Encounters:
Mikey and the Housewife

"No honey, I am not going to buy that for you," the woman who was blocking the milk cooler said into her pink phone. After a pause, she added, "Because it's too expensive and you have a roomful of things you don't play with now."

Mikey waited patiently for her to finish her conversation or at least move on. He noticed that humans had a tendency to forget there was a whole world of activity going on around them when they started talking on their cell phones. It wasn't as though he could push past her either; drawing any kind of attention to himself was something he'd been trained to avoid since an early age.

Pulling the hood on his sweatshirt further over his head, Mikey pretended to be picking through the apples as he waited for her to move. He hadn't realized that the carton of milk he'd polished off with his cookies was the last one until he'd started looking for more. If Raph got up in the morning and didn't have milk for his cereal, Mikey would spend the entire day trying to dodge headlocks and noogies.

"I do not want you to pay me back for it," the woman said, finally moving out of the way. "Save your money for something more important. Elizabeth's parents may have the money to spend on that kind of stuff, but we don't and you are not going to get into the habit of trying to keep up with your friend."

Mikey slid over to the cooler and grabbed a gallon of milk, wondering if the woman even realized that she was telling the entire grocery her business. A quick glance through well trained eyes had told him the woman was probably in her forties, about five feet five in height, and close to a hundred twenty pounds. She had a blond pony-tail pulled through the back of a ball cap and was wearing workout clothes.

Grabbing a couple of other items that they needed, Mikey sauntered up to the check-out and set a bill on the counter while the clerk rang up his purchases. As Mikey headed out of the exit with his sacks, he saw the woman coming towards the front while tucking her cell phone into the purse that dangled loosely from her arm.

Once he was outside, Mikey didn't think much more about the woman other than to notice a dark blue Honda parked a half a block from the grocery. It was in the opposite direction from where he was headed and he figured it belonged to her.

Reaching into a bag Mikey grabbed an apple, rubbed it on his sweatshirt, and took a big bite. It was fresh and juicy and he was glad he'd bought several because they were Leo's favorite.

A high pitched strangled scream stopped the apple partway to his mouth and Mikey spun around to see the woman from the grocery struggling with a man who had a grip on her purse.

Tossing his bags aside, Mikey raced down the sidewalk, partly wishing the woman would let go of the purse so she wouldn't get hurt. Just as the thought crossed his mind, the mugger lifted a gun and as the woman tried to fall away from him, he pulled the trigger.

"No!" Mikey shouted, seeing the woman collapse on the sidewalk.

The mugger turned partway around when Mikey yelled. His gun came up again and he fired at the form barreling towards him.

Mikey leaped to the side as the mugger shot at him, doing a quick handspring that put him behind a mailbox. The mugger fired once more and then took off running.

Jumping out from his protective barrier, Mikey saw the man turn a corner a full block away, the woman's purse dangling from his hand.

"Help me," the woman's feeble call drew his attention and Mikey turned towards her, kneeling on the sidewalk at her side.

"Don't move," Mikey said, his voice firm and full of assurance.

"Sh . . . shot. He shot me," she stuttered, staring up at him with wide brown eyes.

"Yes, let me look okay?" Mikey placed one hand behind her head, holding her still so that she would stop trying to sit up.

There was blood on her left shoulder and Mikey quickly unzipped her work out jacket, flipping it open. A small ragged hole where the bullet had pierced her skin was just below her collar bone, but when Mikey gently felt around on her back he couldn't find a corresponding exit wound.

The door to the grocery opened and the clerk stepped out, timidly looking around. When he saw the pair on the sidewalk, his mouth opened in a big 'O' but no words came out.

"Call an ambulance!" Mikey yelled at him.

Scrambling for the door, the clerk ran back inside and Mikey only hoped he was making the phone call and not burrowing into a hiding spot.

Kissing anonymity good-bye, Mikey jerked his sweatshirt off, exposing his face to anyone who wanted to look. Very carefully, he folded it over her wound and applied pressure.

The woman was still staring at him but her expression didn't change much when she saw that her rescuer was a giant turtle. Mikey attributed that to shock and hoped the ambulance would arrive soon.

"You're going to be fine," Mikey assured her. "The gun was a twenty-five; a really low caliber hand gun. The bullet is still in your shoulder because that kind of gun isn't very strong. I'm just stopping the bleeding; when the paramedics get here they'll bandage you up and take you to the hospital."

"Hurts," she said with a grimace.

"Yeah, I'll bet it does," Mikey told her with a small smile. "Kinda stings and burns along with feeling like somebody punched you really hard."

"You've been shot before," she said as she started to shiver.

Mikey peeled off the big t-shirt he'd been wearing under the sweatshirt and made a quick swap. Maintaining one hand on the shirt as he pressed it to her wound, he carefully spread the sweatshirt over her. He knew he had to keep her warm and calm; the wound itself didn't appear to be severe, but if she succumbed to shock it could kill her.

"I've been shot a couple of times," Mikey said, catching her eyes again and giving her something to focus on. "Kinda unlucky that way."

"Was it because of the way you look?" the woman asked.

