21 December 2011


“Put that back!?”
Inside Leroy’s 24 hour grocery mart in the middle of aisle 3, the canned goods aisle, the rear left wheel of an empty shopping cart shuddered to a screeching halt.


Marjorie Donovan presided over the empty cart, crouching as her long and tatty red and yellow polka dot scarf trailed on the floor beside her.  Surveying the path ahead, her gaze settled upon a lone midnight shopper. 

A twenty-something male, intently focused on reading labels, shopped at the opposite end of the aisle. The young man, apparently oblivious to her presence in aisle 3, readjusted his iPod headset. 

Nudging the cart forward cautiously, Margie inched toward her unsuspecting target.


The rear left wheel of the empty shopping cart begged for mercy, but Margie wasn't listening.  Hunched over the shopping cart, she eased forward slowly, scrutinizing the young male. 


As her eyes ascended his youthful form, the scowl on Margie's face grew in intensity.  She halted her inspection at the bright green mohawk crowning the young man's profile, "Oh! What is that delinquent doing?"

With eyebrows arched and one hand on his chest, the young man was delivering a soulful and sultry, albeit silent serenade, to a small can of sweet green peas with carrots, in the middle of aisle 3, in Leroy's 24 hour grocery mart. 

Driven by some invisible magnetic force, her hands rose instinctively to cup her face, just as her mouth fell open and the empty shopping cart came to a stop. Craning her neck, Margie grimaced as she muttered to herself, "What on earth?"


Margie felt the color drain from her face.

Underneath the bright fluorescent lights, a silver snake glistened as it curled and slithered it's way across the young lad's face.

Slowly, Margie traced its winding path from left brow to left nostril, and into his left earlobe. Margie shuddered. She herself had only two piercings, one in each ear, and she hadn't had any choice in the matter either.  Her ears had been pierced when she was  barely 7 years old, and she had never forgotten the piercing.  Little Margie had begun to cry even before it began.  First, they had placed something cold on her earlobe, so that she 'wouldn't feel a thing'.  Her ears had begun to feel funny, they felt all cold and tingly.  Bemused by the unfamiliar sensation, Little Margie had almost stopped crying, then, Whammo!  Shafts of searing hot electricity had shot through her face and down her side.

Margie winced, wringing her clammy hands.  She tried to distract her thoughts as the sweat began to bead upon her forehead. Keeping a watchful eye pinned to the bright green mohawk, she shuffled closer, twisting her head from side to side, "Oh, now what is he doing?"


Still wholly unaware of the old woman's impending arrival, and still delivering his award winning silent performance in the middle of aisle 3, the young man traded the small can of sweet green peas with carrots for a slightly larger one.

Lips pursed, Margie’s eyes darted up and down, back and forth, analyzing the youth from mohawk to green peas, from flip-flops to face chain, and back again. "I told him," she said through gritted teeth, "Not to pick that one."


Finally beside the lad, Margie halted the shopping cart and prodded the male twenty-something shopper in the back with a hooked finger. 

Without hesitation, the young man dropped the large can of peas, raised his arms, and did an about face, his jaw slackening to reveal a silver tongue ring. As he backed wordlessly into the cans of peas and sweet corn on the shelves behind him, his movements severed the connection between the iPod Nano strapped onto his wrist and the headset connected into it.

“I told you not to pick that one.”

Seemingly hypnotized by Margie's stare, the young lad slowly lowered his hands.

Satisfied with gaining his full attention, Margie inched closer. “I said," her nostrils flaring, "Don't pick that one.” Margie's lips spread apart exposing their sole dingy occupant.  She smirked gleefully, taunting the perplexed youth with a crooked spindly finger, "Didn't think I was watching you, now did you?"   


Green mohawk quivering and mouth still half open, the young man backed away, his eyes traipsing between Margie’s stare and the tall uniformed officer approaching from behind her. 

“Marjorie!  There you are.”

Margie grinned at the young shopper, affording her only decaying tooth an encore solo. Primping her graying hair as she turned around to face the tall stranger, Margie giggled, “Officer Stone.” 

“Why, Marjorie Donovan, you are simply stunning this evening.” 

Beaming with her lone front tooth peaking out from behind her smile, Margie lowered her lids. 

Bryan Stone removed his cover. “You know, you had me worried."  He bowed as he tried to find her gaze. "For a minute there, I thought you’d found yourself a new beau.”

