Stolen

Today I cut up a watermelon. The kids were surprised that I bought a watermelon in December. 

“I didn’t buy it. I stole it.” I said, truthfully at the dinner table.

And the girl got mad and yelled, “Mom I hate it when you steal things.”

And this is where my kids and husband pretend like I’m a pro pilferer and have paid for nothing in my life. I don’t do it often, but I did steal a chicken this Springtime. In fairness, it was on the bottom of the cart and it was raining outside and few Angelinos would return a stowaway fried chicken in the rain. I am not alone.

Mr. G has a reasonably long diatribe about middle and upper middle class women who steal things. It’s inaccurate. Mostly inaccurate, but ever since one of the Moms Club ladies stole his Vicodin I do treat housewives like potential felons and lock up anything that might be too tempting.

With all that being said, our kids are raised. I don’t have to be a role model anymore. They know better than to be like me. If they want to return chickens, they’re free to do so.

I mistakenly stole the chicken in the beginning of the pandemic, but I willfully stole the watermelon in autumn. As we’re more than six months apart in events, the pilfered watermelon isn’t part of a trend. I am not a crook.  

There’s a very good reason I stole the watermelon (and the ginger). You see, I went to Pilates in a parking lot – because that’s where Pilates is now, and I kind of hope that outdoor Pilates survives a Covid-19 vaccine. After Pilates, I, and the rest of the class, popped into the market to grab groceries while the rest of the world sat in Zoom meetings and wondered what happened to the best life that Oprah has been promising us. 

I’m in the produce section and I see watermelons. Stacks of watermelons. I think a watermelon might be a nice treat for the kids, but I also suspect that this far out of season they might be mealy or bland. The produce section is where I shine, and as I have the solution to either problem I am free to grab a vine-ripened watermelon with a lovely yellow spot and a hunk of ginger. If it’s mealy I’ll juice it with ginger, if it’s underripe I’ll rub ginger on it. If it’s good, and I don’t expect that it will be, I’ll juice the ginger with some apples, or it will find its way into another recipe. Ginger is my secret weapon. I toss a hunk of ginger into my cart. Ginger is small.

I take watermelons off the display and set them in my cart one at a time, only to reconsider and return them to the stack. The third watermelon is a keeper and I proceed to self-checkout where a 20 something with curls to her waist helps everyone. She is unskilled, clearly part of the mass hirings we see at grocery stores, and she is delightful so no one cares about her lack of precision. 

After paying for my groceries, all of them, I make my way with the cart through the mini-mall, behind the store, and then past the Pilates tent where the 10.30 class is now doing abs. I’m jealous. I want another hour of Pilates. This class is full. I tried to stay for it and was turned away.

As I pick up the watermelon to put the groceries in the trunk I realize it’s mush. There’s a squishy rotten spot on this fruit that no amount of ginger can cure. Turning the cart around, I walk past Pilates, feel sad once again, and attempt to return both watermelon and receipt to Curly Girl.

No one is checking out, yet she’s ignoring me. I try to make eye contact and Curly Girl has a thousand-yard stare, making me feel sorry for her, she’s young and this is a physically taxing job where she’s likely been since dawn. Still, there’s a 59¢ a pound $8 watermelon rotting in the upstairs-downstairs cart pointed straight at Curly Girl. Finally, she glances at me, notes the empty registers, and spins on her heel to sprint three lanes over where a handsome man close to her age is holding a nearly empty basket. She explains to him twice that if he comes to self-checkout she will take care of him. The second time he complies. She is delightful again, just not to me.

“Miss! Oh, Miss!!” I’m waving my hands and she’s avoiding seeing me like I’m Medusa and she and her curls will turn into stone. 

I surrender to the moment and stand waiting as Curly Girl helps Handsome Man scan his groceries. It’s refreshing to watch him play dumb. She’s smiling with her eyes and he is rapt. I melt when she gets his number. She is happy. It’s a rom-com moment at the market. I’m happy for her. Carpe Diem sister!

After he leaves I explain the melon situation and she explains that for a refund I’d need to go wait on one of two lines that are full service. The lines are prohibitively long. I’d rather waste $8 than let my frozen goods melt.  

I roll my eyes. She nods in understanding and tells me to go grab another watermelon and not worry about it. 

I smile and thank her and then tell her that the man she was helping had a nice way about him. “You were wise to ignore me,” I say. “25 years ago I’d have ignored me too. Priorities.”

We shared a smile. We are co-conspirators in the rom-com she’s starring in. She smiles, “Go grab another watermelon and just come back here.” I assume it’ll be a swap, maybe they’ll lose a few cents, maybe I will. I won’t be waiting in line, that’s all that really matters.

When I return with my watermelon- the one I’d meant to take in the first place  – I’m handed a receipt and $8 from Curly Girl. It’s a refund for my watermelon. 

I line up to weigh the new watermelon and she waves me off. 

“You’re good, go put your watermelon with your groceries.” Curly Girl tells me.

I do as I’m told and steal the watermelon. 

I’m not sure which one of us is the ringleader and which one of us is the sidekick.

It was mealy but very sweet so I made watermelon and ginger juice, tossing the flesh but enjoying the sweetness.

I regret nothing. 

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