A Huntsman

Andrea weaves down the grimy, littered sidewalk. The wind scoots paper bags and rolls empty bottles into the gutter. She loves stormy weather, except for the thunder. As if on command, Flash. Crack. Boom. The sky illuminates. She can see the flowers in a second-floor window box ahead. Daisies with drooping faces turned downward. Watching. The thunderclap twists her guts into a pretzel and the pound, pound, pound of her heartbeat in her ears makes it worse.

Andy, you’re fine. Nothing is wrong, your mind is just going on an imaginary horror ride. You’re going to hurl, girl. Calm down. In her head she screams, ZEN! Give me fucking Zen.

As she unclenches her jaw, she hears, “Watch out, good lady. There’s a wolf lurking.” An ancient fellow with a grizzled beard and dirty face wags a gnarled index finger. “Take heed. He can be a vicious beast who will eat up your life in one gulp.”

Andrea passes with knitted brows, a hesitant smile, and a nod. She glimpses a shadow as another flash lights up the night.

It’s nothing, girl. You got this.

A massive slash of light cuts the sky in two, above and below. Three vertical spears pierce the tops of the buildings ahead. With the next strike, Andrea looks back at the flower box and the wilting faces are on a man. Is this the wolf who would do a good lady harm? Strangely, her first thought is the old man wasn’t crazy after all. Her second thought is to drop her groceries and run, but this wolf is upon her before she can release the bags. He looks crazed with his coke bottle glasses, saucer eyes, and snarling face. A predatory beast.

Andrea jumps to the side. Mixed martial arts training prepared her for evasive movements. Still shocked it worked, she darts down the alley. He growls as he huffs after her, jagged toothed mouth opens wide. He paws at her, smashing her in the ribs. She avoids his grasp and runs faster as he stumbles forward into the side of a building, but is right back in chase. She’s forgotten she is still holding the groceries.

Andrea drops the bags, bends down, and bowls a melon at his feet. He goes down like a felled tree. Timber!, she thinks. He springs up and charges like a bull. He staggers, but does not go down and is right back at her heels. Formulating a new tactic, she drops to the ground swinging her purse at his feet like a whip. Her strike is good. He sails into the side of a dumpster with a heavy clunk. The wolf rises with blood running into both eyes. The glasses are gone. The rage is not. He stoops and picks up her cheesesteak from the scattered mess of groceries.

For later, he thinks, as he sniffs and puts it into his pocket. “Dessert first, tonight!” he calls, and storms toward her.

BOOM. This time it is not thunder. This boom ends his hunt. She watches the blood run along sidewalk cracks and spread into a crimson spiderweb. Andrea retrieves her cheesesteak. Her nostrils fill with flavors, her mouth waters, and she takes a bite.

With a heavy sigh she thinks, Never mess with a girl’s dinner. Especially a sandwich from Grandma’s bodega.

He thought she was just a little girlie, a temptation, a target, a victim, but she is a huntsman with the heart of Artemis.