cereal aisle

An elderly, Slavic-looking man with a drawn face is propping himself up against an empty wheelchair as he examines his breakfast choices. The chair partially blocks my path, so I smile politely at him as I squeeze past. I'm staring down a box of Apple Jacks, daring it to keep looking at me like that, when I realize the man is saying something to me.

I pop my earphones out and say, "Sorry?"

"...a fire in the store, they could be telling everyone to get out, and you wouldn't even know." Oh, I realize. My music. He's commenting on the volume which, admittedly, is rather egregious. But he's not crabbing at me. I'm not some damn kid he wants to get off his lawn. He's teasing, and grinning.

"Yes," I wink at him. "But I'd see you heading for the exit and I'd follow you!"

He lights up. "You follow me?"

"Sure!" I nod. "You seem very trustworthy."

With a huge sweep of his arm, he gestures towards the front of the store. "Come then! Let's go!"

I laugh loudly enough that a pair of FIDM girls glances over, before bidding the man good evening and heading to the produce section. I completely forget about the Apple Jacks.