I was smoothing down a painful foot callous with course-grade sandpaper, sitting atop a red cement picnic table mottled with bird droppings, when my cellphone rang and a woman’s voice said, “This is Chelsea. I broke through the chain link fence.”
I didn’t know anyone named Chelsea but was intrigued. “What chain link fence?” I asked.
“You know, the one that separates the railroad tracks from Centennial Park.”
I happened to be sitting in Centennial Park, so I looked up toward the railroad tracks and sure enough, a young woman with hair dyed bright green stood next to the chain link fence she’d just snipped her way through, waving the bolt cutters above her head.
“I don’t know you,” I confessed over the phone, “but I’m impressed. How did you get my number?”
“You’re not Guy, are you.” Her voice lilted gaily, almost as if she were singing.
“He’s got a face creased like Marlon Brando,” she said. “Watch out for him; if he knows you’re talking to me he might hurt you. He’s wearing a bl with Bambi on the front.”
“I don’t know how you ended up calling me,” I said.
“Just coincidence, I guess,” she said. “God wanted me to, I suppose. Do you believe in God?”
“I believe in God but I’m not sure I believe in you,” I said. “I think I’m going to hang up now.”
“I lost my cat,” she said. “His name is Mister Bejeesus. That’s why I cut through the fence – to try to find him. I seen him crawl under it. He’s a tuxedo cat with long whiskers. Have you seen him around?”
“No,” I said.
Just then I spotted a man wearing a black t-shirt with a picture of Disney’s Bambi emblazoned across the front in neon colors. He was walking across the park lawn carrying an axe in one hand and a dead cat by the tail in the other. He looked like he was 70 years old or so.
I yelled at him: “She’s over there” — and pointed toward the woman.
“Chelsea?” he asked.
“How the hell do you know Chelsea?”
He turned and faced me. He did look a bit like Marlon Brando, if you squinted just right. Brando with an axe.
“I asked you a question,” he said, as if he was a cop. As if I owed him an explanation.
I pocketed my cell phone and headed home, one shoe on and one off. I didn’t look back. And here’s the thing about me: I can always tell when it’s time to head home. And once I know, I find it’s best not to dawdle.