FINALLY a store that wasn’t blasting Christmas carols over every loudspeaker!
Just as Shiv began to revel in the sound of silence, Devon had to go and spoil the mood by waving a package of stuffed pasta above his head.
“Hey, check it out, Shiv,” he called across the store. “This stuff’s called fagottini! Fagottini! Can you believe it?”
Everybody in Babba Fine Foods looked up at them, and Shiv just wanted crawl under a fruitcake and die. A sensation of blistering humiliation shot up his neck and across his cheeks, and his ear lobes burned. As he lowered his eyes, his gaze accidentally locked with the big hairy guy at the register, and he immediately looked down at the produce in front of him. He swallowed hard, focusing all his attention on a bag of romaine hearts.
The big hairy voice at the front of the store hollered, “Get out of here, both of you! What kind of shop you think this is?”
Shiv nearly jumped out of his winter boots. He turned his head so fast he could visualize it flying off his neck and soaring across the shop. Only the hairy guy wasn’t yelling at him, or at Devon. His rage was aimed directly at a poised young woman in a designer jacket… and her little dog too!
“Read the sign on the door,” the big man went on as a little terrier’s pink tongue licked the girl’s chin. “No dogs allowed!”
“Excuse me, but Missy is family,” the girl spat, holding up her poor confused dog for display.
The hairy man crossed his arms in front of his chest and nodded. “Yes, I can see the family resemblance,” he replied, with an air of immense satisfaction.
Dropping her jaw like a six-year-old drama queen, she squealed, “It is cold outside. There is snow everywhere, and that sidewalk is covered in salt. In case you didn’t know, salt is majorly bad for Missy’s paws. Would you make me tie her to a fire hydrant if she were my child?”
“A dog is not a child,” the man scoffed, waving his hand in front of his face. “You are the child.”
The girl with the terrier inhaled sharply. It was hard to tell who was doing more of the whining—her or the dog. “You know what? I’m going to tell all my friends you’re an anti-canine, and they’re all going to stop shopping here. How do you like that?”
“Perfect!” the man shouted back. “Your friends are idiots. You’re doing me a favor!”
With an exaggerated huff, the girl spun on her heels and took three angry steps toward the door. She then spun back around and grabbed a loaf of olive bread from the rack. “I need this!” Smacking a five-dollar bill down against the Plexiglass counter full of lottery tickets, she hollered, “Here! Keep the change.”
“Thank you!” the hairy man shouted, putting the cash in the register as she and her dog stormed out into the cold.
Shiv jumped three feet into the air when Devon crept up behind him and whispered, “God, I love that guy!”
“Don’t do that!” Shiv hissed, grabbing at his chest in a desperate attempt to slow his heartbeat. Its rate seemed to return to normal quickly enough. Good recovery time. Nodding toward the guy at the counter, he explained, “Those two have that same argument every Tuesday. I always try to be here for it.”
“Yeah, these little shops sure have life in them.” Devon chuckled, picking up a red pepper only to set it back down. “I just don’t know how an immigrant can afford these prices.”
After fourteen years in this country, Shiv was beginning to realize the immigrant label was as permanent as the color of his skin. Suppressing a scowl, he shot back, “Right. Because everyone in India is a beggar on the street. We’re all so impoverished we can’t even afford to wipe our asses.” He didn’t like to be rude, but he came from a highly educated family. It bothered him when people thought otherwise.
After a pause, Devon demurred. “Sorry, man. See? Get me five blocks off campus and I’m a complete embarrassment.”
Shiv stood in contemplation as Devon shook his package of pasta side to side. Did he really want to spend the evening studying for winter finals with a total hick?
“Us farm boys, you know…” Devon continued, offering a lopsided smile. He put on a fake Farmer Brown accent. “We don’t know nuttin’ ’bout nuttin’, boy howdy!”
He seemed genuinely repentant. And, of course, they had committed to cramming together. It would be rude to withdraw now. Devon was perhaps a little immature, but he wore his naiveté charmingly. In fact, everything he wore looked good on him, right down to his puffy red down jacket. His innocence complimented his boyish physique—not to mention the dimples on his cheeks—nicely. And that perfect ass….
“Come on,” Shiv said, walking his purchases to the line-up at the front counter. “We’ll cook up your pasta and have a nice dinner before we study.”