The first thing I noticed was the mud. More gray than brown. Dried in clumps around her face, blurring the line between her skin and her hair. Layers cracked in the laugh lines that surrounded her eyes. She looked as if she had been living in the swamps for years. The next thing I noticed was her eyes. Beautiful. Urgent. Pleading with me. They had a nearly Asian shape but a crystal blue Nordic color. The shape and the color gave her eyes a wolfen quality. They darted around a bit, studying me in curiosity and around the area to see if anyone else was watching.

She was a wild thing from the mountains. An amazing, untamed beast of a woman plucked from the deepest, darkest parts of the world. Alien to me. Strange and exciting. My heart raced and I felt my hand reach out to see that she was real. How odd and beautiful she was, covered with layers of thick mud, wrapped in a silk kimono and a pair of military issue, steel tipped boots. Not to mention the Aldi shopping bag she carried.


She was probably the oddest looking thing in Marshall Fields.


"Dane?" I heard the voice. I thought nothing of it at first, and then it returned again this time more emphatically. "DANE! "


I shook my head and remembered the cell phone I had lifted to my ear. "Sorry hon. Something uh..., " I stammered, looking for the words. The wild woman's eyes grew large as if to ask me to say nothing. I thought for a moment. "Sorry honey, it's just that old pancreas problem coming back for a minute."


"Will you please get that looked at," the voice scolded.


"Yes." I rolled my eyes at the mud covered woman. She didn't react. "Anyway, I'll make sure that I eat some fruit."


"Okay. See you when you get home."  My wife hung up the phone.


I closed my phone and stared wordlessly at the animal woman. Neither of us said anything, but neither of us moved. Somehow I could feel this was important. She had found me for a reason. Like the different threads of my life had brought me here. Brought me to this moment. To this junction where I could receive her message. It was destiny. My destiny, finally arriving.


So many things began to make sense, standing there in a mall anchor store, staring at this woman from another time, another place. All the love I had missed, the neglected opportunities that seemed to haunt me nightly in my 34th year, the friends that had fallen away - all of it - finally made sense. It all had to happen this way to bring me to this spot, on this night. This was my destiny. This was my purpose. My reason for being. I took a deep breath and prepared to speak, but was stopped by her voice.


"Have you seen a short man about so tall? A little thin on top? Probably wearing a vest?"


I blinked. "I'm.... I'm sorry, what?"


"I'm looking for my accountant, Gordon. He was going to meet me here for dinner. You haven't seen him, have you? Short? Bald? Vest?"


I tried to form the word 'no' but could only stutter for a moment and then shake my head.


She stamped her foot and a little gray cloud flooped up and hit me in the nose. I stifled my cough. "Awww damn it! That son of a bitch is always late." She squatted on the spot and lifted her kimono until I could see her shapely legs and a hint of purple thong. She reached between her legs and pulled out an old time gold watch on a chain, which seemed to be attached to - something down there. She pushed the top and the door swung open. Beethoven's "Für Elise" came tinkling out of the little watch. "CRAP!" She shut the watch and stood up and looked at me. "Listen, if you see that little bald bastard tell him Mirna is looking for him and if he stands me up again this week - I'll slash his tires and shit on his dog."


Then Mirna, the wild, untamed thing, stomped off into the mall, apparently looking for Gordon.


I stood there for another minute, smelling the dust that was still in my nose. I couldn't remember what my wife called me for. My pancreas hurt. After another moment I continued toward the door and stepped out into the suburbs.


I never saw Gordon.