Rounding the corner, I make eye contact with a man holding a sign: Fired, disabled, homeless with hungry mouths to feed.
“Hey, buddy,” he says, “any change to spare?”
Checking my watch I shake my head and start to jog, my stomach tightening.
Making it to the coffee shop I sigh at the line out the door. Remembering the side door, I begin to smile. The air conditioning almost makes me scream when I step inside. I head into the throng making my way to the middle of the line. “Why do they keep it so cold in here?” I say to an older man. I smile to the suit on the phone behind him.
He rolls his eyes inching back and I take the place in line.
“This is the best coffee place in town.” I say to the older man.
He simply nods.
Getting to the counter I order my usual coffee, and twelve breakfast wraps.
I slip out with my order amidst curses at the empty breakfast display case. I sip my coffee and head back for my apartment. As I pass I hand the homeless man the bag of breakfast wraps. “I hope the hungry mouths don’t mind spinach and egg-whites.”
He looks into the bag, his eyes widening. He shakes his head. “You’re the first person to in two days.” He looks around at a loss of words. “God bless.”
I incline my head and continue on my way. The Godzilla roar echoes from my phone into the street and I laugh, picking it up. “Hi, baby.”
“Harvey, I need you to pick up some things for the rehearsal dinner tonight,” Caroline says.
“Okay, text me the list.” I take a deep breath hearing her voice shake. “Sweetheart, you have to calm down. Everything is going to be fine.”
“Don’t tell me everything is going to be fine. Everyone keeps saying everything will be fine and it’s making me distinctly not fine.” With that, she hangs up.
At home I change into the green button down Caroline begged me to wear. I tuck the tag into the sleeve so I can return it after the rehearsal dinner. I grab my keys, checking over her list as I get into the car.
The grocery store is practically dead. Just the way I like it. I pop my earbuds in, heading through the produce department, and dance like Caroline always begs me not to in public. The way that always made my momma laugh the hardest. I pretend not to notice the workers when they smile. I grab Caroline’s broccoli-rabe and broccolinie, her leeks, spaghetti squash, and eggplant. I cringe, but she loves this stuff. Veggie-head. Picking up a bag of grapes I wait until I turn into a deserted aisle and pop a few in my mouth. I keep shopping, dancing, and munching. This is the only way to do get through a “honey do” list.
Coming into the baking aisle I see a little old woman struggling to get off her scooter. Her face contorts in pain as her knees crack and snap. She leans against the shelving and reaches as far as she can, her lip beginning to quiver when she can’t reach the cake mix box.
“May I help you, ma’am?” I gently touch her shoulder.
Wiping her nose with a handkerchief, she nods.
I help her back onto her scooter and pull down the box of yellow cake mix.
“Two, please,” she says.
I hand her the second box and she takes my hand.
“Thank you, young man.”
“My pleasure, miss.” I kiss her hand and she blushes. I fight to keep from laughing.
“What’s the occasion? Or do you just love to bake?”
She wipes another tear. “My anniversary. Yellow cake was my Charley’s favorite. This is my first year without him.” She runs her fingers over the lettering of the brand on the box. “You must think it’s terribly silly of me to bake a cake when it’s just me.”
“I’m getting married this weekend, so I think I can appreciate the romance of it.”
She smiles. “Your bride is a blessed woman.”
I shake my head. “I’m the blessed one. I still don’t know how that hourglass fell for this egg-head. She’s the smartest, funniest, most incredible woman.”
Her eyes drop to my cart and she frowns.
She indicates my mostly eaten bag of grapes. “They seem to be selling less and less for more and more these days. I remember when I was a girl and bags would be full and the prices were so much lower.”
I clear my throat, shifting my weight.
“It’s a form of robbery, but does anyone get arrested?” She says. “No.”
I incline my head and wish her a good rest of the day.
Making my way to the checkout, I pop a few more grapes into my mouth. My phone roars again.
“Did you get the things from the store?”
“Yes, honey. I’m in line to check out right now.” I pop another grape.
“Good. I’m on my way to pick up my grandparent’s from the airport. Tonight has to be perfect. You know how critical my grandma can be.”
“Honey, it’s going to be—”
“Sir.” Someone taps my shoulder.
I frown at the female officer behind me. “Hold on, Caroline.” I pull out one of my earbuds. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Can we step over here? I need to speak with you. And bring your cart, please.”
Caroline keeps talking, as usual.
“How can I help you, officer?”
“Officer?” Caroline says. “What’s going on, Harvey?”
“Have you been eating these grapes?” The officer picks up the bag.
A man with a manager’s name tag on his shirt stands behind her tapping his foot. “Yes he has! I’ve been following him and I saw him gobble them all.”
I blink, my mouth hanging open. “Caroline, I’m going to have to call you back.”
“I can’t believe these truckers!” Caroline fumes. “I’m going to be late.”
“Are you aware,” the officer says, “that’s it’s illegal to eat things you haven’t bought?”
“Sir, you’re going to have to come with me.”
I wince hearing a horn blare as Caroline’s terrified shriek and the shattering of glass ring in my ear. “Honey? What’s wrong?” I pull away from the officer.
The call drops as the officer cuffs my hands behind my back.
Thank you so much fore reading! Have a question you’d like to “ask” Harvey? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to include it in my next character interview.