Sex In The Supermarket
By Bernie Suttle
You want to get poked?” I asked Betty Pruett, a checker at Market Basket. She turned toward me from the register, smiled and said, “Not right now.”
I had the melon poker in my hand. It was used to assure buyers the watermelons were ready to eat.
“Jeeze, I didn’t mean that.” My ears were burning. I’m sure they were red but I overcame my embarrassment and said, “Hi, I’m Bernie, a new box boy.”
“Hello yourself, I’m Betty Pruett, checker, welcome aboard. You new in town?”
“We used to live here but we were in LA two years ‘til my dad died. Just moved back so Mom can be near her job.”
“Thought you looked familiar. Where did you go to school here?”
“Catholic school through the seventh grade. What do you want me to do here?”
“Keep bagging while I check. Put the tender stuff on top like tomatoes and bread. Careful of the eggs.”
“Those girls I see you with, your sisters?”
“Yep, the four Pruett girls. I’m the oldest, 19.”
“You go to Monrovia High School?”
“Used to. Quit in senior year to get married.”
“You don’t wear a ring.”
“Not married anymore. Live back home with mom and sisters. Mom takes care of my boy so I can work.”
“All you girls sure look good.”
“What’s the name of your sister that’s my age?”
“Jenny. She’s 14. Are you?”
“Yep. Sure like to talk to her.”
“Say, ‘Hello’ when she’s checking through.”
Whenever the three Pruett girls entered the market in their sunny, summer, sundresses, puffy reddish blond hair and smiles for everyone they reminded me of popovers fresh from the oven. When they came the boys would gather near them like birds to a feeder.
“Howard, it’s good you and the other guys are working as box boys. I wouldn’t want to be the only kid here. You see those Pruett Girls? That Jenney sure is cute. Do you know her?”
“Yeah, went to Jr. High with her. She’s fun.”
Ivan, the store manager, didn’t do much observable managing. He strode the aisles like a martinet with black shoes, white sox, brown pants, white short-sleeve shirt, red tie topped off by his bald head and beady, staring, black eyes.
“Hey, Doug, that little plywood room-size box in the storage area in back, is that Ivan’s office?”
“Why is it that four of you guys climb up on top at once to get bags for the checkers?”
“Because when the checker, Velma, takes her break she goes in there and makes out with Ivan. We look down through cracks in the roof and watch them.”
“Can I go up there next time?”
“No, the shack starts to sway and creek; it’s just plywood.”
Even in 1949, every other Saturday a brood of Hill Folk came in for “victuals,” the men in Dungeralls that stopped four inches above their high-topped shoes, and soiled, tan, long-sleeved shirts, the women in wash dresses and bandanas over unwashed hair.
The first time I experienced their visit I heard barking.
“Darrell, what’s that?”
He told me, “It’s the hill people. The woman has an ailment. She can’t help it.”
“Does she do it in her sleep too?”
“Do many girls start barking?”
“Don’ think so.”
Two weeks later we heard barking again.
The manager, Ivan, yelled at me. “Get that goddam dog out of here before he leaves a mess that you’ll clean up.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll take care of it.”
I disappeared from Ivan’s presence to reappear after the hill people left the building.
The barking had stopped.
Ivan glowered at me and said, “What took you so long?”
“The dog ran away and hid,” I said.
“Here’s my chance. Jenny is checking through Betty’s line.”
I bagged all the items and Betty gave back the change and Blue Chip Stamps. I stared into Jenny’s eyes and said, “Hi, I’m Bernie.” She looked straight at my face. Then it seemed her blue eyes drifted to the top of my head as she weakly responded, “Hi.”
I knew it. The hair on the back of my head must be sticking up again. As the ad says, “You better start using Wildroot cream oil and you better start using it today.”
Why not? Here goes.
“My break is due. Want to have a coke with me?”
“Can’t, frozen peas will thaw.”
“Well that’s zero for one but one for three is good enough for the major leaguers. I’ll try again.”
The summer and my job were nearing the end. I was going to a new high school. I had learned a lot about girls. “I’ll make my move for Jenny. She’s alone in the canned fish aisle.”
“Hi, good to see you; it’s always good to see you. I’d like to see you somewhere else. Could we go to the Lyric for a movie Friday?”
She smiled and said, “Sorry. I’m dating Howard Sanger. We’re going steady.”
“Really? The Howard Sanger, box boy? What for?”
“He’s going to quit high school and become a meat cutter.”
“Well, good for you. Take care and remember me.”
I turned and slowly walked away thinking, “School starts next week. There will be lots of girls there. I can improve my average.”