Mikey shrugged. "Sorta. The bad guys don't like me and my bro's too much 'cause we try to stop them from doing stuff like this. Sorry I was so slow."

"No, you saved me," the woman said, trying to lift a hand towards him.

Reaching over, Mikey patted her arm back down and readjusted the sweatshirt. "Don't move," he said in mild reproach. "I got the bleeding to stop and you'd better not mess up my handy-work. What's your name?"

With a smile, she said, "Ruth. What's yours?"

"Michelangelo, but people just call me Mikey," he told her. "Hang on a sec, okay? I don't know if that clerk called anybody 'cause they sure are taking a long time to get here."

"Don't leave me!" Ruth said, the smile sliding from her face.

"I won't," Mikey reassured her. He dug out his shell cell and showed it to her.

When Ruth settled again, Mikey punched 911 into his phone and waited. An emergency operator finally answered his call and told him that an ambulance had already been dispatched but had been slowed by traffic. The operator asked if he'd like for her to stay on the line with him while he waited, but he told her no and hung up.

"The ambulance is coming, it just got caught in traffic," Mikey said, winking at Ruth. "That's New York for you. I guess you're stuck with me for a bit longer. Can I ask you something?"

Ruth swallowed, her face shifting a bit to indicate she was still in pain, before she said, "Sure."

"How come you didn't just give him your purse?" Mikey asked. "Was something really valuable in there?"

Tears sprang to the corners of her eyes and Mikey wished he hadn't asked the question.

"Pictures," she whispered hoarsely. Clearing her throat, she said, "I only had five dollars and a credit card in my purse and he was welcome to that. But there were pictures of my babies in my billfold; pictures I don't have duplicates of. I kept meaning to copy them, but raising three kids takes time and I kept forgetting."

"You don't look old enough to have three kids," Mikey lied; a soft grin on his face.

"Liar," Ruth said, calling him on it.

"What are their names?" Mikey was glad to see the tears drying up.

"Sharon is my oldest; she's twelve going on twenty-three," Ruth said, laughing. "Brandon is nine and a future big leaguer. Jacob is six and will probably grow up to be a comedian."

"Sounds like you have your hands full," Mikey said.

Ruth sighed and then grimaced as the movement reminded her of why she was lying on her back on the dirty pavement. Mikey gently rubbed her arm, relaxing and reassuring her all at once.

"I quit my job when I had Sharon," Ruth said. "My husband and I agreed that I would be a stay at home mom. We've had to cut back on a lot of things, but my being there for my children is more important to us than material stuff. I'm so stupid; I should have just let go of the damn purse. If I were dead, my babies would have to grow up without a mother."

"You aren't dead," Mikey said, his tone strong. "You are gonna be just fine and your kids will have their mom back in one piece really soon. This is one of those things life throws at us; we learn from it and we're stronger when it's over."

"You're a philosopher," Ruth said, her eyes softening as she looked at him.

A siren sounded in the distance and Mikey glanced up. Any moment now, people would start to come out to see what was happening, the siren assuring them that the gunfire was over.

Mikey gently lifted Ruth's hand and placed it on the shirt. "I guess you know that's my signal to leave."

Ruth nodded as Mikey tucked the sweatshirt around her and brushed the hair from her eyes before getting to his feet.

"Mikey," Ruth called, watching him stand.

"Yeah?" Mikey stopped to look down at her.

"Are you real?" Ruth asked.

Mikey laughed. "Yep, I'm real. It'd be nice if that could be our secret though."

Ruth smiled. "Who am I going to tell? They'd all think I was delusional."

With a quick wave, Mikey sped off, taking to the rooftops as soon as he was out of sight. Squatting on the ledge of a nearby building, Mikey watched the ambulance pull up and the grocery clerk come out once more.

Sure that Ruth was in good hands, Mikey turned away from the scene and began to run, leaping from building to building. He still needed to replace Raph's milk before he went home, but before he did that, there was something of a higher priority he meant to take care of.

Light was streaming through the hospital window when Ruth awoke. There was a mild ache in her shoulder and when she looked around, she saw her husband asleep in a nearby armchair.

On the lap table near her good arm was a tray of breakfast items and a cup full of water. Lifting her head, Ruth took a long sip through the straw before returning the cup to the table. She noticed that someone had placed a newspaper near the tray and that they'd drawn arrows pointing to an article on the front page.

Glancing at her husband, Ruth lifted the paper noiselessly so as not to wake him. The headline read 'MUGGER CAUGHT'.

Ruth's eyes slid over the article swiftly. Someone had managed to waylay the man suspected in the attack on her, leaving him trussed up in an alley, his gun still in his pocket. The mug shot of the man told Ruth that he was indeed her assailant.

At the bottom of the article, someone had written 'Drawer'.

Setting the paper down, Ruth frowned. There was nothing but a hospital monitor to her left, but the little nightstand on her right had one drawer in it, meant for personal items.

Reaching over, Ruth pulled the drawer open slowly. Tucked inside was her purse.

Opening it quickly, Ruth found her billfold and all of her children's pictures, completely intact. A tiny note was folded up amongst them, and Ruth flipped it open.

"I'm still a figment of your imagination – M"

Ruth's laughter woke her husband.