Cupid’s Hideaway, Calif.–12:28 a.m., Pamper-Her-Friday:
He walks nonchalantly into the corner drugstore to pick up a bottle of aspirin, 70% rubbing alcohol, and a roll of Hall’s menthol cough drops. The first aisle that runs astride the main-entrance corridor
is lined with gold-speckled, red bow-striped, heart-shaped boxed chocolates–those last-resort gifts for the man who either procrastinates or lacks imagination.
He pauses about midway, faces the expansive shelves stockful of candies, scans the length of the eye-level gold-rush hearts, and rubs his chin with his hand. Struck by a notion, he.
A blue smock-wearing, bespeckled middle-aged gentleman with a manager’s tag on his lapel approaches, speaks a hello, and continues his brisk pace. “Excuse me,” he addresses the store clerk. “How much do you want for the candies?”
Incredulous, the manager replies, “Beg your pardon, sir?”
“All the boxes on the shelf, how much do you want for the entire inventory?”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
He pulls out both an AmEx and a debit card. “Which do you prefer? I’ll take them all off your hands. Will you actually sell all of them by the 14th?”
The manager struggles for words, still in disbelief but his eyes now beaming matching dollar signs like a hologram. He then escorts the buyer to the register to transact the tender.
“Let’s see now,” the manager says with a slightly nervous excitement, “128 times $5.99 . . . .”
“Make that 127,” he chimes in. “I want one left on the shelf, unbought until I return. Oh, and could you shrinkwrap them on a pallet for me? I’ll need a hand-truck as well.”
“Yes, sir! No problem.”
He pockets the receipt and exits the sliding glass doors into the early night, the manager and the few customers who’d been standing in line having eye-trailed him out, bewildered faces on them all.
Her handset chirps, a text: “2013 is officially the last year for Valentine’s Day.” A sad-faced icon punctuates the message.
She texts back: “What?! Oh, no, it’s the end of the world,” she plays along after a moment of ponder. “So what’s a girl to do without a big, strong, romantic Cupid to look forward to?” Double sad-faced icons follow her reply.
“She should make certain she spends the send-off with someone worthy of the very last ValDay as we know it.” His icon turned smiley. “In fact, I hear there’s a run on chocolates all over the city . . . people snapping up all the boxes in sight at retailers everywhere, like 1980s cabbage patch dolls. Mayhem!”
She laughs to herself at his message.
“Do me a favor,” he concludes, “I won’t be leaving the office for another couple of hours, last-minute paperwork. There’s a Rite Aid on your way to the metro. Could you pick up a Whitman’s or whatever might be left and I’ll reimburse you? If this is the last run, those heart boxes will only go up in value over time.”
“Oh, c’mon, don’t be silly. A run on those chintzy candies at the pharmacy?” Her giggle continues as she types the words. “I’d rather just make my way straight to you instead . . . you promised me Thai food tonight, remember?”
“Of course,” he replies. “The play’s at 9:30. I’ll be there by 8.”
She sends a heart icon as confirmation. After resting her mobile atop her desk, she turns toward her west-facing office window and peers out at a beautiful Southern California winter’s sunset–between its beckoning tangerine glow and the imagery still lingering from his just-read texts, she’s eager to start her weekend.
It’s Thai night.
5:32 p.m., PHF:
As silly a notion as it was, the thought of a Valentine chocolates run sparked just enough curiosity for her to pay the drugstore an oh-what-the-heck visit, if only for a few needed toiletries.
Making her way to the feminine products section, she remembers his request and redirects her steps to the main artery of the store, where in-season items are most readily reached. She lets go a humored chagrin when she approaches the holiday-theme aisle–candy aplenty! M&Ms, red hots, licorice and candy bars galore, all a hand-grab away.
But, eerily, the top shelf is without merchandise. She walks around the huge display to its opposite side, only to discover an exact visual: wrapped candies in abundance from eye-level down but the crown shelf bare. None of the familiar heart-shaped, Valentine-theme boxes of less-than-premium chocolates she (and so many others) had taken for granted.
“Excuse me,” she approaches a bespeckled man at the checkout counter. “Are you out of the chocolates?”
“Oh, yes. They sold out just recently . . . the whole lot of ’em. Wouldn’t you know it? Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Puzzled she stood. Her inner voice–his–seemingly laughing at her while thumping her noggin at the same time.
Could this be?
“No thanks,” she says, deflated, as she begins making her way out of the store, a sudden jones–out of nowhere–for sweet chocolate having crept onto her taste buds.
Funny how we miss nothing.
Until it’s gone . . . .
(The conclusion: Next week)
There’s an art to the ask. -Rg2