The woman waved me down as I was heading to the hardware store. She was pushing one of those brightly-colored plastic toy cars and had a Chihuahua following her, so I figured she was looking for the dog's owner.
I stopped and rolled down the window. She came over. She was neatly and appropriately dressed and seemed friendly enough.
"Hi," she said, "I'm Sheri. I was wondering: do you live around here? Have you seen any unusual cars in the neighborhood, cruising?"
I allowed that, having lived in the neighborhood for only a few weeks, I hadn't noticed which cars were usual and which weren't.
"Oh. Okay." She looked over her shoulder. "I've been noticing a lot of strange cars lately, and I was wondering where they were from."
Crack houses and meth houses have a way of springing up here and there in this town, but I hadn't noticed any weird smells or late-night activity, and said so.
"I didn't mean that," she said, "I think it's the FBI looking for me."
"I'm a paranoid schizophrenic, but I've been on my meds, and my symptoms are controlled, and I really think the FBI is following me. See that Audi? That car doesn't belong in this neighborhood. I think it's FBI."
I did not point out that with the volume of college students in the neighborhood, at least one would come from a family capable of affording an Audi.
"See, I've been working on this research on diseases, and I think the FBI knows about it. Al Gore and I are working on visceral leishmaniasis. I picked up some larvae in my back yard, and I kept them in a petri dish--except it wasn't a petri dish, it was an old pitcher--and they turned into black flies. I'm trying to get the university entomologists to take a look at them, but I can never get through. Anyway, I'm losing the sight in this one eye, and I think it's connected. And then there's that respiratory infection that's been going around--I think there's more to that, too. I'm giving a talk on it next Saturday at the library. It's invitation-only. It's for the children, you know, this awareness of coming plagues."
Just then, a car drove around us and honked. She flipped them off casually and, turning back to me, said with a laugh, "You don't want to mess with me. I'm a direct descendant of Genghis Khan."
I made some noncommittal remark.
She asked then, "What do you do for a living?"
I told the truth.
I wish I'd said "I work for the government."