I stepped outside for a cigarette. I stood on the sidewalk and watched men cut and fit concrete blocks into the barrier on the other side. Then, an old woman walked up and kicked me in the chest. I almost fell back—would have if the railing behind me hadn’t been there to catch my fall.
“I thought you were a tree,” she said.
She had long, stringy hair. I could see her scalp. She wore round glasses. She punched the air a couple of times in front of me and huffed.
“Why would you think I’m a tree?” I asked.
“You’re tall like a tree.”
“Yes—well, not that tall. Also, I don’t look like a tree.”
“If you were a tree,” she said, then pointed at my cigarette, “you’d be on fire.”
“Yes,” I said—then reminded her, “but I’m not a fucking tree.”
I rubbed my chest. She turned around and front-kicked an actual tree. Had she kicked me that hard? That looked painful. Bark fell in chips around the skirt of the tree’s trunk and she air punched a few more times.
“Are you going to apologize?” I asked.
She spun. “Why?”
“Cause that damn hurt! You can’t go kicking people like that.”
“I didn’t kick you,” she said. “I kicked a tree and that tree became you after the kick.”
I frowned. “So—let me get this right—you’re telling me I was a tree and you kicked me back to life. Can you kick me back? I think I’d rather be a tree.”
“No.” She huffed again and looked at me like I was an absolute fucking idiot. She said, “You weren’t a tree to you. To you, you were you but to me you were a tree—so I’m not going to apologize for kicking a fucking tree.”
And, in case her tone hadn’t reached the finality she was going for, she jumped and did an air kick at the tree behind her. It landed—she fell, and to both of our surprise, the tree instantly transformed into a tall, lanky, mustachioed man with leafy hair who screamed once, looked down, fell back, and had his head run over by a passing truck.