Wendy shut the door quietly, and slowly backed away. Standing in front of the now closed door, she stood silently and stared straight ahead.
“Hey, do you want rocky road or cookie dough?” Wendy’s babysitter for the day, Ted, yelled from across the store. Not getting a response, Ted left the cooler at the back of the store, but not before setting the pint of cookie dough back and headed towards Wendy who was still standing in front of the cooler full of various sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks. “Change your mind about the ice cream?” Ted asked as he approached Wendy and saw she was staring straight ahead at a row of 20 oz. bottles of Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper. “You know your mom doesn’t want you having caffeine,” Ted continued, “…but if you don’t tell then I won’t,” Ted gave the 12-year-old a good-natured nudge as an indication he was one of the ‘good guys’ and not a lame-o adult.
Instead of the chuckle and shove back he was expecting Wendy almost toppled over from the subtle jostling. Just as Ted thought he would have to make a dive to keep the girl from smacking her head on the convenience store floor, Wendy suddenly snapped out of her stupor and recovered her footing in time to stay upright. Taking a few steps back and shaking her head as if to clear it from the onslaught of a Slurpee brain freeze, Wendy looked around and flashed a confused look at Ted.
“You alright, kid? I thought you were going over like a hamster on stilts,” Ted asked, obvious concern coloring his words.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Wendy replied slowly as she stared at the bottle of Dr. Pepper she clenched in her right hand- she had no recollection of grabbing the drink from the cooler display.
“What the heck happened? See a scary bottle of lemonade or something?” Ted laughed nervously as they moved towards the register to pay for their merchandise.
“I opened the door to get a Dr. Pepper and I heard… voices,” Wendy whispered as if she thought someone might overhear her. “There were voices and they were arguing… they were in the cooler but I didn’t see anyone… how could they be inside the cooler, Ted? It was like I opened a door into… into like, another world or something… like it was a portal to another universe!” Wendy honestly looked as if she had witnessed some sort of paranormal phenomenon. The experience had obviously shaken the girl.
Ted looked at the girl curiously; did she really not know that convenience store coolers had a back room to allow workers to restock the merchandise? He knew she was sheltered, but this bordered on ridiculous. Tossing her a sympathetic look, Ted replied, “Kid, you really gotta get out more,” before explaining to Wendy what she had actually witnessed.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: Tonight, as I scanned the rows of colorful drink choices in our local 7-Eleven I opened up the color door and was instantly bombarded with the colorful conversation of several younger ‘gentlemen’ who were doing god knows what inside of the cooler- hidden in the cold and darkness beyond the soft drinks and tea blends. The phrase “popped his balls” was distinctly heard and repeated several time before I slammed the door shut as if to cut off the strange and masochistic discourse going on behind the cans of Sprite. It was as if I had opened a door or ‘portal’ into another reality, that’s how odd this conversation was. I was half tempted to open up the door again just to make sure I had actually heard what I thought I heard but the guys causing the commotion suddenly appeared from out of the cooler and disappeared outside before I had the chance. Weird.
Love & Squirrels.