Old Dogs

DETREAD


I'm walking
the river path
slowly searching
for some psychic release
from the deepening doldrums
of my everyday funk

ahead
on the right
for an unknown reason
traffic is stacked up
on Riverside Drive
three cars stopped
in the southbound
right-hand lane
narrowing
the 5pm rush hour
to a slow and sluggish
single lane of vehicles
passing by angrily
on the left

as I approach
the cause
of the confusion
I see three women
appraising the second
of stationary autos
apparently discussing
the reason for
their immobility
late on this hectic
Friday afternoon

an increasing column
of livid motorists
creeps by on one side
while cyclist
joggers
and pedestrians
introvertedly drift by
on the other
the women trapped
in the in-between
of indecision

I stroll
leisurely by the trio
but stop
and glance back
watching one of them kneel
beside the left rear tire
off of which I notice
a flap
of partially detached rubber
probably half the circumference
of the still inflated tire
laying nonfunctionally
on the sizzling
summer pavement

I didn't
have a car
or even a license
for that matter
so why
should I care?

resigned
to my intended action
I retrace my steps
and hesitantly advance
to offer my assistance
and after
verifying the problem
convince the driver
to move the crippled vehicle
to the closest side street
where I would gladly
(so I say)
change the tire
to get her on her way
and resume
the flow
of homeward boun
traffic

I hold up
an open hand
and try to assume
an authoritative pose
in order to stop
the lengthening line
of crawling cars
so that she can veer
to the left
onto the sanctuary
of a residential lane

the two
other women
seeing their friend helped
return to their autos
and join the other
fleeing motorists
in the exodus
from the city

apparently
they deemed me
harmless looking
or at least
harmless enough
not to sound any alarms
in their heads
for the safety
of their stranded
colleague

damn

and I thought
that I was one
dangerous
looking
individual
not worthy
of prima facie
trust

another
self image
crushed
all to Hell

she opens
her crowded trunk
and I search through
the cluttered contents
to find the doughnut
of her temporary spare
feeling almost embarrassed
to pull the tiny thing
out into the light
of the waning
day

the operation
is over quickly
and as I wipe
the grease from my hands
she enthusiastically thanks me
and even offers money
which I reject
even though
I haven't a dollar
of my own
to my worthless
unemployed name

we part
company

she back
to her mobile world
of business
to family commute

and me
back to my walk
in an ever tightening
circle of
futility