A little old lady shopping for Mother's Day encounters arrogant teenagers.
| Written as an assignment to the following prompts: 93 year old woman, shopping mall, sometime in December, how things have changed.
Mabel peered into her teacup with the tiny roses, spotting a stray leaf at the bottom. Her fingers wrapped around the cup, aching badly and the warmth soothed them. She reviewed her prescriptions in her mind. Yes, I took the arthritis medicine, yes I took the heart medicine, yes, I took the high blood pressure medicine.
She sipped the tea and looked at to her garden. The new cherry tree her son-in-law planted last fall was blooming. She remembered thinking at the time, she might not be around to see it bloom in the spring. She heard the tea kettle whistle and realized she forgot to turn the burner off. She stared at it, willing it to be quiet so she wouldn’t have to stand. The pitch grew higher and higher.
Stupid “gift” never works when you really need it, she thought. Finally, she pushed back her chair with a screech on the kitchen floor, took a pot holder and removed the offensive kettle from the stove. She sat back down. Maybe the blood pressure medication affected the gift. Who knew?
“Mabel,” her grandmother told her eighty-seven years ago, “your mother doesn’t have it at all, but I think you might have some. Not as much as me, but you must still take care.”
Grandmother Bertha called it “the gift.” Mabel considered it “the curse.” Sometimes, when she was upset and “losing it”, as her grandchildren now said, some thoughts would materialize, literally, on the people who upset her. There was that time at the airport when her flight was canceled and the counter agent started clucking like a chicken. Mabel was not proud of that one. She remembered older teenage boys teasing her daughter in high school and all of a sudden there had golf balls in their mouths. That one, she rather liked.
What happened to people seemed to come from somewhere outside her immediate thoughts. She later thought it might be appropriate, but she’d never played golf in her life and why would golf balls show up? The occurrences were not common, nor predictable. Her life had had upsetting times and the gift kept itself in check. In fact, there were whole years raising her children when it seemed to disappear.
Mabel wondered if whoever was in charge, had lost interest in her. Then, last week, the young woman behind her in the grocery line virtually demanded Mabel let her ahead to checkout as she only had “a few things.” Asked politely, Mabel would have been happy to let her ahead. As it was, she acquiesced with a nod and watched the woman pile her stuff ahead of Mabel’s and bump into her in passing to pay. Mabel watched her pull out a wallet to find there was no cash. The woman stared.
“I put twenty dollars in here this morning.” Mabel and Betty, the clerk, smiled at her.
“You can write a check.” Betty suggested. The woman dug back into her purse, pulled out a checkbook and flipped it open. Not only were there no checks, there was no check register.
“What the Hell?” The woman was now flustered. “Do you take credit cards?”
“No ma’am. Sorry.”
The woman stomped out of the store with a string of expletives.
“She’s going to have a long day,” Mabel commented.
Betty moved the woman’s merchandise out the way, four bottles of Pepsi and eight candy bars. “I bet she’ll live,” she chuckled.
Mabel checked out and as soon as she was out the door, she saw the young woman walking through the lanes of parked cars. “I can’t find my car! Have you seen my car?”
“No, Dear. I don’t even know what kind of car you have.”
“It’s a red pickup, small. You know, like a Toyota?” The woman’s face was flushed and tears stood in her eyes.
Mabel put her grocery bag on the trunk of her car and looked around. “Is that it?” A small red truck sat in the furthest space in the parking lot, alone, parked across the lines, rather than between them.
The woman stared. “My God. How did it get there?”
“I have no idea.” Mabel opened the trunk, put in her groceries, closed the trunk and started walking around the car before she realized the woman was still there. “Excuse me.” She thought of offering a ride, but reconsidered. The gift was back and she best leave this being alone before more havoc was wreaked. The woman started walking across the lot and it was the last Mabel saw her, but she thought of the incident all day.
The tea was now cold. She had put off today’s expedition as long as she could and there was no choice. Deborah’s birthday was coming up and there was nothing for it but to go to the mall and find her daughter some jewelry. It was the one thing Mabel knew Deborah would love, other than cash. She would have that soon enough, thought Mabel. Before the cherry tree bloomed next year.
