The man wearing dirty cut-off jean shorts and lace-up leather work boots leers at her in the check-out aisle. His missing teeth accentuate the fact that he’s buying Oatmeal Cream Pies and five cases of Pepsi. It’s on a real deal this week. His yellow mesh half-shirt shows off proud chest hair. Rebecca squeezes her eyes closed and gently shakes her head to erase his image from her mind. The cussing he throws so casually at his kids she can’t squeeze from her ears. The stink of his B.O. can't be squeezed from her nose. She looks down at her credit card and waits for her turn at minimal interaction with the check out girl. The loud, asynchronous scanner noises from seven check-out lanes chisel away at Rebecca’s last remaining sense of hope. “Boop! Boop! Boop!” She turns to leave the aisle and the store. Just one more night of cereal for dinner, she promises herself.
Two isles over, the town loony proudly sports day-glo colors and a yellow tutu around his middle-aged waist. Today he’s hawking containers of sherbet ice cream to disdainful shoppers while waving a small American flag. “Lime Sherbet, Lemon Sherbet, Raspberry!” he whoops with enthusiasm. People give him a wide berth and make eye contact with each other to verify that they are sane and he is not. Rebecca watches a mother tell her children not to stare while an old man shuffles by, gaping with indiscretion. The town loony spins in a circle, happily singing the praises of sherbet ice cream in his sherbet colored clothes. He raises a container up in the air and looks around for a taker just as Rebecca considers orphaning her groceries at check-out five. Their eyes meet.
“Give it here.” Rebecca says. Her voice croaks into the fluorescent air. She has not spoken in two days. “Give me a raspberry, Sherbet Man.” she hollers.
He stops spinning and looks into her face. He sees her hands ready to catch and her words are not a taunt. He heaves the frozen plastic container over two full aisles in the ally-oop of his dreams.
Rebecca nearly misses completing the assist. A few bobbles later, the sherbet container is in line on the conveyor belt behind the makings for homemade pizza and a bottle of cheap red wine. She and Sherbet Man execute a long distance high five.
Mr. Oatmeal Cream Pie herds his dirty, crossed-eyed kids toward the twenty-five cent jewelry dispensers at the front of the store. They scream and whine for quarters. He’s got a cigarette already in his mouth. It’s finally Rebecca’s turn to check out.
“Did you find everything you were looking for today?”
“Yeah, actually, I did.”
It’s the first time she's ever told the truth.