Marty had hoped the phone number would give him an easy lead on the mystery that now crept up behind him like a football player over dried leaves. But instead, it had given the carrot a lead on his nose. And he had no choice but to chase it.
The woman was still half a block ahead, but Marty wasn't about to quicken his speed. Slow speeds were better for a racing mind. Especially when that poor mind was in a head that often crashed into things.
Marty followed her for another two blocks at which point she reached out her arm to flag a cab. Marty gasped, burst into a run, pulled himself back with a leash of caution, and then stumbled over his own feet. And in this strange moment of improvised dance, he somehow made eye contact with the woman who was gazing back at her approaching cab.
His eyes widened. His jaw coordinated with his eyebrows. And his arms swung as if to leave while his body remained facing forward. He froze. The girl appeared thoughtful and concerned for a half second before strictly deciding against all contact, and staring wildly at the ground as her hands moved for the door handle.
Marty stumbled forth.
"Excuse me," he said from the corner of his mouth. He paused. "If you wouldn't mind."
The woman opened the cab door. "I'm sorry?" she quested, as if not sure which language to speak.
And now it was time for Marty's mind to come forth with a brilliant idea. He licked his lips. The drum roll in his mind turned into a tribal beat of sacrifice. He nodded. Better settle with ambiguous and call it art.
"Are you forgetting something?" he asked.
"Did you drop...something?"
She hesitated with the door. "Did you find something of mine?"
"Um, yes. Quite positive you dropped something."
She nodded, and moved forward. Then she jolted to a stop. "Well, what is it?"
Marty raised a finger. "Oh. Uh, well I didn't pick it up. It's uh...back there. Just there. A block away."
Anger narrowed her eyes, and she tilted her head on one side. "What did I drop?" she demanded.
"I didn't get a good look at it...but, uh..."
Marty pulled off his metaphorical blind fold and realized how far from the mark he truly was. Right. There it was. The dead end. Two inches in front of his face. Time to pull it into reverse. Or rather, whatever direction would best cushion his momentum.
"Oh, you thought I was referring to a materialistic item," he huffed. "Alas, it is not as easy as that to retrieve. You cannot walk back there and reclaim it."
The girl was a poster of disbelief. Her face was painted loudly with you-can’t-be-serious. Her eyes were wide as if searching for intelligence in a sea of youtube videos. And her finger was pointed at him as if she was attempting to match him up with a figure in her field guide.
Marty was on his way. “Don’t you see? Here I’ve got you worried that you left behind a worthless item of consumerist pride. But no, I am asking you to think deeper than that! To truly realize what you have left behind.”
Marty was in the throes of his speech and had somehow managed to get closer without triggering any pepper spray. The girl was shocked, but beginning to come over it.
“Do you know what it is that you left behind?” he asked.
She shook her head. Ironically, this was the first affirmative sign she had given.
Marty leaned in real close. His eyes met hers with conviction. “Possibilities,” he hissed. “You just walked past a million possibilities.”
The girl blinked. Then she reached again for the cab door.
Marty watched her with narrowed eyes. “That cab will take you away from here. It’ll take you back to the life you’ve always lived. It’ll bypass the possibilities.”
The woman finally took a breath enough to speak. “I think I’m about to be late…” she said as if she was really about to be sick.
“Late for what?” cried Marty, spinning on his heel and raising his arms to the heavens. “The only thing you’re late for is now!”
The woman swallowed. “I see. And I am going to use this moment to get into my cab.”
“No, hold on,” said a strong East Indian accent.
Marty froze, and turned.
A middle aged man with a bright yellow shirt was leaning against the cab. “I want to see the rest of his performance.”
Marty blinked. The man was one hundred percent sincere. But what caused Marty to experience the most dangerous confidence boost was identifying the man as the cab driver.
“At last! Somebody who appreciates the arts!” cried Marty, hoping no artists were nearby.
The cab driver bobbed his head. The woman took a shaky breath.
“Is that what you are?” she asked. “An…artist?” Marty couldn’t tell if she was insulting him or everyone who called themselves an artist.
“I am but a human as yourself,” announced Marty in his humblest manner.
The cab driver laughed. The woman sighed. And a voice cried from a second story office room: “Get a job!”
Marty looked up but it was too late. The stapler smacked him directly in the back of the head. But what was far more amusing was whose arms he landed in as he stumbled forward.
The cab driver started giggling.