Chapter 24. Mother People

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"Oh no," Mom uttered, gazing wide-eyed down the bread aisle all the way to over to the pharmacy.

"Wha-"

She grabbed hold of me and dragged me down behind the bin of Twinkies, where she instinctively crouched down.

"Alma is there," she whispered. "Don't look!"

I looked. Sure enough, there was Alma Derrick, working the pharmacy desk with her perfect, bouncy curls and pearl necklace tightly tied around her throat.

"I said don't look!" Mom snapped.

"Get with the times, Mom! If you say don't look, people will look!"

"Not in my day they didn't!"

Public humiliation followed when a multitude of other customers saw us hiding from the seemingly harmless pharmacist.

"Why are we hiding from Alma?" I asked, feeling my legs getting tired from crouching.

"It's... embarrassing," she mumbled.

"More embarrassing than what we're doing right now?"

Mom gave it some thought before she answered.

"I may never have... given her my condolences after Johan died," she admitted.

Even I, who didn't have a single nice word to say about the widowed woman next door, knew she deserved to have everyone tell her they were sorry for their loss.

"What?!" I blurted out. "It's been almost two months, what's wrong with you?"

"Marcia, you know I'm bad with these things!"

One of us had to get off the floor first, it also had to be me. I pushed the cart along, relieved we were reaching the end of the store. Mom followed shortly after me, brushing dirt off her green chiffon dress. All I could hope was that Alma did not see us.

"You know, you're gonna have to give said condolences sooner or later," I warned. "Either that or we'll have to move." 

My mother was a kind-hearted being, but as I mentioned, she was better at handing out pointless small gestures than addressing any sort of issue. This was further demonstrated as we walked by a stand of fresh flower bouquets, the finest flowers you could get for the lowest retail price. Mom took a moment to search through the stand before picking out a handful of white lilies.

"Do these cut it for condolences?" she wondered.

I had to give her the Ok, it was the closest she could get to talking to Alma.

"I've got a feeling it's the best we can do." 

*

Little did I know, that just thirty minutes before I was supposed to be meeting Sam and Charlie, I would be forced to deliver flowers to the Derricks' doorstep.

The lights were off. Big shocker there. Charlie was probably on the bus going up Barbur Highway already, and Alma was of course still working the desk at the Fred Meyer pharmacy. And even while knowing no one would be home, Mom still made me drop off the dewy lilies, with the accompanying, short and neat greeting card: "Sorry for your loss, -Judi (with family)."

I laid the flowers down by the doorstep, then proceeded to check the time on my wristwatch: 06:39. Ok, so I had twenty-one minutes if I took my car up to McDonald's it would only take me ten minutes, twelve at most.

Which left me a little moment to reach down into my pocket, in search for the Oregon Ducks keychain that held a house key, car keys, and one recent addition I had not dared think about. 

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