Earth Trolley

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When I Figured Out What Was Going On

There I was, discombobulated next to register five, staring at the magazine racks. I looked around quickly, noting the register was closed. No one seemed to have noticed the entire store had changed to a bare warehouse and back in the blink of an eye. I leaned against the cooler behind me and held my head. What was going on? I was losing it!

I slid the cooler door open. Generally, I pay for my items before I open them, but not this time. I had the cap off that energy drink and was guzzling in seconds.

I drank three-quarters of the bottle and didn't feel anything. Actually, I hadn’t felt bad in the first place. No headache or sleepiness, no urge to hit somebody—none of the usual signs of low blood sugar. I hadn’t missed a meal; it wasn’t even five o'clock yet. I’d decided not to return to work after the interview, partly because it had been too emotional and partly to get a head start on my weekend—not that I had any great plans, but I needed a break from the intense hours I’d been putting in to learn my new job.

I grabbed my list and purse gingerly from the Earth Trolley, deciding not to use a shopping cart. I pulled out my list and realized it wasn't feasible. I didn’t have anything at the apartment. Plus, I'd planned to stock up on my favorite cereal, which was buy one get one free. So I walked back to the line of shopping carts and carefully selected one with the name “Huey's Market,” clearly marked, all the while thinking how stupid I was being.

I plunked the energy drink and my purse in the front section, took a deep breath, and grabbed the handle bar. Normal. No flickering lights and the desk was still to the right. I grinned and plunged ahead, ready to get my shopping done.

My first stop was the cereal aisle. After piling six boxes into my cart, my eyes wandered over to the teas on the shelves opposite. The flavored teas called to me. I perused the selection and was rewarded by finding one I didn't have at home: cherries and cinnamon. Why I needed cherry and cinnamon tea was a question I couldn't answer. I had cherry tea at home. I had cinnamon. And then I grabbed an extra box of Earl Gray because there were only four boxes at home. The supply was dwindling.

I threw them into the basket, ready to hit the next aisle, when the store changed. I could say it changed 'beneath my feet' but I knew it was happening beneath my hands. I knew my grip on the handle felt cushier.

After confirming the name ‘Earth Trolley’ between my hands, I found I was standing in the center of a bunch of plants. It took me a minute to figure out I was in a huge floral department.

“What are we suppose to get for your boss's retirement party anyway? It's not like buying roses for you, or chocolate... or a basket of herbal teas. What do you think of this one?”

I stood there, stunned, because I was looking at the hind end of a man in a suit coat straightening to mammoth size out of an open cooler of plants. He turned around, a plastic pot balanced in each of his big hands. I took in his appearance. His belly lapped over his belt. His forehead was shining with perspiration; and, from the looks of it, his gray hair had receded almost to the point of giving up the battle, shooting random, missile-like strands over the crown of his head. His white dress shirt had enough buttons undone that I could tell he wasn't wearing a t-shirt underneath, and his tie was untied, hanging in two lines down the front of his blazer. Who was this guy?

“Which one?” he asked.

I didn't answer, just stared up at the copious amounts of long black hairs escaping the confines of his big nose.

“Lyn, can you stop worrying for just a minute and focus?”

My brow furrowed. Did he know why I was worried? Did he know I had no clue who he was or why he was asking me to pick a plant?

His expression became apologetic. “I shouldn't have said that, babe. I know you can't help it. But she's going to be okay. In fact, I'm kind of surprised you’re not telling me that. You're usually the one with a sixth sense about these—”

A cell phone rang. We both stared at each other. I considered letting go of the cart. I was pretty sure that that would make this strange vision stop. But I couldn't do it. I wanted to know what it was all about.

After the third ring, he reached in front of me and dug his hand into a huge purse which I hadn't noticed was there. “It's probably Hope, honey! She may know something.”

The object he pulled out was shaped like a crescent moon. Or a miniature banana. “Yep,” he confirmed, as he read a small, lighted strip along the top. He did something to activate the yellow object because wavy lights filled the center, creating a rounded display.

He sighed, took a few steps away from me, and answered. “Hey, baby girl! How did your appointment go?” From my vantage point I could only see a blurry haze of squiggling colors. I could hear voices, but the sound was too low to make out any words. I searched the suited man’s worried face minutely as he listened. He was very concerned about something, but within seconds his face broke into a big grin.

Then I realized why I hadn't let go of the buggy yet. His eyes were the same bright blue as the little girl, Jaelyn’s. Was he Jaelyn's father?

