Earth Trolley

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When I Discovered My Klepto Tendencies

To say that I was irritated at having missed my first kiss with Jim was not the half of it. That delicious moment had ended way too abruptly. I leaned against a shelf stacked with boxes of doggy snacks and thought about those last seconds over and over. The smell of Kibbles and Bits rather ruined it, though. If I had to wait three years to meet him, I didn't know how I was going to be that patient.

Then I took a gander at my Earth Trolley's handle.

R E

It was a depressing sight. There wasn't much future-hopping left, it looked like; but I really, really felt the need to know when I would meet Jim. So, I took the handle in hands with the determination that I would try to find out.

I was next to the teas this time. That was apropos. I assumed this meant I'd said the right things with the proposal. I kinda felt like I had. It had been about the kids. We weren't going to have ten kids. That would be a tough one for him.

"Excuse me, miss." It was spoken very sternly, and the voice from behind made me jump. Jim came around and picked up the boxes of Earl Gray and Constant Comment from my basket. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to pay for these."

He looked down at me with a smirk, his gorgeous blue eyes twinkling. He looked so young and nice. He wasn't haggard and thin; he was fresh and huggable. He wasn't strikingly handsome; he was adorable and exuded charm. I was very attracted to all of him except the hairnet. Did he work in the deli now?

"Well, I can't buy them until I check out," I told him.

"True. Do you intend to check out this time?"

"Of course."

"Good. When you're done making your purchases, I'd be happy to check you out."

I met his eyes with reproach in mine, catching his innuendo. "Do you work the cash register now?"

"I can, if it means seeing you this weekend."

I couldn't help but smile at his sly way of asking me out. "But they might need you in the deli."

He gasped and yanked off his hairnet. "Forgot about that."

"So, how many different jobs have you been trained for?"

"Pretty much everything but office work." He was squeezing the netting in his hand like it would shrink to invisibility. "I think I'm getting kinda of bored with the grocery business, though. Not really any future in it."

"No?" I smiled secretly. "Maybe you could be the store owner some day."

"I doubt it. My cousin, maybe."

"Why?"

"Because my uncle is not going to pick me over him."

Confidently, I told him, "I think I'd pick you over your cousin." I quickly caught myself. "For a store owner, I mean."

"That's all? Only for a store owner?”

"Wasn't that what we were talking about?" I asked, innocently.

"No, we were talking about going out this weekend."

"Oh. I thought you just wanted to ring up my purchases." The moment I said it, I realized I'd really embarrassed myself. I blushed and could not meet his eyes.

"I'm—uh..." He lost it, but tried to control his laughter. It came out as a snort. "How 'bout we just see a movie?"

I was grateful to him for letting it go. "A movie's good. Wait. Is this a first date?"

He raised his eyebrows, and his mouth dropped open slightly, like it was obvious. "Yeah. Unless you want to call it a second date. We could skip the first date all together. They’re a bit awkward anyway."

"Actually, I can't."

"What?"

"Ask me another time." I'd just realized the future me might not remember being asked out on our first date! That would be terrible.

"What do you mean another time; when am I supposed to ask you?"

"The next time I come in here." He looked confused, and I couldn't help but grin.

"Does that mean you're going to avoid shopping at Huey's Market then?" He gave me a playfully skeptical look.

"Definitely not. In fact, you need to keep working here. I may attempt to steal all the teas... and that cereal, too." I nodded my head toward my favorite brand.

"The Smacks O' Honey?"

"No. The one beside it. 'All natural grains and'—" I began to read.

"Yeah, you look all natural," he remarked quietly. It was all in the tone.

"You..." I was shaking my head at his innuendo, trying to contain the smile at the corners of my mouth. "You have to quit that. It makes me completely uncomfortable."

"I know. It's fun to watch your face turn red."

I huffed, annoyed a little bit but mostly just glad to be talking with him. I couldn't help but wish he'd never leave. I wanted to stay that way forever, soaking up the chemistry between us. "You'll ask me again, right?"

"Yeah. But I think you should give me your number, just in case."

Impulsively, I looked in the front seat of the cart for my purse and the cell phone inside. It wasn't there. Was I carrying it on my shoulder? It didn't matter; I couldn't let him call me anyway. The future me would wonder how he got my number and probably think he was a stalker. "I can't."

"Why not?"

I shook my head. "Sorry. I just can't."

He leaned against the side of the cart. "You're being just a little too hard to get here."

"Sorry." I meant it.

A request came over the intercom for someone to help in the deli, and Jim looked down at his watch. He muttered under his breath and said, "Look, my break's over..."

"Can I come with you?"

"Sure!" His face lit up. "Well, as long as you don't mind the hairnet," he added.

I shook my head, grinning, and followed him to the counter. He disappeared into the back for a few minutes and came back with his hair confined again. He began to serve the line gathered at the front of the bulk meats and cheeses, cracking jokes with the customers and the lady beside him behind the counter. Every few minutes he would turn around and wink at me. He was showing off.

When the customers left with their deli goods, I approached the counter. He was wrapping and putting away the meats and cheeses. He delivered a parcel of cheese to its compartment and looked at me.

"What'll it be?"

"I'd like to try that turkey you said was so good."

"I was talking about the movie this weekend, but sure." He took it out, sliced it, and passed the parchment paper with a sample over the counter.

