I drove into the parking space just as the red pick-up pulled out next to me and turned sharply, clipping the small car next to it so hard it rocked on its wheels. The pick-up idled in the cold, white vapor sputtering from the exhaust pipe. Inside, spattered windows rolled tight, the man and woman looked down at the scraped Ford. There was discussion. Mouths moved behind windows. They looked, talked some more, laughed.

I watched the pick-up drive slowly away.

I stood outside my mini-van and looked hard at the truck’s license plate as it drove up the lane, searing the letters and numbers onto my brain. And then I ran through slush, across ice and into SuperSaver. Tossing my purse onto crates of tomato juice stacked high, I rifled, searching for a pen and scrap paper. I wrote the note on the back of a used envelope, paper splayed across cans, and hurried back outside to place it on the damaged car’s windshield.

The truth is, I couldn’t get myself into that store fast enough to write the vigilante note. It felt good. I was pleased with myself. They deserved it, that couple. They’d done something wrong and had even had the gall to laugh about it. They’d looked like the type who’d do such a thing: unkempt, rough around the edges. Justice needed to be served, and I was the one to do it.

Halfway across the parking lot, note in hand, I stopped. The pick-up truck woman stood in front of the little blue Ford, hands thrust deep in ragged parka. She surveyed the front bumper. I crumpled the note into my gloved fist and walked past, head down, busied myself in the mini-van as I kept my eyes on the rear-view mirror. The woman sauntered toward the grocery store. One row away sat the dingy red pick-up with the man in the passenger seat.

I stalled a few seconds before following the woman back into the grocery store. In the produce section I plucked six oranges from a pyramid, an avocado, a head of romaine. I pushed my cart toward the onions, checked my list.

“May I have your attention please,” the announcer rang out garbled. I paused. “Will the owner of a dark blue Ford, license plate OGI 782, please come to the customer service counter at the front of the store. The owner of a blue Ford, license plate OGI 782, please see the customer service counter. Thank you.”

Wheeling my cart toward the meat case, I spotted a trash can next to the sausage taste-test display and tossed the crumpled note in with the used toothpicks.

(thanks to beautiful michelle, whose life and words are so very graceful, for this poignant look at humanity.)