“Okay,” he told the person on the phone, and walked up beside me. “We're listening,” he said and held up the lighted crescent like he was going to take our picture. I could see the faces of a man and woman sharply outlined in the concave of the banana phone.

“Mom, Dad... we're pregnant!” the woman announced.

There was a short pause before the man beside me said, “Congratulations, you guys. I think your momma is speechless.”

“I know, I know. All this time thinking we couldn't get pregnant. We just can't believe it, either.”

As they talked, I had time to place the woman speaking from the yellow phone. She was the one who’d put Jaelyn in my shopping cart. Had this man beside me called me her mom? I couldn’t make sense of any of it.

“Lyn, aren’t you going to say anything?” I know I was staring like a zombie, and the pressure to go along was overwhelming. I opened my mouth and attempted to share their joy. “Yeah, congratulations to you. It's—it’s wonderful.”

“She's stunned, Hope. Look at her face; she's completely stunned.”

He nudged my shoulder. “You losing your mind already, grandma?”

'You have no idea,' I thought. But I didn't let go of the Earth Trolley. I felt like there was a piece here. If I just waited, I'd figure it all out.

“Yeah, you're going to be grandparents!” exclaimed Hope. “We're going to be parents! I'm still shocked, too, Mom. I'm already in the second trimester. To think, I thought I had cancer!”

“Well, we thought this was impossible, so you couldn't know...” It was the man beside her who spoke. Hope's husband, I assumed.

“Well, we'll let you two register the shock while we call Jason's parents, and then we'll call you back.”

“Okay, baby girl. Maybe by then your mom will be able to talk. Love you two.” As he ended the call and the wavy lights disappeared inside the curved phone, I noticed a small heart on the underside of his wrist. Inside it were the names 'Jim N Lyn'. Below the heart was the year. 2018.

2018? I reeled. That was three years from now!

“Lyn, are you okay?” He placed his hand gently on my arm. That touch stirred some memory in me, and I looked up into his sixty-something face. Immediately, I recognized the same features of the old man in the floating vehicle, only less wrinkles and a lot fuller. Was this really my life? Was he really my husband?

Jim. I didn't even know a Jim!

“I think I need to sit down a minute,” I said

“That's fine. Take your time. It won't matter if we're a little late. We'll just a make an appearance and—Go on and sit down.”

“No.” I'd just realized if I sat down, I'd have to let go of the cart. “I don't want to sit down after all.”

Jim's chuckle was a nice sound. “Sweetheart, you really can't get hold of yourself, can you?” Then a tender look crossed his face. “I know. I know. It’s like Hope all over again, isn’t it? You knew, somehow, that we’d have her, even after everything we went through.” Then he grinned. “I’m gonna be a grandpa! And you…” He brought his arm around my waist, and everything disappeared.

I was standing beside the boxes of Lipton on aisle one. I’d let go of the handle when he’d embraced me. I mean, he was an old man, and I—

“I’m still twenty-three, right?” I whispered to myself. I pulled out my compact and examined my face. No gray hair. No new wrinkles around my eyes. Yeah, I was still me.

I slipped my mirror back into my handbag, saw my phone, and checked the time. 5:03 pm. It felt like I’d been there for at least half an hour already! Then I looked down at the lettering on the shopping cart.

EARTH TROLLEY

The letters looked a little unfocused. Maybe my eyes were unfocused. I felt like my heart had stopped and started again, and the rest of me was out of rhythm with it. But I knew now that it wasn’t a blood sugar problem or delusions. His touch had been real; his presence had reverberated through me. That’s the difference between a dream and reality. Each person has a presence. Even total strangers feel there.

I touched the lettering on the handle with the tip of my index finger. Nothing happened. Did I want it to happen again? Yes and no. If this was my future, I wanted to know… and I didn’t. Was I really going to marry a man named Jim and have a daughter named Hope? And a granddaughter… Jaelyn.

I thought about the tattoo on Jim’s wrist. 2018. Was that the year we’d met or the year we’d gotten married? Why was I thinking of it in past tense? I huffed. Who gets a heart tattoo on their wrist like that anyway? I grinned because it struck me as tasteless. Could I really be happy with a man who would tattoo a dumb heart with our names in it on the inside of his wrist? Was it some kind of labeled-on-a-pressure-point trend he’d gone through? I looked down at the cart and exhaled. It just sat there innocently. (Okay, so what’s it going to do, dance a jig in the aisle?) The truth was, I wanted to know all about Jim. At least enough to understand why I would marry him. So, I spread my fingers and wrapped my hands around the bar deliberately, thinking, ‘Show me something good.’


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