"Where are you
going to be?"
"I don't know,"
Cindy said. "Maybe New Releases."
"I'm going to
be in Health," said Kate, squeezing Cindy's hand and pointing. "Right
over there by the big poster of the Grinch. Got that? Come to me when
off at a half-skip, her Little Mermaid dress swinging. She
stopped at the video-game section but moved on when ten-year-old boys
in black T-shirts swarmed in. Backing into the main aisle, she bumped
into a grownup.
The man knelt
and asked if she was okay.
Cindy was frightened
by the man's mustache. She saw the cover of the video he held. The
picture showed two stiff children who looked scared and were blaming
her for it. She nodded quickly to the man and escaped to New Releases.
was debating between an exercise video and a yoga video. She held
one of each, weighing them.
how are you?" a woman asked her.
. . . fine," Kate stammered.
Wilson," the woman explained. "Christine's mom. Last weekend, the
girls' soccer game. We brought the oranges."
right," Kate said. "I'm sorry, I'm a little out of it. I've been hearing
yoga everywhere." Kate appraised the video. "I don't think I can do
it in a class. I should be looking for something for the sitter. I
talked my husband into a play tonight."
play," said Mrs. Wilson. "Good for you."
out for us is usually McDonald's," Kate said.
The two women laughed.
marched up and down the aisle. She stopped when she saw a girl and
a boy, high-school kids. They were looking at the kinds of New Releases
that she wasn't allowed to watch. Lizzie and Becky and Christine had
told her about them.
knew some were about love, and some were about killing and violence
girl had big blonde hair and leaned back against the boy's chest.
girl was chewing gum. The boy hugged her and whispered in her ear.
The girl stopped chewing and opened her mouth wide. Cindy waited to
see the gum fall out.
the boy said. "This is it."
one?" the blonde girl whined.
supposed to be great," he said.
stumbled away, but Cindy kept her eyes on that video. The covers repeated
for three rows. She took one down and pretended to be interested in
the words. She stared at the picture.
and Mrs. Wilson were mocking exercise tapes, reassuring themselves
that busts like that inflated with a bike pump.
theater," envied Mrs. Wilson.
Kate confessed. "I had to bribe Tom to take me. I tried begging, I
tried an ultimatum, but they didn't work. So I made him a deal."
you didn't," said Mrs. Wilson. "I never thought of that. The
garbage disposal hasn't worked for days."
it," said Kate. "He'll be fixing every leaky faucet in the house."
Mrs. Wilson asked if Kate had seen that mysterious man in the Foreign
section. Kate scanned the store. Disappointed, she returned to the
tapes, but thought about the stranger.
line were the blonde girl and the boy, exploring each other under
their cheap leather jackets. Mrs. Wilson disapproved.
Kate replaced the tapes and set out after her daughter.
was trotting along with the video under her arm, clicking her jaw
as if she were chewing gum.
shelves of Mystery/Suspense blocked Kate's view of New Releases. Every
now and then a head of hair popped up.
As she passed Foreign, she chanced a look. A man in a wool sport jacket,
charcoal with the chocolate elbow patches, knelt with a copy of Fanny
and Alexander in one hand and The French Lieutenant's Woman
in the other. His shoes were wingtips, his socks mismatched, two slightly
different dull argyles, and the dark curly hairs on his ankles were
showing. She stared at the corner of his mustache and tried to imagine
his eyes. She wrote him off as cavalier and moody.
the end of the aisle, Mrs. Wilson gave her the thumbs-up. To have
Mrs. Wilson give her the thumbs-up was definitely a mixed signal.
How could Kate have gone to college, gotten married, had kids, and
somehow still arrived at a period in her life when her deepest clumsiest
desires were transparent to a soccer mom in a teddy-bear sweatshirt
and stirrup pants?
Shaken, Kate checked for surveillance cameras. Instead, she found
convex mirrors. She marked the time and how late it was and charged
back to Health.
heels to toes, Cindy tried to appear interested in Cher, Jane Fonda,
Victoria Principal, and Rodney Yee. Next to this section was Sports.
Cindy saw a hairy leg and a soccer ball. Intrigued, she skipped toward
Suddenly, the shelves were eclipsed by the unbuttoned flaps of her
been here, Mommy. Waiting for you."
late," Kate snapped, then regretted it. "Mommy's a little frantic,
Honey. Let's see what you got."
Cindy held up the generic video case that revealed only the movie's
Burning?" Kate asked. "I've never heard of this."
at New Releases, Cindy pointed proudly to the three rows of video
cases each showing a nightgowned woman kissing a three-piece-suited
man in front of a burning mansion, both hiding pistols behind their
God, Cindy. I don't even know if I'm allowed to watch this."
you are, Mom. This is only R. Christine says adults can even watch
are not watching this."
can watch XX. Adults can watch XXX."
and Becky and Christine got to watch it."
highly doubt that, young lady."
did, they did. They said"
you don't pick another one, you'll get nothing."
Cindy pouted. "Nothing."
got two minutes," Kate said.
stomped up the aisle. She stomped over a gum wrapper, turned around
and stomped back over it, turned around to stomp it again, but found
it had disappeared. She plunked down and pulled her shoe close to
her face. Her laces were threaded with colored beads, and a kinetic
light in the heel flickered as she picked at the gum.
going to get run over if you keep setting up camp out here," said
the man with the mustache. He knelt down and, with one sweep of his
hand, removed the gum. Cindy was impressed but kept her bottom lip
sticking out in case her mom showed up.
you," Kate said, in a rush of breath.
the movies," assured the man. "Too many choices."
hope she hasn't disturbed you."
The man stroked Cindy's hair and smiled at Kate.
smiled back. His eyes were blue. Dark hair and blue eyes. She touched
her hair and felt a giggle forming. To her dread, she found herself
saying, "We're going out. My husband. A play."
the man said.
Kate was thinking, Stupid stupid stupid.
Mia?" he asked.
Kate said, revived. "And this little one wants to come. So I told
her she could get a video."
her pouting lip wasn't getting the attention it deserved, Cindy scrambled
up and sprinted into Foreign. Kate and the man caught up to her as
she located Fanny and Alexander.
I can't watch what I want, then I guess I'll have to watch this,"
The man put his hands on Cindy's shoulders. He smiled at Kate.
thought to check for a wedding band, but the placement of his hands
distracted her. They were large and white and covered her daughter's
shoulders. They seemed to be making a claim, striking a deal.
Kate saw the three of them monitored in the ceiling's convex mirror.
He was probably divorced. Or holed up in a single apartment watching
movies while the divorce was winding down. He might be treating himself
to what he might later excuse as a "phase."
Kate closed her eyes, trying to conjure another version of herself,
except she had no idea what she was looking for.
said the man. "It's okay."
was a man, cavalier in a woolly sport coat, making a cinematic show
of deferring to her authority. This wasn't supposed to be real. This
little scenario of imagined flirtation. Something in this situation
compromised her. She blamed him. He ruined it. Even if Mrs. Wilson
had signaled her pre-approval.
right, Cindy," Kate said, reaching for her daughter's hand. "Let's
leave this poor man alone and go get the movie Lizzie and Becky liked."