A few more people came out of the store during our trek across the lot, but they all avoided us, as if our story had become legend: The three-armed race that has developed a taste for human chicken soup! Avoid them at all costs, because you’re too polite to turn down their outrageous requests!
We also weren’t pestered inside the store, which was far more crowded than I would have anticipated. The aisles were barely wide enough for a single cart, more like an independent hardware store than a supermarket. It did, incidentally, have a hardware section, which was small and even more densely packed, with sliding shelves in front of other shelves, as well as racks suspended from the ceiling with pincers mounted on long poles so you could grab things from them. Elsewhere, lawn games shared shelves with used books and painted rocks that identified themselves as souvenirs from Landerville.
Shopping was a slow affair. We tended to get in the way of each other, and there were a number of close calls where unwatched ribbon slack nearly led to some kind of mishap. It only did once, in the produce section. Watermelons had been impressively, if unwisely, stacked into a three-layer pyramid on a central display table. In his puppylike exuberance to meet my request of bananas, which hung from hooks just past the table, Nathan managed to get the ribbon wedged underneath the second melon layer. Whether the ribbon had help from either me or Carla I shall explicitly refuse to say.
Nathan had to reach high enough for the bananas that the ribbon dislodged the fruit that was laying on top of it. That watermelon crashed to the floor and broke open, revealing a fairly satisfying splatter of pink guts.
It had been a weight-bearing watermelon.
Only four watermelons total were destroyed by the collapse; two more fell but were cushioned by their predecessors’ flesh. I nevertheless consider it the Victoria Falls of watermelonfalls, and will until I see a greater one.
I suggested that we might want to get out of the aisle before our mess was discovered, but to no purpose. A plump, pimply teenaged boy was already hauling his seemingly undersized string mop and bucket to the scene.
“I told Mr. Watkins that this would happen,” he grumbled. “I told him that watermelon would fall, and it would take that one, that one, that one, that one, and that one with it. But did he listen?”
“I apologize, sir,” Nathan offered. “It was carelessness…”
“Don’t be sorry,” the boy bellowed, shifting his tone to exuberance. “We had a bet. You just won me twenty bucks.” He began attacking the mess with tremendous vigor, although the primary effect was that he managed to break the shells into slightly smaller pieces.
We soon worked out a system. At least I did. Basically, I behaved as if I were a chariot and Nathan were the horse, aiming him by pulling the ribbon the direction that I wanted him to go and slowing him down with brute force. I don’t know how he felt about the arrangement, or if he even realized, but it worked. The only incidents of the rest of the shopping trip were low-speed collisions between cart and shelves, caused more by the narrowness of the aisles and the ricketiness of the cart than any recklessness on Nathan’s part.
Nathan paid for the groceries with a hundred-dollar bill and led us across the parking lot. He seemed was obviously impatient with the pace that Carla and I set, but he worked off his extra energy by zigzagging, rather than pulling. Getting into Nathan’s ship was therefore no particular trial.
Not much to say about this that I didn’t cover yesterday, except that the store is actually based on my local grocery store, which has, among other things, a used book section.