I navigated my Suburban into the store’s parking lot and slowed as the man in spandex workout shorts flagged me down.
I rolled my window down and waited.
“Hi mayam, Ah have my baby in the truck and mah battery is dead. Can ya’ll help meh?”
I didn’t see a baby, but when I looked toward where he pointed, I saw a baby seat near the curb. It was 8AM and at least 90 degrees. My suspicion peaked, mainly because I’ve heard so many stories of scams involving a baby or a puppy used to lure hapless victims to their deaths.
“No I can’t. I’m meeting a friend inside.”
He looked resigned at my answer.
“But I’ll ask around and see if someone can come help you,” I offered weakly.
He nodded. “Thanks, mayam.”
I found my friend and told her what happened. “That makes me nervous too,” she said. “Doesn’t he have a phone?”
“I guess not? Or maybe he doesn’t know anyone in town?” I looked back through the store door and into the parking lot and wondered why he didn’t call AAA or a friend. He was still standing there, and my eyes flicked over the baby on the curb and the seemingly dead truck.
I approached the store clerk. “Would you be able to send someone to help the man in the parking lot? His truck won’t start.”
She looked uninterested.
“And he has a baby.”
She didn’t look up. “We don’t do that. Maybe someone over there can help.” She beckoned to the store exit.
I approached some customers who were leaving together and explained about the man. I figured if the spandex guy were a serial killer, he’d have trouble taking more than one person and so they’d probably live.
They didn’t look at me either, but said, “No, we don’t have time,” and scurried out the door.
Turned out no one had time or “didn’t do that,” and then it occurred to me that I could help. I had a friend in the store. There were two of us. And the guy was probably just a guy with a baby and a truck that wouldn’t start.
I tapped my friend on the shoulder. “Will you go with me?”
Reluctantly she agreed, and we headed out into the parking lot.
I caught his eye. “We’ll help you.”
“Oh mayam. Thank ya’ll. It’s getting hotter.”
I pulled my car next to his, popped the hood and joined my friend on the curb. I asked if I could hold his baby as he attached jumper cables to my battery, and he seemed grateful.
The little girl, probably nine months or so, didn’t make a sound as I scooped her out of her seat. She seemed sick with a cold and dried snot under her nose. She wore a white eyelet dress splattered with what I supposed was pureed sweet potato. I gathered a collection of baby blankets around her, even if it was 95 degrees outside.
It took two minutes if that. He buckled his daughter into the seat and shook my hand. “Thank you so much, mayam. Ah been out here awhile.”
I said you’re welcome, then wanted to add that I was sorry I suspected you of being a serial killer or using your baby as a decoy or taking so long to help or next time I’ll give the homeless guy a dollar.
But he left, and I didn’t.