“This should do us for a couple of weeks.” Nelly was talking to Woodrow but it may as well been directed to anyone in the parking lot. The man pushing the cart loaded down with bags of groceries was not listening, staring and steering with a slight smile on his face. “What in the world are you thinking about?”
“What’s that? Oh, I’m sorry. I’d checked out for a few minutes. What’d you ask me?” Woodrow was back and fully engaged with his wife.
“I asked what you were thinking about. You’re sporting a silly grin and that always gets me worried.”
Woodrow chuckled. “Nothing to worry about this time. I was just thinking about something Beth told me this morning and it made me smile.”
“What’d she say?”
“It’s not so much what she said, really, it’s more that she called in the first place. I like the idea that, even though she’s out of the house, she doesn’t have any problem calling her daddy for some advice. It makes me feel useful.” He looked over at Nelly and winked. She let the conversation drop, assuming it was a father/daughter situation and the quandary was handled. She trusted that Woodrow would let her in on anything major that was going on. They approached the car and she engaged the fob and released the locks.
As they unloaded the bags of food and necessities into the trunk, they were quiet, but happy, even though they had just spent over $100 on supplies. Trips to the grocery store were part of the “investment to raise a family,” a favorite saying of Woodrow’s whenever faced with club dues, school fundraisers or the constant need to replace suddenly too-tight shoes. Raising kids wasn’t cheap and there always seemed to be a new need cropping up every week. As the last bag was stacked into the trunk, Woodrow pulled the door closed and moved to open the passenger door for Nelly. After she was secured he walked to the back of the car and grabbed the horizontal bar of the grocery store buggy and looked for the receptacle that held the used and discarded carts. The designated space nearest him was overflowing and the randomly placed buggies littering the parking lot suggested it had been full for some time. Woodrow started pushing his cart toward the front of the store, intending to drop it off right inside the entrance. As he pushed it into the near empty space, he spotted a store manager and flagged him down.
“Just thought you’d like to know that the parking lot is a little over run with empty buggies. It’s starting to become a hazard.” He smiled to let the manager know he was not upset, just a willing messenger. The manager thanked him and quickly frowned as he turned toward the long line of checkout stations, scanning for an employee to take on cart duty. “Oh gosh, I hope I didn’t get someone in trouble…” thought Woodrow as he exited the store.
Driving out of the parking lot, he waited for a mom and her two children to cross in front of him on their way into the store. Right before he accelerated to head home he noticed a young kid, 16 or 17, dressed in the grocery store uniform—collared white shirt, tan khaki pants and a full red apron—jogging from the front of the store toward the bulging buggy bin. “He doesn’t look upset…” Woodrow said out loud.
“What’s that?” asked Nelly.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just making sure my ripples stay small.”
This is one chapter in a series of nine, an experiment in weaving people’s stories into each other, showing cause and affect in how we treat each other regardless of how well we know each other. A casual comment to a stranger may trigger big things but we will probably never know…