It was the January Sale, which had been advertised everywhere, but she had not seen one of the advertisements. She went to the large fabric, crafts, hobby and everything else store because she needed some beeswax for her thread which she liked to use when she was hand sewing the binding on her quilts. The store was five miles from home, and afterwards we were going to go to the beach to see if we could see dolphins swimming off shore, which they often did this time of year.
She had not known about the "40% Off Sale" until we approached the store and saw the crowd of women pushing through the entrance. "Must be some kind of sale," she said.
"I hate crowded stores," I said.
"Well, we're here already, and I only need one item, so it shouldn't take long."
"Hah!" I said.
"I'm fast," she said as we made it to the entrance and were pushed through by a new mob which had come up behind us. At the door we saw the sign. "Forty percent off one item," she read to me.
"That's not much of a sale," I said, looking deep into the store at the swarms of people swarming the aisles.
"If I needed a big item, it would be good," she said.
"Such as?" I asked. I shouldn't have.
"Such as a really large cutting mat," she said.
"You have a really large mat," I said.
"I'm only getting the beeswax," she said. I relaxed.
"If we can reach it," I said. I stared at the throngs of people thronging in each and every aisle.
"I have sharp elbows," she said as if she knew what I was thinking.
"Yes, you do," I said, remembering all the previous sales where she had done battle.
"Ready?" she asked. She aimed herself toward the section of the store which she knew from previous experience held the quilting notions.
"Ready," I said, taking a deep breath and hoping I wouldn't lose her in the crowd.
"Stay by me," she said, leading the way.
I stayed and I followed, excusing us to everyone we passed as we bumped into one woman, careened off another, shoved up against a third. "Excuse us. Sorry, Pardon. Ouch."
"I just got stepped on," I said as we pushed through a narrow path between two women, each holding a roll of batting.
"You might want batting?" I said.
"Just the beeswax," she answered. She pulled at my arm, pinching the fabric of my shirt and dragged me to the wall of notions. "I don't see any," she said as she turned her head from side to side and up and down.
"Me neither," I said as I was pushed from behind by a woman carrying a handful of sewing machine needles.
"I'll find someone to ask," I said, seeing a clerk half a store away, a gauntlet of shoppers blocking my path.
"I just asked," she said as she turned away from a woman that had passed by.
"Was that a clerk?" I asked.
"No, but it was a woman who shops here all the time and she asked what I was looking for and she said they didn't have any, just wax for making candles."
"Can we go then?" I asked, wondering how in a split second my wife, who had been talking to me, had met a woman whom I didn't see and carried on a conversation I hadn't heard.
"I should buy something for forty percent off," she said.
"Are you sure?" I asked. We had turned away from the notions wall, got spun around twice by a group of women marching by with rotary cutter sets in their hands.
"I can use another rotary cutter or something," she said.
"Just for the forty percent off?"
"I'll bet there's a long line," I said, straining to see over or around a tall women who blocked my view with her body and blocked my body with her shopping cart.
"Why does she need a shopping cart for one item?" I asked.
"She's probably buying a lot of other stuff at regular price. You know that," she said. She pushed ahead of me and pushed the offending shopping cart to the side and we grunted past it. "Ugh."
"The lines are each a mile and a half long," I said as I realized that though we were half a mile or so away from the four open cash registers, everyone in front of us was waiting to get to a register. Four lines. Each line meandered through the aisles as if some quilter had free motioned lines of shoppers across the floor of the store, mistaking it for a king-sized quilt.
"You wait in line while I go buy something," she said.
"Again?" I asked. "I waited in line at the last sale."
"That was months ago. I have to go find something worth taking forty percent off of."
"Off of?" I asked, but she was gone, and I was waiting in line with ten million shoppers, a line without end. I wanted to leave, to get out of the store-sized quilt I was trapped in, but there was no way to escape. Behind me another hundred people were in my line. The other lines were the same.
An hour or so later, it seemed, the line moved an inch. Soon after, as if by some miracle, it moved a foot. I stood there, looking around, wondering who invented sales and who invented people willing to go to sales. I wondered for twenty minutes, and then I heard a crash.
Two shopping carts collided in the next aisle, the collision opening up a gap in the line, and then there she was, the shopper I had married, pushing one of the carts, a bolt of muslin in her cart. "What's that?" I asked.
"Unbleached muslin. It's on sale. I can use it for backing."
"Forty percent off a yard of muslin on sale? You don't save very much," I scolded.
"Who said anything about a yard?" she asked. She didn't just ask me; she asked the four hundred people or so who were in our line.
"One item only," I said.
"It's only one item, Dearie," a neighbor in line said. "And you need to wait in the line at the cutting table anyway." she laughed.
"That's what I have, one item," my sweet wife said strongly, pushing ahead with her cart until she took my place in line. "One bolt of muslin," my wife said boldly. "That's only one item," she said.
"Can you do that?" a woman in the next line asked. She had two small boys with her, each looking about five years old, each holding a separate item. Why not? Three people, three items.
"Of course," I said. "One bolt is one item. One, one, one," I said. "Do you need all that muslin?" I asked in a whisper.
"Forty percent off," she said.
"Worth waiting in line for," I said. It was.
Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver
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