"And so somebody shot at you?"

"That's right. Yep."

"Someone actually engaged a firearm. A gun. With you in the vicinity."

"Sure did. A-and let me tell you, I moved pretty darn fast."

Martin struggled with trying to read the expiration date on the milk. Of course it's encrypted so that you need a degree in statistical databases to tell how it's going to taste... "You hadn't done anything to motivate this behavior?"

"I waved. I mean , I was just sitting in my car. These guys came up and acted like they wanted to talk. Bullet went right across my seat, windows down. Don't you think maybe it's kinda strange?"

"No. Stranger things happen all the time." Just not necessarily to someone you know.

Martin was in the grocery store. "How did you manage to find me, Mac?

Mac seemed briefly mystified; "I saw your car." That's how. Just driving by.

Out of two hundred cars in the lot, amazingly enough. Or can it still be deemed amazing when the idiot savant makes a routine reckoning amidst the gifted wiring of his brain.

"They were black guys."


"I-I'm just saying what they were, not nothing else. I aint saying nothing about all black guys. It's all right for me to say that."

"What you're saying is that you're just being contextual, huh. No more, no less." Martin wasn't sure why he was being so hard on him. The truth was, Mac sort of idolized black people.

"You know me." A shrug, kind of.

Martin feels Mac catch him watching a shopper creeping down their lane past the diet syrups. He has the wavery gait of an elderly man, and more than half his face and all of his skull are wrapped in gauze that's beginning to show need of refreshing--the oozy yellow parts.

"Hey! How you doing? Hot enough for ya?" Mac erupts. Martin wilts.

"I'm doing great today. You fellas gonna make it?"

"You got that right," Mac echoes, leaning a little toward him, but the shopper ambles on. A slight malodorous wift follows.

"Take it easy now--" Mac calls, obviously disappointed by the brevity of the encounter. He leans as if to follow, but Martin stays him with a light grasp.

Whispers "I think its face cancer he's got."

"You shop here a lot, Martin? Kinda outta your way, but hey I don't blame you, get away from the same-old same-old. Plus on this side of the river the prices are better, I don't know why."

The grocery resembled some huge steel barn converted from some other use. This was where the rejects of the community shopped. People you only see at all anywhere at 3 AM. It made Martin skittish, Mac finding him out.

"Just getting a few items." Cans, TV dinners, coffee, more cans. He holds the basket up. "See?"

"Yeah, I see."

"Gotta eat. Gotta get it at the getting place." The silence extends itself uneasily.

"I'm bugging you, aren't I?"

"Mac, don't shit me. Did somebody really shoot at you, or are you just making it up?"

It was a look Martin had never seen before. Quickly backtracking: "I'm just in a shitty mood, OK?"

Mac, slowly edging affable again: "How come?"

Out of the corner of his vision Martin saw the black woman in a plaid short jumpsuit who always smiled and never bathed.

"You ever just hang around people--certain groups of people--just to make yourself feel bad?"

"Gotta think on that one, but I don't believe so."

"Pitiful people, the abused, the ex-abused, the abusers, the just-plain-stupid, the dont-give-a-shits, the congestively heart failed, the throatless, the permanently catherized, the obsessive lotto-scratcher, the mean-as-hell."

"Well. We aint like that, me and you."

"Mac. Do me a favor. I beg you. Do not, repeat, do not tell Kelly you saw me here. Or Gayle either. OK?"

"Don't ever get to see them. Not often enough." Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

"Mac." Martin motioned him closer, and whispered, "Have I ever told you about my sister's embarassing but permanent viral condition of the genitals?"

Many days later Mac was still trying to erase any last doubt that Martin was shitting him.