by Bill Tope
No one even offered me a hand up!
From where I sat, upon my bottom,
I could see dozens of legs urgently
propelling pedestrians’ hips and
torsos along, away from me and past
my collapsed and disheveled self.
I glanced up at the heads of the people,
at the faces painted on their fronts, and
wondered, why doesn’t anyone stop to
lend a hand? Can’t they even speak or
see, or are they merely manikins, going
mindlessly with the flow? I shook the
unsettling thought away.
Alighting from my taxicab, I had embark-
ed upon an ill-advised trek, in heels,
along an icy New York City street. Step-
ping on a slick spot, I had lost my bal-
ance and come tumbling down. My cell
phone had gone in one direction, my
purse in another and I now lay at an awk-
ward angle, affording at least one pervert
an opportunity to stare straight up my
dress. And that one perv was another
woman, so I wasn’t quite sure what said
about the sanctity of New York perver-
As I struggled to my knees and then my
feet, I noticed a canine unit: a policeman
with a dog. The cop pretended not to
see me, so preoccupied was he with con-
suming a bowl of something and shovell-
ing dog biscuits into his animal’s gaping
The dog chewed his Milk Bones the way
my Uncle Amos used to chew an apple:
with his mouth open, his long, pink tongue
protruding, and with his yellowed dentures
clacking. Little bits of apple– or, dog bis-
Regaining my feet, I watched as some face-
less teenager rushed forward to snatch my
purse from the sidewalk where it had landed.
I looked expectantly at the cop, hoping he’d
sic his canine friend on the felon, but he was
too busy brushing and cosseting the bottom-
less pit. The teen was soon lost from sight.
I shook my head, sighed.
Thinking to call a “real” cop, I reached for my
cell, discovered it wasn’t mine; unseen, some-
one had pilfered mine and left another, inferior
phone, in its place. The criminal mind is
surely a mysterious thing, I thought. Perhaps
he was counting on some kind of klepto-karma.
I gazed at this phone, could make neither heads
nor tails of it. The buttons were labelled in a
language unfamiliar to me.
Frustrated, I made tracks for the cop and his
dog. “Hey,” I said loudly, “didn’t you see that guy
grab my purse?” He patted his German Shep-
herd a few more times and finally looked up.
“Nothing I could do,” he said pleasantly, rubbing
his dog’s ears. “What do you mean?” I demand-
ed. “I’m a Brooklyn cop,” he explained. “You’d
need to contact the Manhattan precinct.”
“But, don’t you all have the same job?” I splut-
tered, incredulous. “A Brooklyn cop arresting a
perp in Manhattan? Do you realize the amount
of paperwork that would entail?” He blew out air,
shook his head dismissively. “Ma’am, it just ain’t
“Well, what are you doing in Manhattan if you’re
from Brooklyn?” I asked him next, growing ang-
rier. “The chili at DaVinni’s is to die for!,” he ex-
claimed, and tidily deposited his now-empty bowl
and eating utensils in a trash receptacle. Then,
his lunch now over, took himself and his dog back
to work–in Brooklyn!
At length, I took the phone the thief had left and
pressed what I guessed was the “on” button.
Dead. I closed my eyes, shook my head again in
dismay. I had to find a phone, cancel my cards,
reclaim my life. I tried to ask passersby if I could
borrow their phones, but everyone ignored me.
I made my way down the street, hobbling–I had
sheared off one heel in the fall–and made a
rather feckless spectacle of myself.
Finally, a little blond girl in a green uniform and
sash approached me, asked if I needed help.
“Oh, yes,” I said urgently, “could I borrow your
“Sorry,” she replied. “My mom won’t let me carry
a phone till I’m ten.”
“Then, could you lend me some change? I need
to make some important calls.”
“Sure, Lady, the Girl Scouts will help anyone in
need!” And she gave me a handful of silver.
“Thank you,” I said effusively, grateful for at least
one thoughtful person in the city. “Would you sign
this?” she asked, offering up a form of some sort,
as well as a pen. “What is it?” I asked her.
“It’s to document that I performed a good deed,”
she explained. “The more good deeds I do,
the more points I get. I can even win a trip to
“Oh! Sure, of course,” and I scribbled my name
and filled in the other demographics listed at the
bottom of the document. “You’re an industrious
little girl,” I told her approvingly. “What’s your
name?” She told me her name was Heidi.
“The Girl Scouts are always prepared,” she in-
formed me somberly.
Clutching the coins in my fist, I finally discovered
the last working pay phone in Manhattan. I made
the calls, contacted the bank, the card companies,
my husband, and arranged for my rescue from
It wasn’t until nearly a month later that I was made
aware of what I had actually signed. I was at work,
at a high rise in the Bronx, where I manage the
office for a legal firm, when a delivery man turned
up at my desk and asked, “Where would you like
the cookies, Ma’am?”
Cookies? I wondered, then realized that my hus-
band had probably ordered some Girl Scout
Cookies and sent them to the firm for me and
my staff. It was that time of year. He knew we all
loved them; I mean, who doesn’t? “Just put them
anywhere,” I told him. “Right here, on my desk,”
I said, patting the surface. “Yes, Ma’am.”
When I returned from lunch, an hour later, the
whole office was in an uproar. I gaped: boxes
of Girl Scout Cookies were everywhere! They
were stacked a dozen deep on not just my desk,
but every desk. There were hundreds upon hun-
dreds of boxes; they were like edible tribbles.
“This is for you, Boss,” said Alice, one of my staff,
nibbling a cookie guiltily. I extended my hand and
pulled in a billing statement for 800 boxes of Girl
Scout Cookies, in the sum of $4,000. A thank
you note was attached, signed by my erstwhile
savior–Heidi: “Thank you for buying all the
cookies. I was going to sell you a thousand boxes
but I decided to take it easy on you since you
weren’t having a very good day. Besides, repeat-
customers and word-of-mouth is our business
model. PS: I’m going to Disney World!” I
took a great breath, released it, then smiled wryly,
bit into a Trefoil. “Industrious indeed,” I muttered.
“And you certainly were prepared, Heidi. You little….shit!