Her cart was dripping. The grocery cart she was pushing around the produce section of the big box store I had just entered was dripping from the Siberian size mound of cardboard boxes she had grabbed from the frozen food section. French fries, pizzas and breadsticks. Lean Cuisines and ice cream sandwiches huddled together, which confused me a little at first when I saw them next to each other. Boxes and bags, strategically placed on top of each other, looking like some kind of supermarket Jenga game just waiting for the next piece to be pulled out.
Muttering to herself as she pushed the damp cart slowly, she turned and looked behind her as she passed in front of me, glancing back at the produce section she had just skirted. Perhaps thinking she ought to pick up some potatoes, because there were no frozen tater tots to be found in the county, she stopped suddenly, her hands grabbing the handle of the cart tighter, pulling the cart closer to her, which in turn caused a few bags of pizza bites to jerk forward and then tumble off the side of the cart. Her muttering now turned to cussing, angry at the bright yellow bags of cheesy, pepperoni tidbits that had fallen onto the cement floor.
Tossing the bags back on top of her cart, and she then spread her arms out wide, her hands becoming jazz-like. Her knees slightly bending as she started to dance lightly around her cart, as if she was warding off some evil spirit determined to send her goods over the side of the cart again. A few seconds later, satisfied her dance had done its job, she got back behind her cart, grabbed the handle once again and began pushing the cart toward the checkout lanes.
Her take-off started slow and she struggled a bit to turn the shopping cart into the narrow aisle that led to the multiple checkout lanes. But the choice between self-checkout and having a cashier and bagger loomed before her and that critical decision seemed to quicken her pace. Wondering which she would pick, I grabbed a bag of grapefruit I thought were the oranges I had came in for and followed. Rounding the corner into the lane she chose resembled a semi-truck making a sharp turn onto our town's main street, wider and wider she went until she was able to right the cart and slip into the lane.
Cashier and bagger it was. The old man in front of her was trying to get his debit card out of his wallet and inserted into the keypad with the dangling pen. Getting his receipt, he gave the woman's cart a side-eye and said, "Y'all must like to eat!" to which she replied, "It's all those *bleep* kids at the house, can't keep 'em out of the kitchen." He chuckled a little, grabbed his bag and moved on. She had begun unloading the cart while the old man had been trying to figure out whether he should insert or swipe his card, and had gotten about a third of the cart emptied when she paused. Thinking she was out of breath from hauling all the bags and boxes out of the cart and onto the belt, she sighed loudly as her shoulders went slowly up and then down.
And that's when it happened. The thing that all shoppers and cashiers alike wouldn't wish on their mortal enemy. She looked at the cashier and said six little words, speaking them in an hoarse, whisper-like voice..."My wallet is at the house."