Ladies and gents, boys and girls, gather ‘round the fire place and we’ll toss on some more pre-yule logs. I’d like to tell you a Christmas story. Well it wasn’t actually X-mas, not even the night before, but a post Black-Friday, three week pre-Christmas shopping story from many moons ago and it’s true. The names haven’t been changed, because nobody’s really innocent (except maybe little babies… not all… but most) and besides no names are used anyway.

Bags with varying department store labels are carefully stowed behind the ‘78 El Camino’s seat. Spoils of an impromptu shopping trip, shared with a female friend. Of course this is only the results of round one. The second will commence shortly, favoring a potential for overtime.

Yet a small reprieve is earned. Whilst one obtains needed nourishment for both from the facility’s food court; the other lightens the traveling load. I had been tasked with the latter.

Arc sodium light gleamed off the truck’s two-tone exterior from above. Full dark was still one hour away and yet the shadows arrived early, stretching out to greet the night. Turning back towards the lower entrance of the mall of the valley from whence I came, set to my true task for agreeing to be the package handler. Pulling a cigarette from my breast pocket and casually lighting up. Back then you could smoke inside, but it was a nice evening. So I puffed away on the sidewalk flanked by tall cement columns.

It was an interesting space of time. Those who were coming and going had come and gone. The parking lot was a cemetery with assorted vehicles as markers. Not a soul in sight… aside from the guy who emerged from the darkness on my left.

He looked rough in a ‘I did time or wouldn’t mind doing some’ sorta way. Dressed in a Johnny Cash color collective — toboggan, hooded sweat jacket, jeans all black. Even though I’d sighted him on the peripheral there was still a bit of a start when he spoke, his voice low and mellow- “Hey dude… can I bum a cig?” Nodding I shook a butt out for him. “Oh cowboy killers,” he noted, “living dangerously?” I nodded. Currently and feel I will be even more so momentarily, I thought. “You got a light?” he asked. “Need a kick in the ass to get your lungs going too?” I reply offering my lighter. At this he laughed and lit up, pocketing the lighter.

We both knew what was coming. It’s like a dance — he’s leading and I’m just waiting to follow the steps. After two quick drags he flipped the bummed butt away. His hand changed shape as he slipped it into his pocket and pushed it forward… and here we go. “Man I hate to do this but…” he lowered his voice, “I’m gonna need your wallet.”

A thousand and one fight or flight thoughts in a matter of seconds: run away = get shot? Run back inside = get someone else shot? Fight = win or get shot? Do nothing = get shot? Everything ended with getting shot and I wasn’t in the mood to be shot. So I took the easy way out.

Reaching into my back pocket I produced and presented. “Thanks man!” he said, snatching it up and running across the darkened parking lot. Seconds later- ignition, headlights and then tail lights speeding away; I had been mugged, and that kinda sucked… but not really.

Bear in mind this story is titled “Bifold” so here comes the second fold.

My cash on hand was tucked deep in my right front pocket, my keys in the other. My driver’s license was in my truck (because I don’t need it to walk) in my actual wallet. So wait… then what was given to the career criminal?

A used wallet purchased at Goodwill for 50 cents. Containing $2 in cash and seven dollar-sized dog food coupons, some assorted landscaping business cards, a fake FBI identification card and photos of Lynda Carter, Bill Bixby and David Hasselhoff clipped from the T.V. Guide. All collaborated for just such an occasion.

I stood pondering the thief’s reaction to his “score”, deciding I didn’t care. Finishing my cig, I snubbed and trashed the butt and went inside. Sure I was out $2.50, but nobody got shot.

I welcome almost all questions and comments via FOCUS, or E-mail me at [email protected].

Hope to hear from ya until then try and stay focused. See ya.