After “The Walmart Incident,” it seemed appropriate to take practical measures toward meeting dating candidates. And when my sister Katie started picking out guys on an online site one night, I decided I’d do better making my own selections. Not that she has bad taste; Katie just thinks that I’m younger and wilder than I really am. A little projection on her part, I think. I’d like to be that woman: “Free diving adventurer who’d rather shovel snow than watch TV.” But the truth is, I’d rather swim at my own pace and not worry about whether my mascara is waterproof.
Chapter 1 — “You Look Like A Very Nice Lady”
The Walmart Incident began near the bread aisle as an invasion to my peripheral vision. Spotting a double take from a guy in a plaid button-down, I allowed the implied compliment to put a little spring in my step as I headed for checkout. But when my admirer later found himself to be but three short checkout lines away, he left his cart and approached me with a close-mouthed, sunken smile that made me wonder if he had enough teeth to prop up his lips.
“Hi there.” He beamed at my forehead and clutched a rubber-banded stack of neatly clipped coupons. A single strand of his nondescript brown hair floated up on an invisible draft of store ventilation. His brightening smile seemed mismatched to his bespectacled, slightly worried eyes.
“Hi.” I smiled slightly, adding an awkward polite nod for good measure.
The cashier had already begun ringing up my order, and I needed to price check. It was so much easier to catch errors before they printed onto the register tape. But Mr. Double-Take trapped me with a hopeful look, his gaze finally drifting down to meet my eyes. I had a feeling there had been an earlier dress rehearsal in front of his bathroom mirror.
“I couldn’t help noticing that you have a beautiful smile.”
I smiled? Oh. Maybe when I found my dropped grocery list. There must have been a little flicker of joy back there by the bagels.
“Thank you,” I murmured, uncomfortably aware of curious glances from the next aisle over.
He was oblivious to my deer-in-the-headlights moment, however, scrolling through his mental script with the confidence of a hungry understudy debuting before his first actual audience. “You look like a very nice lady.”
“Lady? My mom was a ‘nice lady’.”
Beep, beep, beep, beep… (Quick glance at the price screen) Paper towels – $2.79. Peanut butter – $3.29. That sounded about right.
“Thank you,” I said automatically.
“I see you like the whole grain tortillas.” He raised an eyebrow suggestively as my groceries paraded past the scanner.
I was uncomfortably aware that a box of tampons would be rolling by on the conveyor belt for him to assess at any moment. “Have to feed the kids, you know.”
“Kids are great,” he enthused like a man who had watched them perform many times on TV. “How many do you have?”
I almost said twelve, but honesty and a vague suspicion that I recognized the woman two carts back from spinning class at the gym prevailed. “Three.” I offered him no more information, my polite smile fading a little as he continued to milk the connection he had apparently felt during our five-second moment in aisle twelve…
From “Pickup in Aisle Twelve”
© 2012 Heather Dugan All Rights Reserved.
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