Earth Trolley

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When Things Became Serious

“—ry, Ma’am. The pallet started to slide off, and it—”

I was back in my time and didn’t want to be! I grabbed the handle frantically, think-yelling, ‘Spain! Spain!’

It hit me after I found myself at the end of an unfamiliar aisle that I couldn’t possibility end up in a grocery store in Spain with this cart. I sighed, but brightened when I realized it was still going to happen. But what if it didn’t? What if the older me didn’t want to cancel the book tour after all?

I looked around, seeing the baby wipes on one side and greeting cards on the other. Was I here to choose a card for Jim? Was his birthday soon? The big object in my basket caught my attention. It was a carseat carrier covered by a green polka-dot blanket. Did I have a baby in the cart?

I wanted so badly to lift the blanket and peek inside, but I couldn’t. I had to keep my hands on the bar.

“Found it!” exclaimed someone coming around the corner into the aisle. She placed some kind of baby cream in the front of the cart next to the monogrammed diaper bag. I recognized her face, though her hair was brown now. She looked a lot younger. She was the woman who had just shooed an employee out of Jim’s office a few minutes ago. Or was that years ago? If Hope was in my cart, then I’d just made a huge leap. Everything seemed to be going backwards. I’d just have to wait all how-many-hundred years to find out about Spain.

There was a tiny noise from the basket. It sounded like a mouse’s squeak, and the thin blanket moved softly.

“Oh!” The woman reached toward the carrier and lifted the blanket. “Look at her. Wide awake. Can I?”

I nodded eagerly, wanting to see this little one, to know if she looked like Hope at all.

“Ooooh,” cooed the lady, as she lifted the tiny baby out of the seat once the restraints were loosened.

If this was Hope, she was one ugly baby. It was like looking at a troll doll. She had a spiked chunk of dark hair on her little head. The child’s dark eyes were like huge buttons in her tiny face. For some reason, I still wanted to hold her. I watched the lady and the alien baby, watched the miniature hand tighten around the lady’s index finger. My eyes dropped to the tag on her uniform. On it was written, ‘Natalie.’

“She’s so beautiful, Lyn. And Jim’s about bursting with Daddy pride. I think he’s going to have all the diapers unloaded at your house one of these days, the way he keeps ordering all these baby supplies.” She smiled at me gently, then added in a low voice, “I know he thought it wouldn’t happen. He was so scared that time. I remember. Oh, how scared we were! But, you were so brave, and the way you talked… I just knew you were right. Things happen in mysterious ways, don’t they?”

I nodded, in total agreement with her.

“Well, I have to get back to the front desk.” She didn’t seem ready to put Hope back in the seat, though. “You listen to me, and take it easy. She’s still a little thing, just over seven weeks, right?”

I nodded again, completely ignorant of how old my child was.

“Well, don’t rush things. Just enjoy every minute of it. My Celia’s already two! How time flies.”

“It sure does,” I returned.

Then she began to hand her to me. I didn’t reach up, but felt the need to explain. “I—I can’t,” I whispered.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just—” Would I always give this excuse?

“One of your spells? I was thinking you were acting differently. It's like you're not comfortable in your own skin or something. But, you should've told me, Lyn. I’ll go get Jim.”

“I’m really okay.”

She hesitated and asked, “How often do you have these now?”

I considered for a minute. The last time had been a huge leap from teenage Hope to baby Hope.

“It doesn’t happen very often at all.”

“You know, it might have to do with hormones. Does it always happen when you’re pregnant or postpartum?”

“Uh.” I couldn’t come up with an answer, so I resorted to repeating, “It doesn’t happen very often.”

Just then Hope began to cry. Natalie tried to calm her, and I couldn’t stand it. I had to reach out to her.

“ away from me. Did I hurt you?”

It took me a second to register the question. I was back in the present, and the pallet jack had just run into me. “Oh! No, I’m fine.”

He came around the crates of broccoli and carrots he’d been pushing through to the produce section, and I took in his features. Definitely not Jim. I had suddenly had this feeling that our first meeting would be in the store. I could hardly conceal my disappointment.

I left the aisle quickly with only one hand on the cart. I was pretty certain no one had noticed my disappearances into my own future, but it was rather awkward trying to have two conversations in two different points of time. I needed some place a little more secluded. The bathroom? No. Too narrow for a shopping cart. I started peering down aisles until I found a deserted one. Batteries and light bulbs. This one looked good.

I took a deep breath, lifted my free hand, and looked down at the handle. My hand hesitated.


The lettering of the words was no longer bold. It was faded and gray now. This handle looked worn. Was this really the same shopping cart? I only contemplated this for a moment, deciding the best way to find out was to try it.

I was next to the long freezer chests lined down the center of the aisle with a big sign advertising a sale on hams. I looked into the cart to find a few cans and packages, a spiral notebook listing about thirty-some-odd items, and a handbag—the first that I approved of. A few of the items on the list were checked off. After waiting for awhile to find out what I was supposed to be doing there, I considered moving. I couldn’t actually shop without returning to the present when my hands came off the cart, so I’d decided to just roam around. I started forward when I felt a strange pressure at my middle. Gazing down at myself, I looked like me in the present—still wearing my slacks from the interview with Muriel and my favorite button-down blouse. Then I had a gut feeling and turned the cart around to head for the meat department. There were sometimes mirrors there. I rolled up to the mirrors and stared at my reflection, caring very little about what the shoppers around me might think.

I was pregnant. Not big pregnant, but my belly was protruding, and I was wearing a cutesy maternity top. I thought I looked pretty beaming, actually, until I turned to the side. Okay, I was a little bigger than I’d originally thought. It looked like I still had a couple of months, though. My face wasn't swollen. Yay! That was one thing I really hoped would never happen.

I turned the cart to follow the mirrors down the aisle—I wasn’t quite done being fascinated with my prego appearance—when I suddenly experienced a very wrong, very painful spasm in my lower abdomen. It was all I could do to hold on. I bent over the cart and wondered what was happening. Was I dying, here in the future? I let go of the cart.

I returned to staring at Maglites and Duracells, only to find I wasn’t in pain at all. I stood away from the cart and looked at the handle. Still faded. Then I embraced the plastic cover again, confused and curious.

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