Oh, your sister called earlier to wish you a Happy Birthday. She said she would call you tomorrow on the correct day. So, are you feeling relaxed tonight?"
"You bet. No meds tonight for me. Life is good!" Mike replied with a happy smile.
"What kind of car today, then?"
"Blue Ford," Mike said proudly.
"No, what kind? Newer or older? I want to know the class of the trash."
Mike's beamed. "Newer, so it was easy; little chance of the driver giving pursuit. It's the older cars that seem to harbor the occasional chasers. He honked the horn over and over for no good reason, so I did the usual routine. I just pounded the windshield with my hammer as I kept yelling 'jackass, jackass', over and over.
I took out one of the rear view mirrors, as well. It felt great! I feel great! It should be in the newspaper tomorrow. Once enough windshields get busted, people will think twice about honking the horn. I'll always rotate my travel routes, and will occasionally go to different sections of the city.
"Then, Mike, it will be all done, all accomplished and all achieved?" Teresa offered hopefully.
"No, of course not. This patriot does not rest! A car sitting at a green traffic light while the driver texts messages will be 'targeted'. It is my next calling, Teresa. These assignments are my passion!
"I'll get us the pizza," Teresa said. "Go sit down. The movie is about to begin.
Teresa returned from the kitchen with both pizza and present. Mike pulled his gift out of its wrapping. The heavy, metal cane was splendid, but it was also engraved! It read "Big Stick."
"It was Teddy Roosevelt's campaign slogan, you know? 'Speak softly and carry a big stick.' Why, you truly are a patriot!" Teresa remarked proudly.
Mike couldn't wait to exercise his grand big stick. What a way to celebrate his birthday! He could practice a slight limp. It would be easy and would help with his disguise. Teresa was really great. What a thoughtful gift!
"Let's start on the pizza, Mike."
"You bet," Mike said sporting a wide grin. "Honey, please pass me a lemon wedge, would you?"
Teresa now displayed a wide grin, as well.