Copyright is held by the author.
“YOU,” SHOUTED the salesclerk as she ran towards the front door. “We do not allow grocery carts or garbage bags in this establishment. Get out.” A gold tag with embossed, black lettering announced that she was Ms. DeVille, Apparel Consultant.
“But I want to buy a dress for my daughter, eh? She needs one for a party next week.”
“Ugh,” said Ms. DeVille as the odour of a long-unwashed body wafted to her nostrils. She wrinkled her nose and backed up a step. “A very affordable thrift store is nearby. I’ll point out the directions to you outside. Go to the door.” She pushed the cart, banging it against the bag lady, who stood her ground.
“But my daughter wants a pretty party dress. Ain’t my money good here?” She reached into a pocket of her ragged, brown coat and waved a roll of bills above her scraggly head.
“Maybe we can work something out,” said Ms. DeVille as she replaced some loosened strands of her hair with nail-art fingers. Her rings sparkled in the light from the overhead fixtures. “Let’s go behind that tall rack of evening gowns. Would you please bring your cart, madam?” She turned and strode down the widest aisle to prevent any contact between the bag lady and the displays of clothes. Her stylish, black, designer dress swished but her stilettos made no sound on the plush, beige carpet.
The bag lady stopped at the first display. “Oh my, such beautiful tops. This ain’t no Five and
Dime.” She watched the salesclerk out of the corner of her eye as she slowly raised her hand to pinch a sleeve.
Ms. DeVille spun around and lunged like a fencing champion. “Don’t touch that.”
“My, my, ain’t we uptight?”
“Come along, madam. I’ll walk beside you. Here are some lovely frocks. Is this the type of attire you had in mind?” Ms. DeVille pulled several dresses from a rack and hung them on a brass display rod.
“I love that canary yellow one. Does it come in size eight?”
“Yes, indeed. Here it is.” She held the hanger up with one hand and showed the price tag with the other.
“That is pretty, but the price?” The bag lady wrestled with her thoughts. “You wouldn’t charge me that much, would you?”
“I’m sorry, madam. We don’t reduce our prices for anyone.”
“Is there a seniors’ discount?”
“I’m sorry, madam.”
“Oh, well,” said the bag lady and sighed. “It’s such a lovely dress. Maybe I’ll buy it. You look the same size as my daughter. Would you model it for me?”
“Madam, we do not model our clothes.”
“Oh, dear. I did want to see how it would look.” She peeled a $50 bill from her wad. “Would this possibly change your mind?”
“Well, if you insist. We do try to accommodate our clients.”
Ms. DeVille disappeared into a change room. She soon emerged and paraded toward the bag lady, trying to mimic a fashion model.
“Is the dress uncomfortable?” the bag lady asked. “You seem to be having some trouble walking.”
Ms. DeVille’s face flushed slightly. “It’s very comfortable.”
“The dress looks good on you. Of course, my daughter’s more ample breasts would fill it out better.”
The salesclerk’s face and neck turned pink. She closed her eyes, clenched her jaw and fists, and stood perfectly still.
The bag lady smiled. “Okay, I’ll take it. Here’s the cash. Do you have gift wrap?”
“Yes, madam, we do.” Ms. DeVille’s voice was subdued. “I would be happy to wrap it for you. I’ll be right back.” She trudged towards the change room.
“I’ll just look around. Don’t worry, I won’t touch anything.”
The salesclerk returned with an elegant, black, embossed-paper shopping bag. “Shall I put this in your grocery cart?”
“Yes, please. And would you mind helping me with the cart? I’ll go ahead.”
As the bag lady held the door open, she said, “Looks can be deceiving.” She turned her head up the street and called out, “James.” She waved to a gentleman in a grey business suit standing nearby. “I’m finished here. Please bring the limo around.”
Recognizing James, Ms. DeVille groaned as she realized that she had just served the owner of the chain of boutiques.