June 12, 2015 by T. Gregory Argall
It was a dark and rainy night.
Okay, it wasn’t raining at that particular moment, but it had been raining early, and most certainly would rain again. And actually, the street was fairly well-lit, but there were still some shadowed storefronts and the alleys were definitely dark …ish. In places.
It was a mostly dark and occasionally rainy night.
As Murray the purse-snatcher ran into the darkened alley (Ha! So there.) his foot splashed into a deep rain puddle (Double ha! So also there.), sending a spray of gritty water up his pant-leg and complicating his plans for delaying laundry until Saturday.
Blocking out thoughts of laundry, Murray the purse-snatcher let his mind wander to the topic that had been occupying most of his attention lately; getting a new nickname. Nearly everyone knew him as Murray the purse-snatcher, which made things rather difficult whenever he tried to deny snatching a purse. He had even considered changing vocations, stealing things other than purses. That would show them. No one would believe that Murray the purse-snatcher stole a car, or a shoe, or some other non-purse-like thing. Still running through the still-darkened alley, Murray the purse-snatcher smiled wryly to himself at that clever idea. Meanwhile, in the back of his mind, a very small voice – the voice that notices things in the world around you while you’re distracted with silly ideas and meaningless pursuits – that voice quietly said, “Who’s that up there?”
Suddenly, from above Murray the purse-snatcher, a gleaming soup ladle plummeted out of the darkness, striking him in the middle of the forehead with a splfloing sound that is difficult to spell, sending him sprawling backwards into a pile of cardboard boxes and soggy garbage bags where he landed hard and awkwardly, his limbs splayed in different directions, like a run-on sentence that had long ago lost its sense of purpose, probably in the first few words.
Dropping from the fire escape above, a large figure landed heavily, crouching on the ground in front of the now-groggy Murray the purse-snatcher. With some strained breathing and determined effort, the shadowed figure stood up, its mostly square shape concealing the fact that it was probably a woman. Maybe. Wide shoulders held a blue-green smock over a green-blue shirt/skirt combination, while orthopedic hosiery was rolled down over swollen ankles above comfortable shoes. A coarse hairnet was pulled down tight across her forehead, above a face like an argument you can’t win.
With a voice like a rusty chain being dragged across gravel, she said, “Do you know who I am?”
“Y-y-y-you’re the Lunchlady!” Murray the purse-snatcher stammered in terror.
“I’m the Lunchlady,” barked the Lunchlady, in a voice like an angry dog choking on a smaller dog with bony bits that caught in its throat.
“I– I just said that,” clarified Murray the purse-snatcher.
“…” said the Lunchlady, with a voice like an old engine that runs rough when idling. “Don’t sass me,” she continued, in a voice like, well, you get the idea, “or I’ll beat you so hard you’ll look like last Wednesday’s sloppy joes.”
“Uh, sorry,” muttered Murray the purse-snatcher. “Sorry.”
“I want you to pass a message on to your criminal friends and underworld buddies,” snarled the Lunchlady.
“We, uh, we don’t really hang out,” explained Murray the purse-snatcher. “I mostly just keep to myself. I read a lot of books, nap sometimes.”
“Just do it!” growled the Lunchlady.
“Sure, no problem,” agreed Murray the purse-snatcher. “I’ll pass on a message. I can do that. Sure thing.”
“Tell them…” mused the growling Lunchlady. “Tell them, this city has a new menu, and the soup of the day is… JUSTICE!”
“Got it,” cowered Murray the purse-snatcher. “Justice soup. I’ll tell them.”
“Good,” frowned the Lunchlady, as she cast her gaze over the darkened alley. “Did you see where my ladle landed?”
Murray the purse-snatcher pointed a shaky finger. “It’s over there, beside those really big rats. Can I go now?”
“Thanks,” coughed the Lunchlady as she retrieved her battle-ladle. “Get out of here.”
Murray the purse-snatcher scrambled away as the Lunchlady considered the fire escape above her. Reaching one arm skyward, her powerful, trunk-like legs pushed her off the ground, sending her upwards. Her reach fell a mere seven feet short of the fire escape and her feet landed on the cold, wet alley floor.
“Screw it,” she muttered in a voice that craved another menthol cigarette, as she lit a menthol cigarette. “Walking’s good enough.”
And she walked out of the alley and into the night.
Try to be nice to each other.