"I mean, I want eight slices. A little thicker than that."

"Oh, is it really that good?" He asked, still holding the sample out to me.

"I don't know; you said it was!"

"Well, try it for me. I was just—I haven't really tried it."

I started to laugh. "You've never tasted it?"

He grinned and shook his head.

"Well, you're very persuasive. I don't want the sample; put it with my eight slices

"But then you're paying for something free!"

"Who says I'm paying for it at all?" I said, just remembering I really couldn't buy it anyway.

"Ah. Klepto strikes again." He seemed to be considering me. "I'll tell you what: I'll give you eight slices for free—you don't have to steal it—if you'll say 'yes' about the movie."

I drew out my lip into a pout. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"I just can't."

"No turkey..." he threatened lightly.

I gave him my most pitiful, pleading look.

"I'm not falling for—You want eight slices? Fine, but I'm gonna watch you leave. You'd better pay for it."

I became rather concerned as he sliced the meat. What if he came up in a matter of seconds, after I'd returned to me of the future, and I didn't remember this whole wonderful conversation? He handed the plastic bag of turkey to me, but I didn't take it.

"Look. Um. You need to know, I have these—" I almost said 'vitamin deficiencies', but decided against it. "Spells. They don't happen very often, but when they do I sort of know it. And then it goes away, and I don't remember what I said... or anything," I ended lamely.

He looked unconvinced.

"I'm serious," I told him. "I probably should have told you back there." I gestured with my head toward the aisles. "But I didn't think about it because I—I was too busy thinking about how I like you."

"Well, I was thinking you're awesome."

"Really?"

"Why do you think I helped you check out before? You caught my eye. You're—you’re way out of my league. I know that."

"No. Listen, I'm not. Don't give up on me, okay?"

He looked at me like he wasn't sure how to take what I was telling him.

"I know." I shook my head. "What I'm telling you is weird, but I have this sense about things. We could definitely work out." I smiled at him reassuringly.

He flung the bag of meat into my cart as another customer approached the display. "Here's your turkey, Klepto."

I hesitated, unsure of whether I'd said too much. Would I be able to go back and change it? I turned the cart around to go back to the place the future me had been—just to keep my future self from being too confused—and thought about what it must mean that I couldn't remember these trips into my future later on. How could I forget them?

I let go of the handle in front of the teas.

I was next to the dog food again. The smell was not inviting. I sighed and looked down at the handle. It said,

HUEY'S MARKET

My boxes of cereal and my teas were in the basket. My purse and opened energy drink were in the child's seat. I freaked. I knew what it meant, but I couldn't bear it. I didn't know when I was going to meet Jim! I started pushing my buggy up and down the aisles, searching for the Earth Trolley.

It couldn't be over! I was pretty sure what I'd said to Jim had been wrong. The way he'd flung that bag of meat and called me 'Klepto' had proved that. I scoured the whole store, everywhere I'd been, everywhere I hadn't been. I even checked the storeroom, though I was kindly escorted out. There was only one more place to look: where I'd first seen the cart. Outside.

I wheeled around and headed for the entrance, skirting the registers. I passed through the sliding doors and stood there, scanning the parking lot.

"Excuse me, uh, lady? Excuse me!"

I barely heard him until he touched my shoulder. I turned around and looked at his face. Blue eyes. Dark brown hair. Kinda big nose. He looked familiar.

"You didn't pay for your purchases." He pointed to my cart.

"Oh. I'm sorry. I was looking for something, and I must've—"

"What were you looking for?"

"Um." I shrugged and told him honestly, "I don't remember."

"It's gonna be hard to find, then."

I laughed, "Yeah. Um, wow! I'm sorry about leaving without paying."

"No problem. Anyone can make that mistake—well, actually, it's generally called stealing. If you come back in and go to the register, then I don't have to notify security..." He trailed off, looking at a loss.

"Oh, don't call security on me! I promise I don't steal groceries." I turned my cart around to walk back in.

"You just drink sodas before you pay for them?" He gestured toward the open can.

I looked at him and averred seriously, "No. I always buy my stuff."

"Sure you do." He was grinning, teasing me.

I shook my head as I came around to one of the registers.

"Let me just help you with the process of buying your groceries. It's really not that difficult, as long as you have money. You have money, right?"

"Yes, I can pay for them," I replied with a tinge of chagrin.

"So, you do it for the thrill, then?"

"No!"

"Oh, come on, Klepto. 'Fess up." Was he really flirting with me? Whatever it was, I kinda liked it.

I felt the need to vindicate myself, so I explained, "Really, it’s the first time I’ve ever opened a drink before paying for it." We placed my last boxes of cereal on the conveyor belt.

"It's okay," he told me mockingly and rested his palm on my shoulder. "I'll help you overcome this addiction. I'll keep my eye on you next time you shop here."

"Oh, is that what your job is…" I glanced down at his name tag. "…Jim?"

"We're all about helping our customers."

"It's $18.76," the cashier told me. I pulled out a twenty.

"Look, she does have money!"

I took my change and waved the dollar bill in his face. "I do, but after being treated this way I might not come back!"

His smile fell. He thought I was serious. I pushed my cart forward, but I couldn't help it: I looked back and smiled.

A big grin spread across his face. He had the nicest smile. It was one of those smiles that would be hard to forget. And I definitely wanted to remember it.

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