Rosie rounded the corner on her pink Schwinn, pumping her legs and picking up speed. Now that they were finally done repaving the bike path, she figured she’d be able to make decent time. She’d had to stay after class a few minutes to get the study guide for tomorrow’s quiz, and she knew she was cutting it close, but never mind. She needed all the hours she could get, and her smock should cover up the pit stains once she got to Cub Foods for her 3 pm shift. Another corner and — oh shit! There was an old lady standing in the middle of the path.
Rosie hit the brakes and skidded to the side, narrowly avoiding a collision. She looked over, fully expecting to get cursed out, but the lady was standing stock still, a dazed expression on her face. Rosie dropped the bike at the side of the path and walked over, “Hey, are you all right?”
The lady turned, glacial blue eyes unfocused, wrinkled hand at her throat.
“I am so sorry. I was going too fast.”
The lady’s eyes darted disconcertingly. She seemed cemented to her spot. Her hair stood up in wild white tufts.
“Can I help you? Maybe you should move over here to the side?” Rosie took the lady’s hand gently and led her to the edge of the path. “Are you lost or something?”
The lady licked her dry lips.
“Do you maybe want something to drink?” Rosie opened her backpack and rummaged around, producing a bottle of water. She unscrewed the cap and held it up to the lady, who took tiny gulps like a baby bird, almost emptying the bottle.
“Thank you, my child,” she said finally, in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper. “You will be rewarded for your kindness.” Then she smiled and squeezed Rosie’s hand. “I must be on my way now.” She turned and started walking in the direction that Rosie had come from.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” called Rosie, diamonds and flower petals trickling from her lips.
Jennifer Hernandez lives in the Minneapolis area where she teaches, writes and dreams of Mexican beaches. Her most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gingerbread House, Mothers Always Write, riverbabble, and World Haiku Review. She has performed her poetry at a non-profit garage, a bike shop filled with taxidermy, and in the kitchen for her children, who are probably her toughest audience.