A Tale of Love, Misfortune and Nasty Wee Dogs
Christopher Devlin and his wife inched their shopping cart through the express check out of the popular department store. Valentine’s Day was Angela’s favourite ‘holiday’ of the year and she had dragged him along to help gather the necessary supplies for a suitable celebration. Their cart was laden with heart-shaped chocolates wrapped in foil, tubs of red and white jelly beans and candy hearts adorned with sweet sentiments. They paid for their haul and, rather than push the cart through the slushy parking lot, Christopher hoisted a large shopping bag in each mitten-clad fist.
“Shoot! I forgot to buy marshmallows,” Angela said.
“The book club’s bake sale.”
“Right, that’s on the 13th, isn’t it?”
“Yes. And you’re going to work the sales counter?”
“Wild horsed couldn’t drag me away…”
“Excellent! Then I’ll make us some Nanaimo bars too. A little warm-up to the big day,” she said, throwing back her curly hair and winking slyly.
“I’ll haul this stuff to the car and warm it up for you.”
“In that case, can you pick me up at the front door?”
“Anything for you sweetness,” he said.
Angela zipped up his heavy coat and fastened the snap at the neck. She stood on her tip-toes and planted a kiss on his stubbled cheek. Christopher watched her lumber through the masses, on a mission for marshmallows, and whispered a short prayer for anyone impeding her progress. As the sliding doors opened, a freezing wind gust slapped his face and blew back his hood. Christopher’s eyes watered and his ears turned red as he proceeded behind a row of parked cars; ice pellets peppered his long, blond hair and narrowed his vision.
His motivation to endure the yearly shopping expedition was the exquisite pay-off on the 14th. That night he would share the plastic-sheeted bed with the voluminous Angela and two dozen melted chocolate bars. A honking car horn returned him to the harsh reality of the cold, January evening—and the fact he had wandered into the middle of the lane.
Christopher combined the large, grey bags into the same hand and threw them over his shoulder. He chuckled at the thought of the image he must project: a tall, thin man in a black coat. An Anti-Claus. He noticed he was in the wrong row and squeezed between two cars parked close together. He held the bags high, mindful not to brush his new winter coat against the dirty vehicles.
A small terrier in the back seat of the car facing him leapt at the window and barked with ferocity disproportionate to its stature. Christopher was frozen in his tracks. As a boy he was terrorized by his grandmother’s fox terriers: Hades and Herriot. He was often left alone to play with the little wretches that inevitably chased him about the garden, nipping at his bum.
As Christopher passed the two cars in the next row a Chihuahua, sporting a green Argyle sweater, sprang into the back window of one. In two seconds it had yapped nearly a dozen times. The beast mashed its tiny nose against the glass, leaving streaks of dog snot and saliva. Christopher’s heart raced as he quickly backed away from the car. He stumbled on a hardened ridge of ice and was propelled backwards by the weight of Angela’s goodies.
As he fell, a Hummer parked directly across from him had begun backing out from its space. It swung towards the dazed man. The rear window of the vehicle was plastered with mud and road salt, obscuring the driver’s vision.
Christopher rolled into a sitting position and cursed the state of his wet coat and pants. The behemoth rolled toward him and its heavy trailer hitch thumped the back of his head as the vehicle came to rest. When it rolled forward, the hitch hooked onto his hood and dragged him across the slushy surface of the parking lot. Christopher hung tightly onto the bags, knowing how important the contents were to Angela.
A family of shoppers had emerged from their van to see the unfortunate man being dragged away by the Hummer and waved frantically at the driver, attempting to catch his attention. The man, a local television celebrity, noticed his fans and smiled and waved in response. It always brightened his day to be recognized by the public.
The driver thought his vehicle was a bit sluggish as he turned from the slushy parking lot onto the clear pavement of the main road. He pressed the gas pedal harder and made a mental note to have his mechanic look into the problem.
The forward momentum of the vehicle caused Christopher to be throttled by the collar of his coat. He finally released his grip on the bags and tugged at the neck of his coat as the backside of his pants shredded, leaving blood and skin on the asphalt. Glancing into his rear-view mirror the driver saw more waving fans and a couple of large plastic bags, their contents scattered across the wet road.