Looks like there’ll be no guacamole tonight.
“Carlos’ Little Corner Store” is indeed small, and more often than not, the selection equally so. Not to mention, though it does slip through her mind now and again, the prices are a little higher – after all, they don’t get the volume discounts like the big boys. But it’s one of the last neighborhood stores left in the city, they do carry some organic fruits and veggies, and, best of all, it’s run by a nice little family.
As she turns, lost in thought as to what to do about tonight's dinner, that man – she’s seen him here before – steps through the store’s front entrance. Today he wears a sleeveless t-shirt, a faded image on the front that’s impossible to make out from where she stands, and a cap with what she believes is the NRA logo. But with her vision not quite what it used to be, she can’t be sure.
Getting old sucks.
As he passes Carlos, who stands smiling behind the register, he scrunches up his face and gives his head a long, hard shake – a well-practiced routine she’s witnessed with each of his visits.
Today, however, he adds a new twist. Slowing, he pretends to mumble – though Jolene can easily hear him from the produce section – as he says, “Go back to where you came from, Beaner.”
Her breath catches as a cold shiver creeps down her back. She’s shaking, but manages to turn and move across to the tomatoes. There’s are some better choices here, yet, even as she picks though them, she keeps a watchful eye on the man. When she sees he’s coming her way, she reaches into her backpack and pulls out her mask, quickly slipping it on.
The man clearly notices, doing a little stutter step before continuing on, obviously heading for the beer section. He walks by Jolene just one aisle over, which is close enough she’s able to see the Confederate flag tattooed on his upper arm.
And the slithering shiver returns.
With his beer in hand, he starts back toward the register, but stops, giving Jolene a narrow-eyed stare.
“Lady, every time I come here, you put on that mask. Covid’s gone now – as if it was ever a thing – so you don’t have to wear those anymore.”
She nods and says, “Yes, I know.”
“So, what’s up?”
“Young man, I have no idea what awful disease you have, and I haven’t a clue if it’s contagious...but just in case, I wear this in the hope I’ll never catch it.”