Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Seventeen: Root

Sunday afternoon, early April. Stark bright light against a white-blue sky and barely a bud in sight to slow down the glare, all the sun turned up a bit too loud. Across the parking lot, a gust of laughter burst through the doors of Tim Horton's as two elderly couples bustled toward their cars, parked side by side in the same direction. The two women held onto each other, arm in arm, squealing like children, as the two men strolled half a pace behind shaking there heads.

I ran from the car into the pet food store. There's only so much Sunday to go around and mine was half wasted on errands. Inside, Woofy's was in no such rush. People meandered, blocking aisles and thumbing through chew toys, while the cashier chattered at a woman and young girl at the till. I shifted the weight of a dog food bag from arm to arm. Did I bring the punch card? And how close was I too a free bag? I'd forgotten to go to the pharmacy. Damnit. Now I would have to go back through town instead of around to the highway.

The young girl at the till kept her head bowed and kicked at the floor tiles with pink rubber boots while the cashier cackled with far more glee than was warranted. Her many bracelets rattled; her roots continued to grow in. Finally, and with some degree of reluctance, the girl took the woman's hand and stepped away from the counter. Thank you so much, the woman said as she edged towards the door. We'll let you know how it turns out. The cashier slapped her hands together and wrung them against her chest violently, then bounced on her tiptoes and squeaked, Oh please do!!!

I sighed a shade too audibly, dumped my Orijen Six Fish onto the counter, and dug into my pocket for cash. Iiiiiii'm sooooorry, the cashier drawled, black and blonde strands bobbing haphazardly around her face. That little girl is going to look at a horse. Her first horse! But they don't know if they're going to get him. Horses are expensive, you know, and the little girl is so worried it won't happen.

Renewed impatience flashed through me, this time for myself. Oh, I said. That's fine. That's fine. I'm not in a hurry.

The cashier heaved her breath in and out. Iiiiiiiii had a horse when I was her age. I was just telling her. I was six. Harlow was his name. We were best friends. He was my only friend, actually. But when my parents separated, we moved and we had to get rid of him. I came home from school one day and he was gone. Gone! My mother sold him. Just like that.... That kind of thing... Well. It was hard. That's all. And you know—I'm 32 now—we were in California last year having a big family reunion and my mother and I had it out. Right there in the hotel. It wasn't just the horse. You know. Just. Everything. And we were both yelling and crying and she finally. FINALLY—At this her arms shot above her head like Astro Boy—listened to me!! For the first time in my life. And I told her how devastated I was. Losing Harlow. And when we came home. Oh, I don't know, about three weeks later, didn't she go out and buy me a damn horse. Just exactly like Harlow. Exactly. I can't afford a horse. Look at me. I work at a pet store. And she said, "Don't you worry about it, honey. I'll take care of everything. He's yours."

There were tears in her eyes now and I noticed what perfect teeth she had. Her whole smile was incongruously beautiful. She continued on. I said to that little girl just there, I said, you know what sweetie? Dreams come true! They really do! Sometimes it takes awhile, but don't you ever, ever give up.

I stood perfectly still and tried to catch my breath. The dog food and the cashier's beaming victory stared at me. Wow. Thank you, I said quietly, at which she laughed. For what, darlin'? I shook my head and looked out through the heavy storefront window. On the other side of the glass, an obese, middle-aged woman struggled with an overstuffed shopping cart as two boys, probably five or six years old, danced around it firing fake pistols at each other. The woman scowled and barked at them, pausing momentarily to wipe at her forehead with a handkerchief before shoving off again on teetering legs.

Just. Thank you, I smiled.

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