A man approaches the billing counter at a supermarket. He’s wheeling along a trolley which is almost overflowing with stuff and is slowly getting to the counter, both his arms placed on the handle bars of the cart. A woman stands at the counter, doing some accounts. Supermarket is almost empty. Suddenly a voice booms out over the speakers:
“Listen up everybody! It’s almost closing time. So pick up your stuff and head to the nearest billing counter. We will be closing in a few minutes. Thanks.”
The man has reached the counter by then. Cashier looks at the stuff he’s got, raises her eyebrows and looks at him. She stops whatever else she’s doing and smiles at him broadly.
Man: (starts handing her stuff from trolley) Hey.
W: (starts billing stuff) Hmm.
M: Yeah, sorry… I know it’s almost closing time.
W: Hey, no issues. It’s my job.
M: It’s just that my wife is throwing a party tomorrow. So I’m getting all the stuff for that.
W: (bills a couple of boxes of condoms) And some other stuff too…
M: (looks a little shy) Hmm. Well..
W: (after a few moments) So, what’s the party for?
M: (looks a little surprised at question, lady is still billing stuff) It’s our wedding anniversary tomorrow.
W: (smiles broadly at him) Congratulations.
M: Thanks… (looks at her tag) Pinky.
Pinky: And what’s your name?
P: Ah. Ok. (pause) That’s a lot of cheddar cheese you’ve got there. You sure you don’t want some other types of cheese too?
John: Uhm. Yeah, I think so. This is what my wife usually uses. (starts fishing in his pockets for something) She doesn’t like me buying unnecessary stuff, or stuff she won’t use.
P: Ah. (looks up at him searching his pockets) Missing something?
J: No… just checking her list to make sure I’ve got everything. (smiles reassuringly)
P: No alcohol?
J: Nah. Got enough at home.
P: (raises brows) Hmm. How many years you been married? If you don’t mind me asking.
J: No, no.. I don’t. It’ll be four years tomorrow.
P: No kids yet?
J: No.. we’re both pretty busy. No time. She doesn’t want to give up her career right now. (now he’s looking in his bag)
P: Ah. I get that. Making a name for yourself is important. So is making some money.
(she’s about three-fourth of the way through the cart now)
Voice on intercom: Listen up, Pinks. Nearly closing time. Wind up.
P: (to intercom) Yeah, ok. Last customer.
J: Uhmm… (scratches head, looking inside bag)
P: (looks at him) Can’t find the list?
J: Actually… I wasn’t looking for that. Uhm. I don’t seem to have brought my wallet.
(longish pause. P looks up at him and raises her brows a bit)
P: You leaving then? We open at 8am tomorrow.
J: No.. Erm. I can’t leave without this stuff.
P: (looks at the bags.. pointedly at the condoms) Riiighttt.
J: No.. I mean.. we don’t have time to shop for the party tomorrow. And..
P: (holds up her hand) It’s alright. So.. what do we do now? (Stops billing and starts thinking)
J: (almost to himself) We?
P: (hears him, looks up) Listen, if you want to you can just head home and pick this up tomorrow…
J: (interrupts) No.. What I mean is.. You don’t have to go out of your way to help a perfect stranger. Its fine. People don’t usually do that.. Thanks. But… if you could think of something..
P: (suddenly laughs)
J: (looks surprised.. she’s still laughing)Erm. Pinky?
P: (stops gradually) I’m sorry.. It’s just funny. You’re contradicting yourself. And this is the first time in my life I’ve spoken so much to a customer.. (pause) Anyway. I’d be glad to help. (continues to bill the stuff)
J: Wait.. What are you doing. How do I pay for this stuff?
P: Where do you live?
J: Not too close. Why?
P: Hmm. No, I’m just thinking.
J: I could ask my wife to get my wallet but it would take her time to get here…
P: It’s fine. I’ll help you out.
J: (frowns slightly) Erm… how?
P: I’ll pay.
J: (guffaws aloud) You? Why?
P: (raises brows) You’re welcome.
J: No.. I mean. I’m a complete stranger. Why would you pay for all this stuff of mine?
P: Well, you’ll return it obviously.
J: Yes. That’s not the point. WHY?
P: I would like to help. That’s all.
J: (pause) Are you sure?
P: Yes. (long pause) There is something you could do for me though.
J: (quickly) Anything. Tell me.
P: (looks a little hesitant)
J: Hey, Pinky.. Tell me.
P: I’m not trying to flirt with you or pick you up or anything.. I just.. It’s just.. Well..
J: (looks a little curious now) Yeah?
P: Have dinner with me?
J: (looks hesitant now) Erm.. Listen..
P: (interrupts) No. No, listen. It’s not a date. It’s not even alone with me. It’s… it’s with my family and me.
J: I don’t understand. You’re helping me out and you want me to have dinner with your family?
P: See.. (sighs). It’s a long story. But.. basically I work three jobs. To earn some money. And my family doesn’t know it yet but.. I’m pregnant. No, hear me out then decide.. I don’t want anything but a guest appearance from you.
J: As the baby’s father?
P: (pause) I don’t know…
J: Where is the father?
P: He’s not with me anymore. That’s not the point.
J: So what do you want me to do?
P: (looks at him) You’ll do it?
J: Yeah but I don’t know what it is you want me to do so…
P: (long pause) I don’t know either. (pause) See, I haven’t even decided if I want to keep the baby or not. But.. I just don’t want my folks to worry I guess. If they see I’m with someone, they may feel a little better. Baby or not. (pause) I’m 30 and not married yet. And I show no signs of getting married. Plus I work like a dog. They don’t think I have a life.. or any friends.. So.
J: (exhales) I’m married. This can only be a one-time thing. My wife can’t know about it. Obviously.
P: (quickly) Yes, yes. Of course. In fact… you know what. Bring her for dinner too.
P: Yeah. Come as my friends.
J: We’ll see. I will come. But this is getting a little far-fetched. There’s no need to get her into this.
(voice on intercom) : Pinky! What’s taking so long?
P: Sorry, sorry.. We’re done. There was a problem with his credit card.
(she pays with her card and he starts putting the bags in a trolley to take outside)
J: Give me your number.
P: One second.
(writes it down and gives it to him.. he takes off his watch and gives it to her)
J: It’s what my parents gave me as a wedding gift. Omega. I’ll want it back. It’s just for you to know I’ll come back.
P: You don’t need to.. (hands it back to him)
J: No. Keep it. And… Let me know when dinner is. It can’t be tomorrow.
P: No. Obviously. I’ll call you in a few days.. maybe once I’ve figured out some stuff.
J: Ok. Do that. (starts pushing trolley with bags then turns around) Pinky…. Thanks.
P: (smiles) No. Thank you, John.