Midway down aisle C, Everett Boyle stopped beside the buggy coral. With a quick flick of his wrist, he spun his keys around his right index finger, landing the mostly brass bulk smartly, back into the tight of his palm. He felt the mid-morning’s sticky heat already beginning to accumulate beneath the collar of his shirt, and in his shoes, on his feet, where the soles rounded softly upward. He felt too, the eyes of his wife, intent on his back. Damn, Everett said, scanning the parking lot for his truck.
“You’ve lost the truck, haven’t you Everett?” he heard his wife say.
Everett said nothing. He drew a deep breath in through his nose and continued to look out over the car tops for the white Ford.
It was his shirt he had been thinking about when he parked the truck. Sherry, his wife, had given him grief about it the moment he walked from the bedroom with it on, enough so, that they had driven the twenty minutes to the grocery in silence.
Everett works the counter at Matlin Supply, a plumbing outfitter down on South Water, just past the Hospital. He’s been there eighteen years, and though he bitches regularly about the dumbasses he works for, and with, Everett’s quick to add that the job is far better than the shit he put up with when he did service calls as a licensed plumber. “Literally,” he’ll say, and explode with laughter. Every time.
Christmas, Matlin’s gives Everett a check for five hundred dollars, a honey-baked ham, and seven new navy blue polo’s with the company logo embroidered over the left breast, his name over the right.
Despite it being Tuesday, his scheduled day off, Everett took one of the shirts that morning from the closet and pulled it over his head to wear. They were comfortable, familiar.
“You have nothing good to say about that place,” his wife said when she saw him in the shirt. “Why are you advertising for them on your day off?”
Everett had only shrugged. He poured coffee for himself and then went with the dog through the glass slider onto the back patio. He stood at the handrail and looked out into the back yard.
Sherry had followed. She lit a cigarette beside him.
“It’s just silly, Ev ...” she said, still about the shirt.
Everett sipped from his coffee as she spoke and said nothing.
Everett had let his wife out in front of the grocery and driven alone to park the truck. He felt oddly blank as he searched for an empty space, as if the whole of his insides were setting up, hardening, like concrete.
“The ice cream is going to melt, Everett,” his wife said behind him.
Everett realized that he had stopped looking for the truck, realized that he was at Matlin’s; behind the counter, customers waiting as he filed an order.
“Whose next?” he asked, and adjusted the collar of his shirt.