Plopping Barry into the shopping cart’s child seat, Gail gave his nose a bop. “Ready to be a good boy?”
He grinned, swinging his legs, and bashing pudgy hands onto the cart’s handlebar. His mouth opened wide, a saliva bubble popping in his broad grin.
“Let’s hope so,” said Gail. Tossing canvas bags into the cart, she stowed her purse beside Barry’s squat form. She shoved the cart forward, avoiding her little boy’s swaying feet, and walked through the market’s automatic doors.
A gust of chilled air pebbled her skin as the casters clattered on the tiles. Towers of fruits and vegetables greeted them in a rainbow assortment, while aisles of products lined the interior.
Fetching her list from her purse, she perused the various items until Barry flailed his hands at the page.
“This isn’t for you,” said Gail, darting the list away.
His face contorted with a wordless wail.
Gail rolled her eyes, and dug into her purse. Pulling out her keys, she looped the ring around Barry’s wrist and then jiggled his hand, making the keys clink. His attention swung to the shiny metal, and he burbled as he played with the makeshift toy.
Making her way through the market’s aisles at a brisk pace, Gail collected the items on her list, had a minor debate between cereals on sale, collected a bag of apples and grapes, and then headed to the checkout lines.
Shoppers, with carts and baskets, waited at each, joined by the beeps of barcode readers and shuffling feet.
“That wasn’t so bad,” she said to Barry, one of his hands now filled with the used list.
She joined the shortest line. While he bashed the keys and paper scrap together like cymbals, she scanned the shelves of magazines. Plucking one advertising the easiest evening meals, she skimmed while leaning her hip against the cart’s handle.
Barry gave a squeal, and tossed the keys and balled page as he lurched for the magazine’s cover. The ring fell through the gap in her cart, and clanged to the floor. The used list tumbled to her feet.
“Barry.” Gail pulled the magazine away. She bent to collect the list and then hefted the cart to the side, intent on retrieving her keys.
“Here,” said the elderly man in front of her.
Gail stopped short, as he offered the ring with broad smile.
“Thanks,” said Gail, reaching over to collect the keys.
Barry squirmed, and flexed his hands.
“You’ve got a handful there,” said the man.
“Don’t I ever,” said Gail, giving Barry the keys, and resting the magazine onto his seat. She began adding her purchases to the checkout conveyer belt, while the elderly man retrieved enough cash to pay his bill.
“Bye,” he said, giving a wave with the hand not holding his bag of groceries.
“Bye,” said Gail. “Say bye, Barry.”
Barry looked up from the keys, followed her gaze, and added his own wordless farewell and hapless wiggle of the ring.
The man moved on, and Gail pushed up to the pay stand.
“Afternoon,” said cashier.
“Afternoon.” Gail collected her credit and market discount card while the cashier began swiping each item crossed off on the list now balled into Gail’s purse. She watched the prices tally on the screen until the sound of a ripping page made her cringe.
The cashier froze. “What about that?”
Gail swiveled her gaze to Barry. He held the keys in one hand, the torn cover of the magazine in the other.
“Barry.” Gail rubbed her temple as he quieted, blue eyes wide. His bald held wrinkled, and tears threatened to pool.
“It’s all right, it’s all right,” said Gail.
She extracted the magazine from Barry’s grip, and offered the bundle of recipes and home keeping tips to the cashier. “We’ll take this too.”
The cashier rolled her eyes, took the magazine, and swiped the barcode beneath the laser beam. She filled the two canvas bags with the groceries as Gail ran her cards through the reader, added her pin and accepted the price.
“Thanks,” said Gail, accepting the receipt. She pushed forward, gathered the two bags into the cart, and headed for the exit.
Trading her keys for the receipt, she avoided Barry’s howl of dismay with the quick swap.
“Now,” she said, making her way into the parking lot as her mental list of things to do swirled, “what’s next?”