Gloria came out to the garage. She stood so close I could smell the floral shampoo she used. “Whatcha doin,’ Nick?”
“Straightening up my work bench.”
“Can it wait?”
She was doing it - giving me that gorgeous “You can’t resist me” smile.
“Um, I suppose. Why?”
“Let’s spend some time together. Take me shopping.”
My lips went dry. The thought of traipsing through a dozen stores while Gloria looked at shoes and handbags terrified me.
“Please? There’s just one place I really want to go to. I’ll run in and run right back out. Then let’s get ice cream and walk in the park.”
The ice cream sounded good. “Okay, I’ll make you a deal. I want to stop somewhere, too.”
She kissed my cheek. “Let’s go.”
We had gone just a few blocks when Gloria pointed ahead. “Stop there.”
“At the nursery?”
“Yup. I’m planting a garden.”
I was only slightly relieved. A stop at the nursery sounded like work for me. My instinct was to stay in the car while she went inside, but she wasn’t having it.
“How can we be together if you sit in the car? I promise I’ll dash in and dash out.”
Gloria zeroed in on the flowers. She gathered up an armful of pink and purple blossoms and pointed to an odd-looking pot. “Grab that, will you?”
It was a pot-bellied clay jar with several small openings staggered around its perimeter. “What is it?”
“A strawberry pot.”
“Oh.” The price was frightening. I lowered my voice. “Honey, do you really need this? Can’t you just buy strawberries at the store?”
“It’s not for strawberries. It’s for herbs.”
Of course. That’s why it was called a strawberry pot.
She shoved several seed packets at me and motioned to the check out.
On the short walk to the cash register, she picked up gloves, two wind chimes, a bird feeder, and a ceramic frog. I will give her credit, though. It didn’t take her long.
Ten minutes and two hundred dollars later, we were back in the car on our way to my stop.
When I parked at the bait shop, Gloria sighed. “I should go in with you.”
“I won’t be long. I just have to buy minnows for tonight. You do remember that I’m going night fishing, right?”
“Only now that you reminded me. You really won’t be long?”
“You have my word. I’ll run in and run out again. Really, you can sit here if you’d rather.”
“No, I want to be fair. I’m coming in.”
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but somehow that didn’t bode well. I got my bait bucket and led the way.
Bill, the owner, put down his newspaper. “What can I do you for?”
“I need three dozen bass minnows.”
He went to the back.
Gloria circled the shop, glancing at the displays of weights and lures. She pinched her nose. “Eww, what is that smell?”
“It’s stink bait. Great for catching catfish.”
“You’re kidding me. What kind of creature would eat something that smells that gross?” Her voice carried through the little shop.
“Honey, could you keep it down? It’s a little embarrassing.”
Bill appeared with my minnows. “Here ya go. I gave you a bonus.”
I peered in the bucket. Swimming among the minnows was a fat goldfish.
Gloria tapped my shoulder. “Why is there a goldfish in there?”
Bill answered for me. “They’re great bait.”
She winced. “Nick, it’s bad enough that you use the minnows, but goldfish are pets. You cannot use that pretty fish for bait. Promise me you won‘t.”
“If I don’t, somebody else will.”
“Look at him. His fins are all lacy. See there? He’s looking at me. He’s precious.”
I looked longingly at the goldfish, thinking what a big fish I might catch with him. “But honey…”
“You can’t impale him on a fish hook. Poor baby.”
I steered her toward the door. “Sweetheart, why don’t you step outside?”
“Let me have him. Please?” Her eyes filled with tears.
I knew I was whipped. “All right.”
Gloria hugged me. “Thank you, honey. We’ll need to stop at the pet shop to buy Bubbles some fish food and a tank. He might like some playmates, too. I won’t take long. I’ll run right in and right out.”
Bubbles? Shaking my head, I replied, “No, I’ll go in. You stay in the car and keep Bubbles company.” I just couldn’t bear the consequences.
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