A Perfect Day in June

Shorts were on sale yesterday at Kohl’s. I needed shorts. My summertime wardrobe had moved beyond well-worn and was headlong into shabby. Kohl’s had the perfect shorts; excellent fit, the requisite flat fronts, faded canvas, and great colors. At fifty percent off, I bought four pairs; Breton red, Egyptian blue, khaki, and pagoda blue.

It took me ten minutes to grab my pants and get in line at the cashier’s kiosk. I was the second person in Brittany’s queue. Brittany was in her early twenties. She was brown-haired. A clump of alternatively dyed dark hair draped asymmetrically over one eye. Brittany sported a row of ear piercings and very natty nerd glasses. A tattoo peeked out from her shoulder. She was cute, in a hipster sort of way.

She was helping an elderly woman with a good-sized dowager’s hump. The woman was on oxygen. Much like a mountaineer, she wore her O2 tank in a backpack, rather than trailing behind her on a trolley. She looked closer to eighty than seventy, a pretty hard-lived eighty. As I walked up, I overheard her share her recent medical experiences with Brittany.

“I just got out the hospital. I was on a ventilator for a coupla’ days.  I got emphysema, ya know.  Smoked for a long time. Finally quit, ya know, but quit too late, I guess. It’s all caught up with me. Terrible habit, smoking. You don’t smoke, do ya, hon?”

“No, ma’am,” Brittany answered. She smiled at the older woman. Brittany had perfect teeth. “I have some friends who do, but I always thought it was nasty.”

“It is nasty. Don’t you ever start, okay?”

“So, I had all these tests, ya know, ‘cause I passed out at home, they were trying to figure out what was wrong with me. See, I passed out, then I woke up in the hospital and I was on a ventilator. I couldn’t talk or anything for a coupla days. I just got home the other day. They got me on the oxygen.”

“I see that, ma’am. I’m really sorry to hear you’ve been so sick.”

She reached across the counter for the shirts the woman was buying. As she did, she paused and patted the older woman’s hand. The older lady smiled. Brittany smiled back. Brittany really did have perfect teeth.

“Do you have a Kohl’s charge, ma’am?”

“No, I always pay cash,” she said. “Well, except for those hospital bills, ya know. Thank goodness I’m on Medicare. I still have to pay a bunch, but oh my, it is so much money. What do those doctors do with all that money?”

“Oh, darn it! Where is that blessed purse of mine? Oh my goodness. Did I leave it back there?”

“No, ma’am. It’s right there on your shoulder. You’re fine. See, it’s right there.”

“Oh, gosh. I can’t believe it. It’s right here. Right where you said. What is wrong with me?”

She stared down at the floor. I thought she might start crying.

Brittany reached across the counter again and laid her hand on the elder woman’s forearm.

“It’s easy to do, ma’am. It happens all the time here, when girls have their arms full. It’s okay. Now, here’s your change. Make sure you put that change away, okay, and here are your tops. They’re very pretty. You’re gonna look sweet in those.”

Brittany smiled again.

“Be careful stepping off the curb on your way out. It sometimes trips people up. I think that curb just jumps right up ‘atcha. I hope you have a nice afternoon. It’s so nice out, I’m jealous of you. Feel better, okay?”

“Thank-you, dear. You have a good day, too, okay? Bye, now.”

I stepped up with my armload of perfect shorts.

“That, Brittany, was awesome. You were so nice to that woman.”

“Ah, whatevs. She was really sweet. Some of those people, you know, they’re so bitchy. But that lady, she was just a sweet old lady. It’s no big deal to be nice, you know? Besides, she just got out of the hospital and everything, probably doesn’t have anyone at home to talk to, and geez, I wonder if she drove here. Now, that’s scary.”

Brittany smiled again. She was perky.

“Oh, um, aaaanyways, thanks. Are these shorts going on your Kohl’s card?”

On the way home from Kohl’s, I stopped at the bank to make a mortgage payment. As I approached the door, I noticed that a man about my age was holding the door open for me.

The man had Down’s syndrome. Preppy in dress, he stood patiently with the door in hand.

“Thank-you, sir,” I said with a smile.

He smiled back. With the thick speech characteristic of Down’s he said, “You’re welcome.”

I went to the counter to prepare my payment. There stood a man who was clearly the older brother of my polite doorman. With his salt-and-pepper hair and equally preppy dress, he was, from head to toe, the epitome of a handsome and accomplished man. I would put him near sixty. He smiled at me, nodded in greeting, and called to his brother, “Come on, Doug. Let’s take care of your check.”

“Your brother’s great,” I said.

“Yep, he does just fine. Doug, it’s okay, c’mon in.”

“Just a second, Steven. I gotta check to make sure no one is coming in.”

From inside the foyer, Doug leaned forward at the waist out the open door, peered both ways, noted that no one was headed his way, straightened back up, and let the heavy glass door shut behind as he made his way to the counter.

My payment coupon now ready, I dawdled as I made way to the bank queue. Behind me at the counter, I heard Steven as he coached Doug.

“Okay, now, Doug, you remember what to do? Take your check and write your name on the back. That’s it! Sure, you remember. You rock, Douglas.”

I could feel big brother’s smile radiating from eight feet away.

“Perfect, Doug. Nice. Okay, now you need your ID. Got your ID? You got it? Good! Let’s get in line.”

By now, I was several clients ahead of Doug and Steven. At the window, I was busted by Lisa the teller.

“I watched you watching them, Mr. Stanley.”

She laughed.

“It’s very cool. They’re in here a lot.”

Her eyes shifted towards the older brother. “He really takes care of his little brother. We all think it’s sweet.”

“Well, it is sweet,” I said. “Family, and …”

“Know something else, Mr. Stanley?”

“What’s that?”

She casually flicked her index finger towards the basket of Dum-dum lollipops on top of her counter.

“They both really like the pink lemonade suckers.”

A strong breeze blew from the northwest as I walked out to my car. Bees buzzed loudly around the weigela in the parking lot. The sunshine was just warm enough to take the chill off of the breeze. The few clouds overhead bounced around in the breeze.

It was a perfect day in June.







The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at http://dstan58.blogspot.com/

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  1. What a great piece, David – love your attention to detail & conversation. really easy to imagine both scenes & all the people involved. Thanks for sharing these stories with us.

  2. Larry says:

    When I come across genuinely kind people, it makes me feel happy and optimistic.
    Btw, if I knew a guy in his early 20’s, I would set him up with Brittany and he’d be a lucky guy.

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