I looked up to see a child with a long pony-tails on each side of her head and her membership card hanging clear down to her shorts. “Do you need some help?” she said.
“I believe I’ll be all right once I can get on my feet. What’s your name, child?”
“I’m Casey” she said, pointing to her membership card. “Where’s your name card?”
“In my wallet, Casey, which is in Hazard Pay, which is underneath me. Sugar, can you get some help? I may need to be lifted some.”
She squeaked “My Daddy can help” and bolted back into the fried sample crowd, leaving me with Hazard Pay between me and the floor. I had enough time to call myself a few names before I heard Casey’s voice again and saw her with a man who must have been her father. They shared the same eye shape.
Casey said, “This lady’s card is in Hazard Pay.” and started to laugh like this was the funniest thing in the world. The poor man looked confused so I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“Mister, my name is Viola Sprayberry.” I said trying to sound as dignified as I could, slumped on the ground next to dishes. “Your little girl brought you over here because I told her I’d need some adult help getting back on my feet.”
“Are you all right?” he said. “I don’t want to move you if something’s broke.”
“Nothing hurt except my pride” I said. “Can you help?”
“Hang on” the man said. “My wife, Gennine, works in a nursing home and knows all about lifting folks.” He turned to his daughter. “Casey, stay here with Mrs. Sprayberry. I’ll get your mama and Peyton”
A dark-haired young woman came around the corner just then pushing a full cart with a child on board. She called “Jerry!” and the man looked up. She was his wife and they helped me get to my feet. I dusted off Hazard Pay and we got acquainted while Casey ran back and forth bringing us fried snack bits from the hot-plate lady.
They were the Dixons and it was easy to see they knew all about the Big Store. All of them were wearing their membership cards and Jerry and Gennine were each pushing a basket. Jerry said they lived half way across the state but their store membership meant they could get two months’ worth of shopping done in one night which was good since Gennine was starting her second year of nursing school.
“I’m going to get my R N license next.” she said “and work at the hospital instead of the nursing home. That’s when the money’s really going to start to flow.”
“We’re doing okay, Gennine.” Jerry said. He looked a little embarrassed.
“Okay is fine for now, Jerry, but I think we can do better.” Oh, she wore the pants in that family even if she was a foot shorter than him. “I want the girls to go to good schools and have quality things like Mrs. Sprayberry’s Coach bag there.” Gennine pointed at Hazard Pay. “There’s more in this world than the Big Store.”
“That may be, but this is my first visit and I’m lost” I joked. I thought it was funny that Gennine Dixon was aching to get out of the Big Store just as much as I had been aching to get in it. I turned to hook get that box for the dishes I’d seen earlier. Of course it was gone.
In the end Gennine offered to put my coffee cups in her buggy if I could carry the plates and I’d check out right behind them. That suited me; it felt like I’d been in the Big Store for hours and I was glad to have company who’d get me out the door. They were a nice family. Not as rich as some of the families I sat for but money enough to shop here and stay at the motel afterwards. More important, they were decent folks who would help a neighbor. Their little girl Peyton didn’t say much, just gazed at me with her china blue eyes and put up three fingers to show me her age. Casey giggled and teased her folks but she was a good girl. I liked them.
We still didn’t get out of that store until almost closing time and I’d learned eight stoneware salad plates weigh a ton. The checkout girl gave me a cardboard box to put my dishes in and the handles on that were easier than carrying those plates in my arms but the cups evened out the score by weighing more. Jerry ended up carrying them to my car and putting them on the front seat while Casey and her mom loaded up their van. Little Peyton was already asleep in her car chair.
“Would y’all mind making sure I get up this hill before you take off?” I asked. We were about the only ones left in the parking lot except for a few men next to the Roach Coach. I didn’t want to be alone if the Mule turned balky. Jerry agreed and they waited for me to drive out but, wouldn’t you know it, the Mule wouldn’t start and it had a flat tire to boot? First, we tried jumping it off with jumper cables and mine but the engine just wouldn’t turn over. Then, Jerry tried to call a wrecker on his cell phone but he said we were out of range. That rotten car was dead and it looked like I’d have to stay there until I could get it towed to some mechanic who’d charge me more to fix it than the Mule was worth. I was beginning to think that visiting The Big Store was the worst idea I ever had.