An Errand

Jack walked into the drug store not really remembering why he was there.  I really need to start writing stuff down, he thought.  I’m getting old, but he didn’t believe that was the reason.  He was only forty, still a little young for senility.

She was at the counter again.  She was the best looking woman, or maybe girl, Jack had ever seen.  He really couldn’t tell how old she was.  He assumed she was at least sixteen, since she was working at the store.  But he’d believe it if he was told she was anywhere between sixteen and forty.

He started walking up and down the aisles.  He figured whatever he was there for might jump out at him when he passed it.

She must be between eighteen and forty.  I’ve been seeing her in here for at least two years.  I wonder what her name is.  Of course he didn’t know her name.  He didn’t dare try to read her name tag and risk getting caught looking at her chest.  That would be especially bad if she were closer to the eighteen side of the age range.

Jack was sure he was there for something boring and unimportant, but it wasn’t coming to him.  Nothing was jumping off the shelves.  He considered just leaving, but that would be a waste of a trip.  There must be something worth buying.

I wonder what age I’d like her to be.  If she were too young, Jack would feel creepy.  But there was no point in wishing her older.  He chuckled to himself.  It’s not like I would ever ask out a store employee while she was working.  And girls who look like that don’t date guys like me anyway.  Still, it would probably make him happy if she were about his age.  It’s no good feeling creepy.

Shoelaces.  Shoelaces?  That doesn’t seem right.  Sure, a shoelace broke a couple of weeks ago, but would he have really made a trip just for shoelaces?  And would he have gone to the drugstore for them?  Whatever.  It’ll have to do.  Nothing else seems right and I don’t want to leave empty handed.

When Jack got to the front, he discovered, to his horror, that she was the only cashier on duty.  He realized that he had been thinking about her the entire time he was in the store.  He felt embarrassed.  He had an impulse to drop the laces and leave.  If I leave, I can never come back, and the store is right around the corner from my house.  I just have to play it cool and buy the shoelaces.  As if buying shoelaces can be cool.

There was one guy in front of Jack.  He waited and tried to look anywhere but at the cashier.  It’s rude to stare, but she’s so easy to stare at.

When the guy in front was finished, Jack stepped up and put the laces on the counter.  They look sad by themselves on there.  Or maybe he was just staring at them too intently.

“I haven’t seen you around for a while,” she said.

He looked up, a bit panicky.  After too long a pause, he said, “I’ve been going through a rough patch.”  Idiot, he thought.  She doesn’t care.  That’s way too personal.

She gave Jack a sympathetic smile, “Sorry to hear that.”

Does she care?  Of course not.  She’s just being polite.  “Thanks.”

“I was wondering what happened to you.  I was afraid you’d moved or something.”

“Would you miss me if I moved?”  God, don’t try to flirt.

She smiled, but didn’t say anything.  The silence was making Jack nervous.  Say something, idiot.

“How old are you?”  Not that!  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it.  Don’t answer.  That’s incredibly rude.”

She smirked at him and said, “Are you asking me out?”

Oh god.  What’s going on?  She’s messing with me.  She must be. 

There was another awkward silence.  This time she broke it with, “That’ll be $3.17.”

$3.17?  What is she talking about?  Oh, crap!  The shoelaces.

Jack took out his wallet.  He handed the cashier a five dollar bill.

“I really didn’t mean to ask you that.  It just slipped out.  I know how rude it is, and you’re just trying to work.”

“It’s OK.  I’m twenty-seven.”

At least she’s a real adult.  “Still, it’s really embarrassing.  I’m forty, by the way.  Not that you asked, it just seems fair to tell you.  I’m a bit too old to be asking you out.”  Shut up.  “If I were younger. . .”

She laughed.  “Forty’s not that old,” she said as she handed Jack his change.

Just leave!  “Thanks.  I’d better go before I say anything worse.”  He picked up the shoelaces.  “Thanks.  And sorry about being an idiot.”

“Have a nice day.”  She smiled.

Jack turned and walked as quickly as he could without running towards the door.


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