The day had dragged unbearably. It had been an oddly quiet December night at the supermarket; the Christmas shoppers presumably had found ample delight in the extended shopping hours in the city centre. They were bothering someone else. There was part joy and part disdain in this realisation as I tidied the pyjama aisle for the seventh time over. Happy pissing Christmas.
An old woman walked into the aisle and started pondering about the dressing gowns. A portly Asian woman wearing a Christmas hat rolled in from the other end and stood, panting, next to the pyjama bottoms. They were pink and fluffy: like giant marshmallows gone horribly wrong. I was trapped for the time being and so turned my attention to the pants that someone had taken the time to dump behind my nicely sized pyjama sets. I would have grumbled, but was so numb from the never-ending boredom that sticking an electric whisk in my own eye would have been a preferable distraction. I was glad to have something to do. I turned to put the pants on my rail.
Suddenly the old woman appeared at my elbow, ‘Do you see her?!’
‘The woman!’ She quickly peeked over my shoulder, ‘That woman over there!’
‘I’ve seen her somewhere before… in the paper! She was in the paper! She’s been stealing pregnancy tests from the chemists and selling ‘em off down Donnington Market! There was a “Have You Seen This Woman?” thing in the paper!’
‘Yes, really! I swear it’s her! She’s the same build… she’s even wearing the same hat. The same hat! What are you waiting for? Go and get a Telegraph, girl, quick!’
I flung the pants on my rail and ran to the kiosk at the front of the store, as though this was something important enough to be running for. Screw it… I’ve got fuck all else to do! I started running faster. I quickly grabbed a paper with a ‘I have no time to explain’ kind of glance to everyone that was watching (no-one), and ran back to the old woman.
The Asian woman had gone, but the old lady had set up office on the floor. She had turned her basket upside down to make a little table, and the glasses on her face were a keen indicator that she meant business. Oh-ho, did she mean business.
‘I tried to look through it but I was running, and I…’
‘Give it here, dearie, let’s take a look at it!’
She took the paper from me and leafed through it like a professional. This was probably how she spent most of her days: sat on the floor in a supermarket, looking through the papers for criminals. I sat down with her.
‘This is actually the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all day’
‘She was wearing the same hat!’
‘Yeah, what a bitch like! Have you found it?’
She reached the end of the paper and shook her head. ‘It’s in here somewhere… I’ll go through it again!’
Ten minutes we sat together on the floor, like retired superheroes. She, retired I fancied from a broken hip and myself, retired from the realisation that I would never be as good as the paper-wielding old woman using a basket as desk. We would wear pyjamas as capes when the time came for us to once again go kick some ass.
‘I don’t think it’s in here! Maybe it was last night’s edition? Oh dearie, I am so sorry. It’s the old Alzheimer’s you see’. I became lost in my thoughts. She seemed to deflated: the fat hatted woman was probably long gone by now. It was over. We had lost. We had been left to gather dust in the crevices of the supermarket.
I heard a small cough.
‘I’m 83 dear, you’re going to have to help me up’
‘Oh right, yeah!’ I helped her up, ‘I’m sorry we didn’t find the article… at least it was a bit of fun’
‘If only there was some way to see it’
‘Wait… there is! Most of the articles in the paper get put up online as well. What if I was to have a look online, and then just let you know when you’re next in?’
‘That’s a wonderful idea!’ she exclaimed, and peered at my nametag, ‘The next time I am in, I shall have to look you up!’
And with that she was gone… lost in a swirl of ladies lingerie and assorted slippers. I beamed from the encounter: finally a customer who didn’t want to gut me because we’d ran out of socks! I wandered back over to my rail, but it had been cleared. One of the seasonal colleagues had likely done it. The day had suddenly become agreeable. I wouldn’t be needing the electric whisk in my eye socket after all.
When I got home, I kept my promise to the old lady. I searched online for the article and then finally found it: ‘Picture clue to shoplifter who targeted chemists three times’. And there, set neatly amongst the text, and magnificently printed in colour was the picture… of my old lady. With a Christmas hat. And several pregnancy tests in her bag.
My mouth gawped open slightly as I backed away from the computer, before suddenly realising… my pants! The old woman had nicked them off the rail and shoved them in her bag! She’d stolen my pants and my precious time. My buttocks had become dusty because of her. What a devious old bag. And then I started clapping… 83 years old and she spends her time stealing pregnancy tests and underwear whilst fucking over the young and unsuspecting. This woman was basically the woman I wanted to be when I was a pensioner.
I couldn’t bring myself to call the police. She’d stolen my heart when she stole my pants.
Bravo, old lady, bravo.