I shoo them out of the hospital basement on my way to the change room,
three omega wolf cubs wearing defiance,
(baseball caps backwards, baggy pants, bulky chains securing empty wallets)
in the edgy interval after testosterone, before brains.
As the exit clicks locked behind me, I see them illuminated
by the streetlight, circling like a pack on the shore.
Rummaging through my purse, I find car keys instead of my staff badge.
Ignoring the flutter of wings caged by my ribs,
I stride around them, chin up, shoulders square,
make it half way before hearing feet
thundering closer, like a beaver tail warning.
I turn, keys protruding from my clenched fist like talons.
They freeze mid-step, retreat in unison.
“You’re ‘effin’ brave when I’m facing you” hurled at their backs as insurance.
Once locked in my car, I sob,
struggle to stem the news feed stream of alternate ugly endings
supplied by ER experience.
Years later, I can’t leave a building without keys in my hand;
but, I’m sure they imagine no harm was done.
Just like locker room banter.

© Kimberly Peterson