Gaze fixed firmly on the ground, Margie mumbled, “Wouldn’t do that.” 

"Marjorie?" Bryan lowered his tone. “It’s after dark. We had an agreement, remember?” 

Fighting the sting as her eyes welled up, Margie searched the rows of canned tomatoes behind him. 


Biting her lip, Margie gave Bryan her back, her smile disappearing as it drowned in teardrops.

"You promised me." 

The empty shopping cart began to roll.


“I need some green peas, but not with carrots," Margie cleared her throat, "Peas with carrots gives me gas.” 


“Two small cans," Margie wiped her face and blew her nose into a corner of the tatty red and yellow polka dot scarf.  "The store brand mind," she insisted, increasing her pace. 


Bryan sighed. “Green peas, no carrots.”

Margie glanced back to study Bryan, who was busy beseeching the heavens as he stood in the middle of aisle 3. "Now, hurry up! And don’t dawdle.”

“Yes ma’am.”


At the end of the aisle, Margie braced herself against the squeaky shopping cart as she turned the corner and disappeared.  “I’m not a child,” she scoffed at the shelves of pasta on aisle 4.


Replacing his cover, Bryan snatched two cans of store brand peas from the shelf, and scurried after her. 

“Marjorie?” Catching up, Bryan placed the two cans of store brand green peas into the empty shopping cart. “Do you want me to push?”


Muttering to herself, Margie shuffled past Bryan. “Don’t need to be watched,” she dropped a box of fettuccine into the basket.   

Apparently through with his earlier award winning performance and his desire for sweet green peas with carrots, the twenty-something male shopper had stopped to examine a bag of brown rice in aisle 4.

“I still have all my faculties.” Margie continued her tirade at the flour, "I still have my own teeth."


The squeaky wheel stopped whining. 

“Marjorie?” Bryan quizzed. “Are you okay?” He bent to study her face.

Face contorted, Margie's eyes had narrowed to slits and were trained on the young man with the bright green mohawk.

“Marjorie?" Brian persisted.

Cradling the bag of rice, the young man opened his mouth and quickly shut it again.

“Despicable!" Margie hissed, as she wagged a boney finger at the young man.  "Ought to be ashamed of yourself walking the streets like that."

Bryan eyed the young lad who seemed to have stopped breathing.

"You're an officer of the law," Margie turned to Bryan, “Can’t you arrest him for something?”

A loud gurgling noise emitted from the twenty-something’s wide open mouth.

“But he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Margie snapped, her arms flailing as she tried to draw attention to the issue at hand. “He’s indecent!" she spat, her voice climbing several octaves. "In public, no less, and in my book that’s plenty wrong." 


"Honestly, Bryan Stone." Margie strutted down the aisle, advancing toward the young shopper without relinquishing her stare. “If you aren't going to do your job, why even bother wear that uniform?” 

For a moment, Bryan hesitated as he considered the petrified young man.



The shopping cart rolled to a standstill before the young male shopper.


Margie searched the aisle before her.


Bryan leapt to Margie's side and smothered her frail, trembling hand inside of his, "It's okay. I'm right here." 

"Bryan," she whispered, her voice suddenly hoarse. "It's dark outside. What am I doing here?"

"You wanted green peas."

"In the middle of the night? You know I can't eat green peas in the middle of the night. I,"  Margie's voice cracked and she began to tremble, "I don't even have my purse."

"Then," Bryan patted Margie's hand, "We won't get them."

Nodding her head, Margie sniffed softly and began to hum a melody.

Beside them, the young shopper had apparently regained his ability to breathe. He began to snicker, "Crazy old bat," he chuckled under his breath.

"Hey?!" Bryan glared at him, "Got sumthin' you wanna say to me?"

The young man sobered and shook his head from side to side, the silver chain jangling against his face.  Slowly, he backed away hugging the bag of brown rice.

"Punk." Bryan muttered, his eyes following the bright green mohawk until it disappeared from the aisle. 

Still humming, Margie closed her eyes and settled her face against Bryan's shoulder.

Placing an arm about Margie's shoulder, Bryan nuzzled his face into her graying hair and inhaled her familiar sweetness. "Let's go home, Ma," he sighed. "Let's go home."

© Ehmee Smith, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ehmee Smith, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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