Dear Reader:

The magazine salesman had a desperate look when he stopped me by the lake, measuring my smile and following my steps with a quick skip. The wind lifted his short blond hair, and he moved closer, complaining, “It’s so cold!” He spoke a tornado of venture capital, point systems, and cash, check, or credit card. Then he sat abruptly on the white concrete sidewalk and patted a sunny spot by his knee. “Sit right here,” he said. “I have a deal for you.”

Waving a greasy black laminated business card, he explained that the simple purchase of a magazine subscription could change his life. If I bought just 28 issues of Rolling Stone, he could have his dream sporting-goods store.

“OK,” I said. “Personal check?”

He hugged me. The laminated card hit the small of my back and his breath flooded my collar. My personal check was in his hand.

I continued walking by the lake faster than before.

–Mary Ellen Flannery

Three male teens overheard in a burrito joint by Scott Zacher of Rogers Park:

“You wouldn’t even know it, then bang, I’d blow your head off.”

“No you wouldn’t. I’d go to a mall and you wouldn’t be able to find me.”

“I’d kill you anyway. I hunted pheasants between trees, and I’d find you between people.”

“Well I’d get 50 people that look like me lined up on a football field, and you wouldn’t know which one was me.”

“I don’t care. I would just kill all of you.”