Smile in Aisle 7

By David Cox

She came through fast, brushed my arm and almost knocked the jar from my hand. I started to exclaim, “Well, pardon me!” when she stopped and turned.

“Excuse me,” she said with sincerity.

I smiled forgivingly. She continued down the aisle. Where was I? Oh, gherkins on sale, buy one get one, but I loved dill. Crap! The pickle decision paralyzed me. Dill in one hand, gherkins the other. If a thumb had been free, I’d been standing with it up my ass. I grinned stupidly, unable to make a decision. My tears of frustration were close to cresting when a horrific cry came from aisle’s end. It was the gut wrenching sound of potato chips breaking, torn where ridge meets ridge. I smiled in sadness.

My brief-encounter woman stood frozen. She’d tripped while reaching for ranch chips, bags crashed to the floor, chips lay dying at her feet. I decided to get involved. As I extended the pickles to their shelf my beloved dills slipped, tumbled to the floor and broke open. Damn!

I knew the store’s security guards lurked, armed with tasers, ready to punish customers who accidentally dropped merchandise, costing the store precious pennies. It was common to find withering, drooling customers on the floors, victims of the guards’ stinging tasers.

Suddenly I heard, “Tasers to Aisle 7.” Oh, oh! It was time to scream and run like a frightened child, but not before stopping along the way to help my aisle mate.

The woman smiled like a Barbie — unaware of the impending electric shock. I grabbed her elbow and looked in her eyes. They were an alluring brown, each a spoonful of chocolate gelato. I loved chocolate. I smiled, reassuringly.

“C’mon, we gotta go! The tasers are coming.”

“But my cheesecake?”

“To hell with the cheesecake, woman. Run like the wind.”

We dashed across the rear aisle, through swinging doors and into the storage area. We stopped among the pallets of salsa, prunes, and adult diapers. Now what? Fresh air and light came from the open door of the loading dock. We ran toward it. I took her hand as we reached the sunlight. We jumped into the rear of a delivery van, shouts of the guards still audible. I pulled the van’s doors shut, seconds before the driver checked them. He pulled away.

We were surrounded by snack cakes and fruit pies. My new friend sighed, relieved. Our eyes met and we exchanged smiles.

“Thank you,” she said graciously.

My voice quivered as I asked, “Would you be interested in getting together … for some cheesecake, maybe?”

“Yes, that’d be nice, but only if you bring the pickles,” she said, winking.

I tried to return her smile, but felt uncomfortable.

I was sitting on a fruit pie.

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