|The Shopping Trip
© Copyright 2004 by Linda Hoagland
I climbed aboard the oversized van that served as a bus and sat in the first available seat.
This was the first time my dad had let me go downtown by myself. I knew I had to watch my spending to make sure I had enough change for the return trip. If I spent all of my money I would have to walk home and ten miles was a long walk. My dad didn’t have time to take me to town and he didn’t have time to pick me up. He worked nights for the railroad.
I anxiously watched the passing scenery during the half-hour ride that ended at the esplanade, which was named after Roy Rogers, in the center of town in front of the Martings Department Store.
I wouldn’t be doing my shopping at Martings. I couldn’t afford that place. I would be browsing through the five and dime that was located about a block from the esplanade. Kresge’s catered to small pocket books like mine.
“When does the last bus for the return trip leave?” I asked the driver before I exited the bus.
“I pull out of here at 5:30 PM sharp,” he replied as he stood behind me waiting for me to move.
I smiled and climbed down the two steps that the bus driver had set into place in front of the open door
It felt good to be allowed to go shopping by myself, but it also felt a little scary.
I went into Kresge’s where I looked the store over from top to bottom as I tried to figure out how I wanted to spend my ten dollars.
It had taken several hours of hot, sweaty, backbreaking work to earn that money. I wanted to make it really count.
I kept walking through the aisles of merchandise touching this idea, smelling another idea until I felt the eyes of the clerks boring into my back.
They watched me closely. They must have thought I was casing the joint, planning the heist of the century.
All I was trying to do was make up my mind.
I had ironed several baskets of blue jeans, shirts, and even bed sheets in the eighty-degree weather for a mere dollar an hour earning half of my bundle of one-dollar bills. The other half was earned when I took a pair of clippers, got down on my knees, and crawled along Mrs. Warnok’s sidewalks as I clipped the grass away from the concrete. My knees ached for days when I finished, but I did a really good job.
My friends teased me and made fun of me because of all the dirty little jobs I did for people, but that was the only way I would get any spending money. My dad had always told me I had to work for my money.
“Do you need any help?” asked a lady who looked to be in her fifties; old enough to be my grandmother, as she followed me around like a puppy.
“No thank you,” I replied as I turned my head away from her and scurried to a different section of the store.
She was right behind me.
I stopped suddenly and she bumped into me before she realized I wasn’t moving.
“Excuse me,” she whispered harshly.
I turned to look at her. I didn’t know what her problem was, but I wished she and the other clerks who had made watching me their life’s work, would give me a little space.
I started walking again towards the rear of the store and I saw the other clerks start to cluster and look at me as they whispered to each other.
I wasn’t paranoid, but I thought that maybe they were.
Quickly I turned around and walked briskly to the front of the store and out the door.
I felt like a goldfish swimming in a bowl when I was in that store. I felt all those eyes searching me, following my every movement.
I went to the drug store next door to Kresge’s. I would search their shelves of enticing merchandise to see if I was willing to let them have my hard earned cash in exchange for something wonderful.
I found what I wanted.
I didn’t have every pair of eyes in the establishment turned towards me. As a matter of fact, no one was watching me as I picked up the boxed Scrabble Game and headed for the counter where the clerk was helping another customer.
After paying for my new game, I had an hour to wait before I could board the bus and return home.
I decided I wanted to kill the time in Kresge’s. I didn’t have much money left, but that didn’t matter. I wasn’t planning to buy anything in there.
I clutched my paper sack containing my game and entered the store that had become filled with customers while I was at the drug store.
The clerks were too busy to keep tabs on me as I walked from aisle to aisle touching, feeling, and smelling.
I saw some nail polish that I really wanted but I didn’t have enough money to buy.
I picked up two bottles to get closer look and let one of them drop into my paper sack that held my game.
I looked around, but I didn’t see anyone looking in my direction so I let the nail polish stay where it was, in my shopping bag, unpaid for.
I wandered to the jewelry aisle where I saw a necklace hanging from a hooked rod suspended inside a showcase of sorts.
I took down two necklaces allowing one to slide down into my bag. I looked closely at the one I held in my hand, read the price tag, which was $9.98 and shook my head negatively as I replaced a single necklace on the hooked rod.
Again I looked around me to see if anyone had seen the necklace drop into my bag.
I was getting nervous about what I was doing. I really hadn’t planned to steal anything until the Kresge’s clerks started watching my every move while I was in the store earlier.
I had wanted and needed many things in my short twelve years that I wasn’t allowed to have or my dad couldn’t afford to buy for me, but I hadn’t stolen anything.
The thrill of getting away with stealing wasn’t what I thought it would be. I didn’t like the feeling that I could be stopped, searched, and then have the police take me away.
I didn’t think I could put the items back on the counters from where I had taken them without definitely being spotted by the not-so-eagle-eyed clerks.
I grabbed my bag and started to the door.
“Young lady!” shouted the older clerk as she walked briskly toward me.
I stopped in my tracks.
“I want to see inside your bag,” she said hurriedly.
When she was standing next to me, I opened my bag, not removing the game, but allowing her to look inside without her touching the bag. I moved the game leaning it against one side of the bag so she could see clearly, then leaning it against the other side so she could see clearly again.
I was scared to death that she would see the stolen articles in the bottom of the bag underneath the box.
I could feel the redness of embarrassment flowing to my face as beads of perspiration formed on my brow.
I didn’t say anything. I closed my bag, rolling the top of it with my hands, and walked out the door.
When I boarded the bus for my return trip, I pulled the stolen nail polish and necklace from my brown paper bag and left them lying on the seat of the bus when I climbed off of the bus in front of my house.
“Mom, dad,” I shouted as I ran into the house, “look at my new game.”
It sure was good to be safe at home.
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