The Widow Murphy leaned over the stroller and smiled. She liked taking care of Alvin while his mother was absent. Alvin’s mother was testing perfume. The Widow smiled again. Like a pitcher throwing a change-up after his fastball. There was a certain kindness in the widow’s smile. Maybe it was the dentures. Produced by an old man from Port Elgin. Near the ball park. The Widow’s long black skirt was waving like curtains. Opening night at the Apollo. James Brown and his band of Renown. The floors of the pharmacy were sticky. And the air was blue. Posters hung from the ceiling. Like long lost friends. Gone bad. And the laughter was infectious. Like a yawn in a subway. The air rushed down the long tunnel. Threatening to sweep you under the wheels. And no one could stay out of the way of that beat. And the Widow had been there. Shaking her hair that twisted above her head like a briar. She smiled at all those good times. The honeymoon by the lake. And the full butter moon. The larks that cried out like stray dogs. Chasing sedans down the street. And Alvin was included. What a beautiful child. She suspected. What else could he have been? Came into the world laughing. Like someone had told him a joke at the last minute. Just before his arrival. Maybe it was something about rose petals. Or the smell of urethane. Life was good for little Alvin. That day. Or so he thought. But not this day. Alvin McGuire did not smile back. At the widow. He remembered opening night. How could he forget it? The Widow was always reminding him about it. Every time she stopped his mother so she could sink her face into Alvin’s personal pool. She reminded Alvin. How his head had been so big at his birth that Mrs. McGuire almost died. Mrs. McGuire smiled at these stories. She loved being the star of anyone’s story. The widow continued. Stirring Alvin’s memories. Remember, she always said. How they had to take a saw to your dear mother. Bones. Not some ordinary saw. A chain saw. There were pools of blood on the floor. And splatter marks on the wall. Like the Simpson trial. And screams that would have sent a shiv up your spine. How when little Alvin came into this world one of the doctors thought that it might have been the birth of a new universe. Like Mrs. McGuire’s uterus was a wormhole. And who the hell knew what might fly through it’s gates. The Big Bang. The nurses had laughed. That’s what the nursing staff called Alvin’s conception. The Big Bang. Dr. Sullivan had cracked that one. He was so funny. The nurses declared Especially for a urologist. Just happened to be in the parking lot that morning. When Dr. Williams complained about his golf game. You go to the driving range, Dr. Sullivan suggested. I’ll take care of your schedule this morning. And little Alvin was on that schedule. Like soup on a menu. The Widow reminded little Alvin about that day. Burnt it into his memory. Not because she disliked children. The widow held onto the peculiar philosophy that one could only become successful in life if one survived a major scar during one’s youth. If one was traumatized. Look at Napoleon, she insisted on pointing out. But no one was sure why. Besides being short and prematurely balding, what horrible event in his childhood had little Napoleon to overcome. Still the Widow held onto those three little words. You are different. And the Widow wanted little Alvin McGuire to be successful in life. Normalcy bred only Swiss Guards and accountants. In the Widow’s eyes, Alvin must be remembered. Alvin did not agree. Not that he had a particularly good argument to offer in response to the Widow’s notion. He was too inexperienced for that. The Widow scared him. And that seemed to offer a cautionary note to his response to the old woman. That and the hanging flesh that swayed under her chin. It sent a chill up Alvin’s spine. The old woman was turning into a lizard. Too long in the sun. Too many days on the planet. If I ever get to look that old, shoot me! he might have thought. When the old woman had pushed her attentions on the young child, Alvin was watching a commercial on the television monitor. Behind Mrs. Murphy. Who was looking at various vitamin pills. Mrs. McGuire was always attempting to find ways to extend conscious life. Her conscious life. And she’d heard about the power of vitamins. If only there weren’t so many of them. The commercial Alvin was watching was about taxes. And how people should hire lawyers to protect them against the government. That’s what smart people did. The government was the enemy. Especially the school board. And trigonometry. Had anyone found any use for it? Alvin didn’t know much about trigonometry. Except co-sines of which he had digested a few. His mother often accused him of shitting out tangents. But about smart people. They enjoyed lawyer-client confidentiality. Alvin liked the sound of that. But he didn’t like the idea that he needed a lawyer to protect him. Especially since he hadn’t sent in his income tax form. Since he hadn’t filled out a form. Since he had no income. That wouldn’t have mattered to the government. That’s what folks said. The government seemed determined to squeeze every last nickel out of everyone. And the Widow’s smile? Those weren’t her real teeth. How about her eyes? Were they cameras? Was she secretly an agent for the government? Was this their new tactic? Employ kindly old ladies to harass kids in strollers. And when the old woman reached down with her withered lips to take her accustomed kiss from the small child, Alvin did the only thing he could think of in the circumstances. He spit.