Shuffling her way to the garage in her blue jersey dress, a white cardigan sweater and black "sensible" shoes, Mabel pushed the garage door opener her husband installed just before he died thirty years ago. The 1974 Lincoln Continental sat in its massive black glory. Mabel maneuvered the door open, sank into the deep leather seats, then had to practically get out again to close the door.
She already felt exhausted. She needed one of those small cars, she thought, something that had the seat, the steering wheel and the door somewhere in the same vicinity. That, however, required going to a car dealer. It was more than she could think about.
Mabel turned the key and backed out, missing the garage door by two inches on each side. She closed the door with the remote on the visor and headed to the mall at her personal top speed, twenty miles per hour. People honked and stared, half frustrated with her speed, half wondering if anyone was driving the car, as Mabel’s nose barely surpassed the threshold of the dashboard.
Ten minutes later, the Lincoln entered a Handicap parking space, most of the car between the lines. "Oh Lordy," Mable said to herself, "look at all these cars." She wobbled out the car door onto her cane for support. She slammed the car door behind her, squinting at the manual lock to ensure it was down and began the trek to the mall. A light breeze revealed the tops of her knee-high stockings and chilled her. She pulled the sweater tighter. Once underway, she was oblivious of the screeching car brakes as drivers tried to avoid her crossing the parking lot lanes. She placed her entire focus on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling.
Arriving at Nordstorm's door, she hit the round button featuring a wheelchair with the heel of her fist. The door opened and she hobbled through. Inside, she paused. People circled around her like a rock in a stream. Some kind of music that included yelling to a beat made its way through her hearing aid and she reached up to her ear to it down. A sign overhead announced Mother’s Day was coming. Mabel had totally forgotten about Mother’s Day. This was a bad idea. All these people. I should just send Deborah cash. A lady, whose name tag announced “Serena,” approached from the perfume counter holding a spray bottle like a loaded gun.
"No!" Mabel raised her cane and knocked the woman's arm and sent the bottle crashing to the floor.
"Geez, Lady!" Serena looked at her and turned away, holding her wrist.
"Stupid woman," grumbled Mabel, "shouldn't be pointing that stuff at people." She started forward, spotting the jewelry department, her impatience growing with the tightening aisles. The jewelry counter looked like it sat at the far end of a tunnel.
Finally, she arrived. She skipped over the hanging and silver earrings, and found a revolving stand of gold in a glass case. There were some nice loops, classy and elegant.
Deborah might like these, she considered. She pictured her daughter wearing them.
"Hey, Grannie, could you move your butt a little faster? Other people want to shop, too!"
Mabel turned to a blonde teenage girl with spiked hair leering down at her. A quick glance took in the tight pink T-shirt, barely reaching below the breasts, the exposed belly with belly-ring and jeans hovering at the hips. The smell of peppermint clouded around her.
"Why, my dear," Mabel smiled, feeling heat in her chest. "I didn't realize I was in your way. Please, go past me." Mabel moved closer to the counter.
The girl sneered, "We want to look at THOSE earrings, you old witch!" Mabel pushed back and now saw three girls, names emblazoned in rhinestones on their respective chests: Chloe, Charity, Bobbie.
"Ah," Mabel said, her ninety-three year old heart picking up speed. "Well, I will be done in just a moment." She turned back to the earrings and felt the girls circle behind and press in. She told herself to calm. The bodies pressed closer.
"Perhaps," she turned to face the girls, "you're cold with your tummies hanging out like that. You wouldn't need to stand so close, if you wore more clothes."
"Hey, you old bat, we like to show off what we've got. Bet you wish you had bodies like these." All three girls thrust out their breasts and cocked their hips.
"Well, yes," granted Mabel, "but not right now." She blinked. Jeans and T-shirts vanished. The three girls stood stark naked in the jewelry department.
"Eeeeee!" They screamed and struggled to cover themselves with their arms, then dove behind the counter and cowered below a bewildered sales woman, huddled on the floor like refugees.
