Harry had flown all the way from New England to visit his son, Larry, and Larry’s girlfriend, Charity. Today, Harry left his walker in the narrow hotel room, barely wide enough to get past the bed if you wanted to look out the window or use the small sink. The walker would have been easier on the street, but hard to bring down the four flights. There was no elevator, the historic building was still as it had been during the gold rush of ’06.
They were in the University District of this West Coast City, somewhat reminiscent of Portland, but bigger. Today was Thanksgiving, the street devoid of the usual crowd of students. Even the Vietnamese, Bubble-Tea places were closed. They had just emerged from the vegetarian Vietnamese buffet about a mile from Harry’s hotel, which fortunately was open today.
Harry made good time with the help of his solid hickory cane. He enjoyed getting ahead of his progeny and progeny’s significant other in their 20’s. When Harry had gotten about 30 feet ahead so it was safe to talk privately, Larry said to Charity:
“When it comes to walking, my dad is a flash-in-the-pan. He’s going to tire out soon.”
“Larry, you might find it hard to get an Uber on Thanksgiving,” replied Charity.
“No, I’m going to leave him at a bus stop. We’ll keep walking though, and tell my dad to meet us at the hotel.”
“What!?? Are you crazy?”
Larry grinned, but said nothing. Charity waited, they walking a bit further. Then, as they stepped down the curb to cross a side street, they spotted a bus stop, and at the same time Harry began to slow down as his legs had begun to hurt. When they were across, Charity stopped right there at the corner and faced Larry. With a subtle head motion, she gestured across the wide street, today devoid of traffic.
“Larry, the only people out here besides us are scumbags who are here because no one wants to invite them to a family dinner.”
“Don’t worry,” answered Larry. “My father has street smarts!”
“He can hardly walk, he’ll be a sitting duck!”
“That’s what you think!” Exclaimed Larry. “I’ll bet you as much money as you like my father has so much street smarts that, even half-crippled, he is NOT going to be prey.”
*. * *
Years prior, Larry had poked fun at his dad when he saw Self Defense for Women on Harry’s desk. But simple tactics Harry had gleaned from that book worked, or at least they had for Harry the 3 times during the past 30 years when he had to physically protect himself.
Larry and Charity caught up with Harry just as he got to the bus stop. Harry was surprised that they planned to walk on and leave him here alone, but he was too proud to object.
There were 2 facing benches at the bus stop. Harry sat closest to the curb on the bench facing the direction from which the bus would come. Within a minute or less, 2 young men who did not look like they were going anywhere, sauntered over. They did not sit, but hovered around the bench diagonally across from Harry.
Not showing fear, Harry knew, is essential; but even better is that Harry was temperamentally incapable of feeling afraid. While his brain noted the danger, it calculated strategy. Harry had no stamina, he would have to end a fight fast. In a none-threatening manner, he leaned on his cane slightly forward, alert. He had learned stick-fighting from William C. Phillips, a student of the late Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing.
“Monday my trial starts,” the taller of the two said, “The mother-fucker is still in the hospital.”
“He shoulda just given you the money!” his companion replied.
Ostensibly, they were conversing with each other, but Harry knew they were testing his reaction. He acted disinterested. They went on in the same vein, which just made Harry sense their hesitancy to try him. Still, he wished the bus would come, each minute seemed interminable.
Perhaps he imagined it, but Harry believed that he could manifest thoughts into someone’s mind. So he projected an image of himself as a police decoy. As he did, Harry stole a quick glance toward the first-floor window from which the other cops would be surveilling.
At that moment, from the corner of his eye, Harry caught one of the guys giving the other a quick nudge. Then they started shadow-box sparring, dancing around one another, feigning jabs. As they did, Harry spotted the bus coming. He entered the door and mounted the steps. The two guys — still mock fighting — now looked more like playful pups than like dangerous criminals.
It was a quick ride, maybe a half-mile. Larry and Charity were waiting at the stop near the corner of Harry’s hotel. As Harry disembarked, Larry shot Charity a quick, “I-told-you-so” smile, and said with pride: “I told you my dad has incredible street smarts!”
They visited for an hour, sitting at a table in the hotel dining room, where Harry showed them card tricks, all of which they had seen before. When they left, Harry called his wife, Mildred. After describing the visit, particularly the danger at the bus stop after being abandoned there, Harry said: “I can’t believe how little street smarts our son has!”