So there I was, minding my own and just popping in for a few things on my way home – not like I was still on the clock, you know. The grocery store isn’t too crowded at my hour, couple of stiffs and junkies, geezers getting out for their daily fiber and trying to cop a feel from the checkout chicas, the usual shuffle of the old, the bored, and the employees, most of whom were both.
I had just checked my list for the sixteenth time – hey, a drinking man’s memory’s got gaps – when I heard the loudspeakers crackle to life: “Security, aisle 6.” As I kept moving, it said, “Security, please scan all cameras in aisles 4, 5, and 6.” I looked up to see where that was in relation to me, not being too familiar with the store, and I realized I was right next to those aisles.
Being in the profession I am, and trust me that you do not want to know, my friend, I have a healthy enough sense of paranoia that I was perfectly happy to turn the heck around and not get involved or even be standing too close to something unpleasant. In my line of work, “Cleanup on Aisle Nine” can be code for “kill all the witnesses and invoke the Patriot Act if anyone asks.” So, I removed myself from the area of aisles 4, 5, and 6, and went over to the produce section.
“Security, please scan all cameras in Produce.”
I looked around. I was, for reasonable definitions of the word, alone. It was me.
I turned around to look for the cameras and realized I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought. On the other side of the Produce section was a knockout redhead with the biggest melons I’ve seen this side of Chiquita. I noticed the celery, the carrots, and the parsnips all standing a little straighter as she walked toward me, and I’ll admit she had my undivided attention as well. It was a good thing, too, because she set the melons down on a display and pulled a loaded banana out of her purse. This was looking less appealing.
I ducked as her first shot went wide, winging a turkey in the frozen food aisle. Since I was pretty sure they were out of season, I assumed the turkey hadn’t been her target. I took a good jump for the safety of the roughage, and her second shot slammed into the lettuce. Heads rolled.
There was less yelling than I would have thought there would be, and I could hear the Muzak version of The Cure’s Lovecats as I watched a grocery staffer running pell-mell down the nearest aisle. She took a shot at him as he made an endive into the dairy section. She missed, but he got creamed all the same. I took advantage of the distraction and threw a cabbage at my assailant. “Head’s up!” I yelled!
She turned it to mid-air cole-slaw with one shot and kept stalking forward, past the celery, toward me. “Who are you? What do you want?” I yelled. “Why are you trying to kale me?”
“Stand up, you sniveling collard,” she spat bitterly.
“Only if you put the gun down – I don’t want to get chard.” She lowered the gun, and I stood facing her. I’m not a religious guy, but right there in that produce section, I don’t mind telling you I made the sign of the cress.
As I got a better look at her, I saw she was sporting a black eye over her sorrel sweater. “Some tough legumes give you that, ginger?” It was the wrong thing to say, because she flipped the gun over and beet me with it. My split lip was leeking and I was more than a little worried, when she stopped and said, “I knew you’d turnip somewhere, chickweed. Admit it, you’re a rabeist.”
“Lady, you’ve got the wrong Swede! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Don’t give me that horseradish! You were in Brussels that night, I saw you!”
I gave her a quick poke while she was yelling, and she dropped the gun. Store security swarmed her, and I took advantage of the confusion to roll under the garlic and split. Besides, I had to pea. As I was leaving, I heard the loudspeakers crackle again. “Cleanup On Aisle Nine, I repeat, Cleanup On Aisle Nine.”
Oh, snap. Time to run.