Black Gold

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 07, 2019

Reads: 72

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Submitted: June 07, 2019

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The half-rusted padlock groaned as Abby engaged it around the equally rusted chain, but she kept herself from giving it a dollop of the crucially priceless machine oil in its pouch on the body of the bike.  She straightened up and gave a subtle stretch to her taxed hips and swung the backpack frame off her wiry shoulders, then moved the drawstring sack from its wedged station between the bike seat and bars.  Other shoppers were already passing quizzical glances her way, and there was no need to gather her audience this early before the inevitable grand finale of her exit.  Even the other gleaming sleek bikes in the rack seemed to be casting a side-eye at her dusty ride, but  the road grime hiding the makers decals, and whatever the original color of the bike, served only as an aid to her mission.

She strode towards the store, as a tanned and toned young gentleman held the door, and with no apparent malice said ‘After you, mee-maw’.  Abby managed a gracious if gruff ‘thank you, sir’ and wondered if the young ever remembered these supposed graces decades down the line when they too had a head of salt and pepper hair.  As if THESE ones didn’t have the funds to remain always youthful in look, she thought, not realizing the derisive snort she’d made until the young man furrowed his brow and others stared harder.  She quickly arranged a passably realistic sneeze, smiled at him as his bronzed forehead relaxed, and proceeded to swing her two bags into an empty cart. 

She worked quickly through the list she drew out of her pocket, scrawled on the back of an old flour bag.  It wasn’t just the items, but the order that was crucial, as her cart filled with neatly sequestered sections of cans, fresh produce, and household items.  People seemed to have largely moved on from their initial scrutiny, although her worn clothes and dusty face certainly drew contrast in the bright polished aisles with their equally bright polished denizens.  Nineteen minutes later she paused to give the cart a final assessment before rolling up to the cashier. 

Choosing the right one was critical.  She selected one with a single young lady yammering away on her phone while her dozen or so items were rolling forward on the belt.  The acne riddled cashier greeted the oblivious woman and began ringing up her purchases and stashing them in crisp brown bags emblazoned with “SUPERior SUPERrmarket”.  The customer impatiently scanned her phone over the meter and snatched the bags back to her cart without missing a beat of the inane conversation she was engaged in.  It was Abby’s turn on the stage, and she took a deep breath.

“Welcome to Superior Supermarket, ma’am” the pubescent boy squeaked on cue, as Abby in rapid fire laid out her purchases on the belt in their precise pre-ordained order. 

“Hello to you!” Abby chirped back in the overly bright voice she could not contain when her heart was about to pound through her chest.  She loaded the last of the purchases just as the bagger from the next lane came over to help with the flood of items cascading to the end of the belt.  “Oh no!” Abby blurted, perhaps a bit too aggressively, as the young woman jumped back slightly.  “I brought a bag.”

Abby slammed the sturdier items to the bottom of the backpack, with more delicate items up top and the bread and fruit deftly tied up to the side in their webbed bags.  She consciously let her held breath out slowly and quietly as she got ready for Act II.  “I’ve got it” she bleated in that overly bright voice, and the bagger moved quickly, probably gratefully, away to the next aisle. 

Deep breath.  Show time.  “Tim” as his cheery name tag declared, announce her total.  Abby raised her head and gave him a steady gaze, while saying with as little emotion as she could muster “The sign outside says you take plastic.”

Tim’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline.  Good God, Abby thought, I should have chosen an older one.  Baby boy may have never come across this yet.

Heads in neighboring aisles swiveled in unmasked disbelief, and Abby felt her face heating under the scrutiny.

“P-p-p-plastic, ma’am” squawked Tim, before desperately accessing his training from Orientation 101. “Oh, yes ma’am, but I will need to call over my manager.”  The light for register 6 binged on while Abby and Tim exchanged tight smiles and Abby returned her eyes to the stilled conveyor belt.  The backpack was loaded and positioned in the cart, drawstring sack at her feet, and she was ready for the final series of exchanges. 

“Yeah, Tim” said the mustachioed and harried manager as he reached across Tim’s frozen smile to cut off the alert light.

“This lady would like to pay with plastic, sir” Tim relayed in a stage whisper.

The store seemed silent and poised, or perhaps it was the blood rushing in Abby’s ears that drowned out all other sound. 

“Yes, sir” she managed, drawing out three neatly compressed bundles of flattened milk jugs from the drawstring bag.  “I saw your sign saying that you would accept plastic”.  The spectators gasped and a buzz of conversation began.

Manager Stanley took slightly longer to remember HIS orientation infused protocol, but abruptly snapped out of his stunned trance.  “Yes indeed ma’am, it is our pleasure.” He mashed several keys on the register and then extended his hands for the bundles.

“Is it still $80 a pound?” Abby asked, knowing that the put on casual was a waste of effort at this point, with everyone within 20 yards was raptly following the interaction. 

“Actually $81.35 as of this morning ma’am!” said Stanley in his chipper Manager-Most-Definitely-In-Charge voice.  “So, it looks like you have, well look at that, 3.000 lbs here.  We’ll be owing you some change”

Abby stuffed the bills and coins in her pocket, crumpling the now empty bag into her free hand.  “Thank you so much, gentlemen!” the bright voice cheeped as she rapidly rolled towards the bike rack. 

In an oft practiced move, Abby swung the pack to her back, tucked the empty bag into her waist band, and unlocked the bike.  The padlock was no less stiff, but adrenaline ripped through the troublesome rust flakes as Abby swung chain and lock around her neck and peddled as hard as her 57 year old legs could down the many miles back to the dirt roads of her home. 

Abby drew a long swig of warm water from the pitcher, and glanced down at the stout gray cat weaving anxiously through her ankles. 

“yes, Toby, yes, I got you a little something this trip.  Have some faith, will ya?”

Abby plopped wearily in the armchair, her overstuffed pack between her and the door.  She never felt fully comfortable at having pulled it off for at least a few hours after getting home.  That one time was all it took for her to plan every step of the process with military precision. 

She closed her eyes and circled her neck, tugging at the taut shoulder muscles that bore the 80 lbs of groceries on her back through the mad bike dash.  After Superior, there were only two more markets left in the 50 mile radius, and she didn’t dare burn through the three nearby where she exclusively used cash.  The $64.55 in change this time, it would buy, no pun intended, at least a bit more time. 

But even her cash stores were starting to send out suspicious vibes.  These days, no one of her stature came by cash in any honorable way.  Someone that seemed to have an ongoing flow of it was particularly suspect…what someone like her would have to do to obtain it was not something most people with a soul could do for any length of time.  She sighed and rolled her neck one more time, eyes slit towards the tunnel of overhanging branches that comprised the entry to her shack.  Just a bit longer.  She took a deep swig from the pitcher. 


© Copyright 2019 Nancy Wilson. All rights reserved.

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