by Linda Daunter
She’s quick. In one smooth movement the cheese is off the shelf and in her little boy’s rucksack. I’m slow. I’m still looking when she glances towards me. She knows I know, but she takes her time to look at all the butter before putting a tub of cheap marge in her trolley. I’m the one who’s all of a fluster wondering what to do.
She bends to say something to the kiddy. They both laugh and, as she straightens up, she smiles straight at me. It’s like seeing myself in a long-ago mirror: thin face, shabby mac, no wedding ring. I smile back and turn away. It’s none of my business.
But then I stop to check the reduced stuff that’s near its sell-by date and I remember seeing a TV programme about how much cheaper food would be if supermarkets didn’t have to make up for the millions they lose to shoplifters.
I see her again in the next aisle only this time I’m careful not to let her know I’m watching. She isn’t helping herself to the basics. She takes the good coffee, expensive shampoo …
I jump when the security guard says hello. I hadn’t noticed him sneaking up behind me. We both laugh. I’ve known Mick for years. He asks how I am and tells me he’s counting the days till he goes on holiday. Behind him, she joins one of the checkout queues. I say, ‘Don’t look now, but see that girl in the grey mac …?’
She looks scared when Mick stops her, but she’s only got herself to blame. Shouldn’t have been so greedy.
On the way home, I pat my pocket. Salmon for tea, and I’m going to enjoy every mouthful. No telling when I’ll be able to have it again. I’m getting too old for this game.
Linda Daunter lives and writes in the East of England while her mind travels all over the place.