Indianapolis, Indiana - Legal Communications
I pulled my car in the full parking lot at the grocery store. We circled
the lot slowly for a few times before we found a space, towards the
rear, to park. I took a long deep breath. I could already tell that this
was going to be a lengthy afternoon. My husband, Adam, still grumbling
about missing the game, got out of our black Volvo and just stood
outside the car. Niles, our usually precocious now suddenly annoying
four- year old daughter, was literally bouncing in her car seat, swaying
the whole car. I unfastened her small safety belt before opening my door
to help her out of the car. She darted out as soon as I unlocked her
door. She was quick, but I was quicker. I grabbed her hand and looked
directly into her large brown eyes.
“This is not a place to play Ni-Ni,”
I told her sternly. She nodded and held tight to my hand. I signaled to
Adam and we walked to the entrance of Atlas, our grocery store.
We reached the door of the
Supermarket at the same time as a striking elderly woman and, in
deference to her gray hair and seeming frailty I stood aside that she
might enter ahead of me. She chose a shopping cart and moved slowly
along the cosmetics aisle, the cart’s wheels squeakily protesting the
need for a little oil. My husband selected a cart and we placed Niles in
the front seat. I was really hoping that this would be a quick trip to
the market for just a few goods to make it through the week before we
went to Venice on vacation. Adam had this determined look on his face
that seemed to tell me that he wasn’t going to make this any easier for
me. Who really cares about the Lakers versus the Bulls? I
thought. I stuck my tongue out at him and we pushed on.
The woman I had just seen at the door
was ahead of us. There was something vaguely familiar about her and, as
I followed at a short distance I wondered if, when or where I might have
encountered her before. The face was handsome, in spite of a network of
fine lines around the eyes and mouth, and she carried herself with a
lissome grace startlingly at variance with the threadbare coat, which
hung loosely to her cracked, misshapen shoes. Niles begged to be
released from the cage- like shopping cart. I lifted her out and stood
her on the floor, but before I could remind her to behave she ran away.
I looked at Adam. He held out his hand. Rock, paper, scissors. I won; He
had to go chase her down. This was how we dealt with everything now.
Rock, paper, scissors. It was truly distressing to watch how low two
Howard educated surgeons had sunk. We used to argue about who would do
what regarding the baby’s needs. Now we simply flipped a coin, computed
figures in our head, or played rock, paper, scissors. It saved our
seven- year marriage. I smiled at him as he turned away to go retrieve
I turned my attention back to the
aisle and noticed that the woman had moved further ahead of me. I
wondered from where did I recognize her. Was she a singer from
yesteryear? An actress? A dancer? I watched her and wondered and then I
saw it. The flash of hand to shelf and pocket, the movement so flawless
that for a moment I doubted what I had seen. She looked around
unhurriedly, moved on a few paces, then, there it was again, the smooth
quick flow of hand to shelf to pocket. I rolled my eyes. Why weren’t
things simple for me? Why can’t I just go to the market, purchase a few
items, and not have to find my child or witness a minor theft? Just then
my husband returned with Niles in tow.
“Adam, that woman’s stealing,” I
mouthed to him.
“Beg your pardon,” he raised his
eyebrows, asking me to repeat myself.
“She’s stealing,” I whispered to him.
“What,” he said, still not
understanding my message.
“Mommy said that woman is STEALING,
daddy,” Niles screeched at the top of her lungs attracting the attention
of everyone around us, including two security guards. The burly men came
up to the woman and asked her to empty the contents of her coat. The
woman looked thoroughly confused and distressed. Although her head was
still high and her back still erect, she started crying and mumbling and
everyone, from the butchers in the meat department to the cashiers in
the front, was staring at her. Children were giggling, mothers were
shaking their heads at her and tsk tsking her as if she were a child.
One thing I hate is moral superiority. As the store manager arrived to
lead her away and call the police I spoke up.
“I’ll pay for whatever she took,” I
stated in a confident clear voice.
“This store does not tolerate
shoplifters, ma’am,” he added the last part when he saw the coolness of
“You caught her. There is no need to
make an example out of this woman,” I said. I could tell that he didn’t
care about anything I had to say, but he was feigning courtesy out of
concern for the other customers watching this skirmish.
“Look, there’s no harm done and we
can pay for whatever, please let’s not involve the police,” my husband
declared, backing me up. I looked around to the other women in the store
for support. We were alone on this one.
“Fine, but from now on, all of you
are banned from this Supermarket,” the manager proclaimed. Just then
Niles reached up to touch a bottle of nail polish on a ledge. The whole
shelf fell down making a toxic mess of polish and paint everywhere. I
don’t think I could have been more embarrassed. The brawny security
guards escorted the four of us out of the store, but not before they
paraded us in front of all the checkers so that they could identify us
if we tried to enter the premises again. The woman, still regal,
sauntered away, but not before thanking us profusely after my husband
gave her a few dollars.
“Bye, bye,” Niles waved to the woman.
“Who was that?” my husband and I
asked in unison.
“You know, the woman that made that
mural at that black history museum,” she answered. Now I knew where I
had recognized the woman. She was an extremely talented artist, long
forgotten. I turned around to see which way she went, but she had
“I never liked their produce anyway,”
I informed my husband. “I guess we’ll be eating out next week.” He held
out his hand to determine who would pick up dinner on Monday.