As a child, I never liked the game of hide and seek, for the simple reason that I wasn't any good at it. I would feel sorry for the seeker and end up revealing myself early, defeating the purpose of the game. Thirty years later, I certainly didn't intend - or desire - to play hide and seek, especially in the grocery store. But at the time I felt I had no choice.
You'd play too if you knew Melinda Witherspoon.
Melinda had been after me for weeks. How I'd managed to avoid her thus far was beyond me. Miraculously, the four times she'd called I wasn't home and she resorted to leaving a message. And, shame on me, I deleted those calls without batting an eye. I know that sounds awful, coming from a Christian woman. My problem is that I can't say, no. And Melinda was one of those women who took advantage of that.
Melinda was a ball of nervous energy that always left me emotionally exhausted. She would open her mouth and before I knew what hit me, she would be thanking me for agreeing to lead the PTA meeting or head up the classroom Christmas party or bake cookies for the bazaar.
"I can always count on you, Sharon," she'd say, and turn on her heel before I had a chance to protest.
Currently, Melinda was looking for a volunteer to handle the school fund-raiser and I didn't want to get suckered into it. When I saw her squeezing toilet paper in aisle 7 that Tuesday afternoon, I panicked. Any other day, I would have bee-lined it to the opposite end of the supermarket and hid in the toy department until I felt confident she was gone. But I was on a tight schedule. My only hope was to stay ahead of her and escape without notice.
I spun my cart around on two wheels, and smashed head on with another. I glanced helplessly at the little old lady and watched her mouth round into a perfect O as she clung to the cart for dear life to prevent a nasty fall and possible hip fracture. I muttered an apology and sped away.
Rounding the corner, I dug through my purse and retrieved my sunglasses, sliding them over my eyes. Then, as if dropped from heaven, a faded baseball cap appeared on a nearby shelf and on impulse, I pulled it on, trying not to think about lice. I continued on like a mad woman, throwing items into my cart with wild abandon. At the end of each aisle, I peered around the corner, scanning to and fro for Melinda. As I raced through the store, absurd thoughts of the game show, "Supermarket Sweep," floated through my mind. I hadn't a doubt I could beat any of those contestants, hands down.
I didn't inspect the canned food labels as I usually did, but dropped handfuls at a time into my cart, not caring about dents or the fact that my kids would never eat split pea soup or corned beef hash. I plopped a gallon of milk on top of the bread, forgot to check for cracks in the eggs, and hardly noticed the hole in the can of frozen orange juice.
I didn't have time to care or notice; I was too busy escaping the sights of my stalker.
A loud interruption on the intercom startled me out of my insanity.
"Emergency! Lady Down in Aisle 7."
I skidded to a stop. That poor little old lady must have gone down! What had I done? More importantly, what kind of lunatic had I become?
I made my way back to aisle 7, where I saw not the little old lady but Melinda Witherspoon struggling to her feet.
"How embarrassing," she was saying. "I must have slipped on this wet spot." Melinda noticed me then, and squealed. "Sharon! Is that you? I'm looking for someone to head up the fund-raiser--"she paused and looked at me peculiarly. "What ridiculous thing is on your head?"
I smiled sheepishly and removed the cap. "Oh - it was just a game---"
She cut me off. "Speaking of games, the school carnival is next month. I know I can count on you….."
One of these days I would stand up to Melinda and just say no. Until then, I would probably continue coming up with plans of escape. And next time I'd know not to shop on Tuesday.
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