The Bargain Hunter

It was one of those embarrassing moments—they both reached for the eggplant at the same time.

She blushed nervously as she felt his hand clasp hers.

"Oh, excuse me," he said, rather amused. He dropped her hand.

She smoothed her hair. “You can take that one.”

“No—I meant that one’s bruised. I didn’t think you should take it.”

“Oh. Thanks.”

“No problem.”

The man moved down the aisle, her eyes on him all the while. After a moment, she selected an eggplant, a seemingly perfect specimen, and rolled her cart over to aisle six to pick up some detergent. As she scanned the prices, she felt someone nudge her.

“Hi again. Fancy meeting you here,” his voice greeted her.

Her eyes widened with mock surprise. She returned his grin. “And now I suppose you’ll be telling me that my brand of detergent doesn’t work as well as yours.”

“I’d have to come over and compare the results.” His dark eyes stared into hers, lingered too long before they drove over the rest of her, unimpeded by the sudden curves. For a moment she was taken aback. She dropped her gaze and smiled, a tight-lipped condescending smile, and hurried past him.

“Aisle seven features our ethnic and imported foods and drinks; wheel on over to check out our low, low prices. Thanks for shopping at Heidigger’s. And we remember -- Heidigger’s starts with you,” a pleasant voice crackled over the p.a. system.

Her cart slowed to let some children with their harried-looking mother pass. They exchanged tired smiles.

As she rolled down to aisle seven, passing the borscht with beets, passing the coffee grinder, passing the gefilte fish, she ran into him. The aisle had been empty. So much for low, low prices, she thought.

“Why didn’t you give me a chance?” he whispered, as his hands gripped her cart.

She stared. “I don’t know what you’re talking about -- I thanked you about the eggplant...”

“I don’t mean the eggplant, Nancy. Oh God, if I only meant the eggplant.”

“Nancy?” she repeated in disbelief. “I’m not Nancy and I have shopping to do. I’ll call the manager...”

“Yes, do that. Call the manager. What’s he going to think?”

Her palms grew sweaty. Where was everybody? She turned to see an old woman crouched further up the aisle, inspecting the borscht. She appeared to be oblivious to the scene.

“I said, what’s he going to think?”

She turned back to face him, tried to move her cart, ready to abandon it if she couldn’t loosen his hold on it.

“He’ll think that you were coming on to me -- that you came here dressed in your nine-to-five short business suit, briefcase in your hand, filled with important documents and trashy porno magazines. That you came here to buy me -- to take me home to sleep with you and cook you eggs for breakfast. And then this week’s shopping will be over. Until next Friday,” his words were angry and rushed, and he left no room for interruptions.

The old woman had selected her borscht and rolled down the aisle, now taking notice of the couple. The lines etched in her face created a permanent, forlorn smile. The man leered at her. The old woman just smiled. As soon as she was out of earshot, he continued.

“You can’t treat me like this, like so much less than dirt, Nancy,” he began to whimper.

Her mind was in a whirl, but seeing him in his weakened state, she mustered up enough strength to jerk her cart out of his clutches. His look was incredulous as he saw her back up slowly. She averted her eyes, turned around, and sped down the aisle.

The man’s mouth dropped open as he realized that she was leaving. His eyes fell to her calves, which were well-proportioned and making good time towards the check-out. After recovering from his initial shock, he sauntered over to the produce section.

“Excuse me,” he said to a woman leaning over the selections, “but I think that eggplant’s bruised.”