Mabel turned back to the gold loop earrings. "You know," Mabel looked up at the sales woman staring wide-eyed back at her, "young people these days can be very rude." She watched the woman blink, unwrap her folded arms and step out of the human mass at her feet.
"Yes, they certainly can. Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes, thank-you dear. Shopping just wears me out."
“I can’t imagine how these girls got this far in the mall without clothes. I’ll need to call security. Do you mind?”
“Not at all.”
Mabel looked at the girls, now crying, and wondered if they would remember this when they were ninety three. Or, would they even remember it tomorrow? The sales clerk put down the phone and looked at them. “You will stay right here, won’t you?” There was assent and the woman came to Mabel.
"Is there something you would like? Something I can show you? We have some lovely diamond pendants. I just love them.” Julia pointed to another turning display case.
"They are nice. Would look lovely on you, but I think these earrings," Mabel pointed at the gold loops. "My, I am pooped," she sighed. "Is there a place I could sit?" She looked up at sympathetic blue eyes, then glanced around for a chair.
Smiling, with a quick glance back at the girls, the sales woman came out from behind the counter. "Yes, come over here." She held Mabel’s elbow and they made their way to an overstuffed chair in the shoe department.
Mabel thought it might swallow her as she sank in. “You may have to call someone to get me out of this,” she chuckled.
"You know, if you're having trouble shopping, we have a personal shopper. You can tell her what you'd like and she'll bring it to you."
"Really? That would be lovely." Mabel never heard of such a thing. People who did your shopping for you? What a terrific idea.
"Just sit still. I'll go call her."
Mabel crossed her ankles and took in the activity back at the jewelry counter. A security guard handed the girls pink seersucker robes, a lot like the one she wore at home. Moments later, a police officer arrived and escorted them away. Words including "public nudity" floated over to Mabel. She wondered what the penalty was. Probably not much. The girls looked to be around fourteen or fifteen. Then, she wondered what their parents would say. That would be a conversation worth hearing. Or, maybe not. It was hard to know what parents taught their kids these days.
A young woman in a close cut navy suit walked up. Her short black hair was in what Mabel called a “bob,” but she knew there must be a modern term for it.
The woman knelt to Mabel's level. "I understand you need some help shopping. I'm Sylvia. How can I be of assistance?"
"What is that lady's name behind the jewelry counter?"
"That's Julia. Why?"
"I just want to thank her for helping me and I wanted her name." Mabel smiled. "It's so nice to give people what they deserve for Mother’s Day, don't you think?"
Sylvia nodded and Mabel recognized the confused tolerance young people sometimes give old people. “Of course. Julia said you were interested in some earrings, the gold loops?”
Mabel nodded. “For my daughter. Here.” She opened her purse and produced a credit card. Could you have them wrapped and a birthday card for Deborah?”
“Sure.” Sylvia took the card and Mabel watched her go to the jewelry counter. She pushed herself back in the chair and her feet came off the floor. In fact, she noticed, she could almost lie sideways in the chair. She was so tired. She put her head on the arm, kicked off her shoes and put her feet on the cushion. There was really no reason she could think of for getting out of the chair. She closed her eyes and thought of the cherry tree blooming.
Julia noticed the diamond pendant hanging from her neck when she was driving home thinking about the old lady and the naked girls. She immediately went back to the store and found her supervisor, Patricia.
“I had no idea I had it on. Really.”
“I saw the receipt for this,” said Patricia. “Let me look.” Julia watched the older woman scan through the day’s sales. “Right here. That lady that died bought it for you.
“But, I didn’t know. I don’t remember putting it on,” Julia protested.
“Can’t help you there. That's funny." She peered at the receipt. There's no department, no number for a sales clerk." She turned the paper over as though the answer might lie there. "That can't happen."
"You sure it went through? Have you run a sales check?"
Patricia picked up the five o'clock report laying on the counter. "Yes, here it is and," she put on the glasses hanging from a chain around her neck. "There is a hand written annotation, but I'm the only one who's seen this report."
"What's it say?" Julia peered over Patricia's shoulder.
"Happy Mother's Day."