stranger

It was the guy who collects the shopping carts from the parking lot and herds them all together. He had a moustache and a bright orange vest, his hood pulled over his head because the snow was coming down quite heavily. I can’t be certain, but he seemed like the kind of person who might have a few missing or gold teeth, or failing that, nicotine-stained ones. Moments earlier, he’d jokingly asked Raspberry if she’d wanted a cellphone, as she played with the buttons on the display phones while Lucas and I packed up our groceries and got ready to head outside.

“She’s cheating,” he pointed out to me, smiling, as I strapped Raspberry into the Boba on my back for our walk home from the grocery store.

“Excuse me?” I furrowed my brow, confused and thinking I might’ve misheard him.

He gestured toward Raspberry and lowered his voice almost to a conspiratorial whisper. “She’s lazy, because she’s getting a ride. She’s not walking.”

I was annoyed. “No, she’s not,” I retorted. “She’s sick and it’s snowing,” I added irritatedly. I wasn’t about to explain to this guy who’d just called my kid lazy that I usually carry her home from the grocery store, across the King Street bridge, because it’s not that easy for her to make the trek both ways (some days, her moodiness makes it hard for her to even make it one way).

He leaned forward, peering at Raspberry, and gestured to his eye. “She’s got something on her eye,” he noted, thinking I didn’t know.

“Yeah, I know, she’s sick,” I repeated again, buckling the straps of the Boba and wanting to leave as soon as possible.

As if knowledgeable about childhood illnesses, he said something about how she’d be better in a few days but I’d already turned to leave.

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