With the cup in her hand, she entered the slender hallway, which led from her home to the little general store, Rays of Sun Groceries. Setting the cup on the counter, she flicked on the transistor radio and tuned into Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”
She sang along while sweeping the floor, dusting cans on the shelf and checking underneath to see if the traps had caught any critters. There were was always a field mouse, and sometimes a rattler got into the store. The ringing of the bell grabbed her attention. She quickly turned down the volume seeing a shifty shadow lurch through the aisles of her store.
“Can I help you?” she asked. When the shadow didn’t immediately answer, she grabbed the broom for a weapon. “Hello.” That’s when she saw him—a burned-out hippie, with long brown hair and beard. Believing him to be a derelict, she armed herself with her broom, ready to sweep him outside with any slight indiscretion. “Can I help you?” she asked again.
The man stared at her without looking at her. “Food,” he muttered, nearly incoherent.
“Well, it’s a grocery store. I got plenty,” she replied.
He nodded and shifted his gaze around picking up various products—SPAM, stew, sardines, and a couple of cans of beans. Georgina stepped back and studied him carefully. Despite his ragged appearance, he smelled of sage, which only mystified her more.
“I’m also gonna need some pots and pans, dishes and utensils,” he said.
“Sugar, this isn’t the Woolworth. I sell groceries.” She eyed him carefully and imagined he would be attractive cleaned up. “What do you need all that stuff for anyway?”
“I moved in down the road,” he said, eyeing a display of Las Vegas postcards and a glass, velvet lined cased filled with crystal rocks.
“Down the road? There ain’t nothing down the road.”
“Old silver mine, ‘bout a mile east,” he said. “Bought the old place from the state. They gave me a great deal.”
“I’m sure they did,” she replied and did not ask any more questions, although there were loads on her mind. She knew there were many things that brought a person to the outskirts of society. “Well look, I go into the mart at least once a week. I can pick some stuff up for you if you’d like.”
“That would be much appreciated.” He pulled out a wad of cash to pay for his purchase of can meats and milk. “How much do you need?”
Georgina eyed his money. Her imagination reeled at how such a derelict looking man had come into so much cash. Again, she questioned his intentions. Is he a thief or, even worse, a killer? Did he win his money in the casino? Is it his life savings? “I’ll pick it up and you can pay me back.” She gazed up into his eyes, which she found quite sultry. They expressed fatigue and sadness. “Should I drop it off at your new place?”
“No,” he replied abruptly. “I’ll be back to pick it up.” He looked down at his purchase on the counter. “How much do I owe you?”
“Twenty dollars and five cents.” He handed her two twenties and waited patiently for his change. “Where are you from originally?” she asked.
He looked at her as if it was an odd question and laughed. “Originally?”
“People come from all over, you know. Just yesterday, I had a couple from Minnesota, and the other day two young lovers from Kansas, who was off to get married. They come from everywhere,” she explained.
He leaned in toward Georgina. “The question is where do we belong? That is the question we must all ask.”
He lifted his purchase in his arms. “Thanks. See ya ‘round and thanks for getting the stuff.” He left with a gentle swinging of the screen door and ringing of the bell.
Even though he had gone, Georgina still felt his presence. His soul remained and it filled Rays of Sun Groceries. She lit a cigarette and dragged. “What a strange man,” she said as her heart beat faster. Many men had walked into her store and her life, but few were so compelling. She was not only going to see him again, but she also was going to make sure he became a staple in her life.