The Guides, Agnes

Billy Patrick exits the subway a few blocks from his office and stops off at a bodega to get coffee. Leaving the shop, he spies Agnes at her usual spot on the sidewalk, a slight woman, dressed inappropriately in layers, despite the heat, several large shopping bags surrounding her, rocking slightly and mumbling to herself. Billy takes his change over to drop into her can.

“Morning Agnes,” Billy says, giving her a pleasant smile.

“Mercury in retrograde,” Agnes says. “Planets are out of sync.”

“Take care, Agnes.” Billy starts to head away but Agnes grabs his arm.

“What are you doing?” she says without looking him in the eye.

“I’m headed to work like I always do,” he says.

“Not that way,” Agnes says.

“This is the route I take, Agnes,” Billy says.

“Not today,” she says with force. “Take Second Avenue.”

“That would take me twice as long to get there,” he says.

“You’ve got time,” Agnes replies. “Take Second Avenue.”

This time she looks him in the eye and refuses to release his arm.

“Take Second Avenue,” she says, almost pleading.

Billy pats her hand. “Sure, Agnes, if it’s that important to you. I’ll take Second Avenue.”

“Second Avenue,” Agnes says, nodding as she releases his arm.

“Have a nice day, Agnes,” Billy says as he turns at the corner to reach Second Avenue. When he’s less than a block from his office, he hears a loud explosion and feels the ground shake, and hastens his steps. Rounding the corner he sees a massive fireball rising from what appears to have been a truck parked in front of his building. The entire front of the building has been blown away, including the steps Billy would have been on had he gone his usual route.

He spots a coworker standing nearby, staring in shock at the site and hurries over. “What the hell just happened?”

“Joe Martin,” the coworker says. “That was his truck. They let him go yesterday.”

Billy looks again at the destruction then back in the direction he’d come.

“Agnes,” he says just under his breath.

Billy quickly walks back to the corner where Agnes is still in her place, her arms folded around her, rocking slightly, a half smile on her face. He goes to her.

“You knew something was going to happen, didn’t you, Agnes?” Billy says. She continues to rock, oblivious to his presence. “How did you know?”

“Mercury in ascension,” she says, glancing quickly up at him, then away. “Planets are in sync.”

Billy steps away from Agnes and takes out his phone. He dials his wife, getting her voicemail. “Karen, it’s me. You’re going to hear about a bombing at the office. I wasn’t there. I’m fine.” He looks at Agnes again. “I can’t explain right now, but I’m bringing a guest home with me.”

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