Charles E.Magness

Track Meet In Purgatory

Jason and Lynne are nerds.  They grew up as best friends who share interests in science and running. They just had to hike into that remote desert canyon to see some dinosaur tracks.  Alone in that canyon when disaster threatens, they learn how important they really are to each other…and that a boy and a girl can be much more to each other than just best friends.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

I deliberately walked right past the drugstore several times. An intelligent man always makes an adequate reconnaissance, I assured myself, before undertaking a mission into enemy territory.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to enter the establishment. Glancing about me, I saw that three or four folks were lined up at the only checkout counter in operation. The clerk at the cash register was a woman. A young woman. A good-looking young woman.

As a general rule, I liked dealing with sexy young women, though I always tried to pretend disinterest because I was too self-conscious to act any other way. If I'd been planning to buy aspirin, a pair of cheap sunglasses, or something equally innocuous, I'd have been glad to see that woman there.

But this was a different story. I was here to buy condoms, and taking them to that young woman would amount to walking up to her and saying «I'm planning to get laid. Again and again.”

Slightly panicked, I looked around the store and tried to assume the manner of someone who's forgotten something. Muttering (a little too loudly) a remark or two about leaving my wallet at home, I turned around and walked back out of the store.

Not knowing what else to do, I walked several blocks east on Colfax, turned around, and walked back. That should give them enough time to put a different clerk behind the register, I thought irrationally. It didn't occur to me that a different clerk might also be a woman. Or that the store might not rotate cash-register duty every ten minutes. Screwing up my courage again, I re-entered the building.

The same person was still at the register. She was still a woman, still young, although the line now comprised different people.  A customer who had just completed a transaction turned to leave; the clerk looked directly at me and smiled. I returned what must have been a sickly excuse for a smile. Damn! I continued to myself. She's noticed me. Now she knows I'm here. I was desperate, but, try as I might, I couldn't think of a plausible reason why a person might leave the store a second time and return. I guessed I was stuck there now.

Trying to pretend that I wasn't there at all, or at least trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, I walked past the counter and into the aisles of shelving. As I moved, the store's public address system squawked. Convinced that I'd been detected and that someone was going to order all young, unmarried men who were looking for condoms to get out of the store, I jumped about a foot into the air. But it was nothing to do with me: a woman's voice said “Anita, dry clean-up in Aisle Four. Anita, dry clean-up in Aisle Four,” and the system lapsed into silence

Beginning with Aisle One, I slouched up and down the aisles, looking, looking, looking, moving only my eyes, trying not to move my head from side to side. If I just look like I know what I'm after and where I'm going, I thought, everything will be okay…

A minute or two later, in Aisle Four, I encountered another store clerk. It was another woman. Naturally. She wore a name tag that read “Anita W” on her Rite-Aid smock and she wielded a broom, a dustpan, and a wastebasket as she removed shards of a broken bottle, and the tan powder that had once been in the bottle, from the floor. Anita was middle-aged, and she reminded me of my mother! That was wrong—so wrong!—at this point in my life and for what I needed.

“Good afternoon, sir,” she said with a smile. “Are you finding what you need?”

I wasn't, but I wasn't about to tell her that! If I did, she would ask what I was looking for, and then, when I left, two women would know what I had come for. They would talk about that with each other. There was no doubt in my mind. They would laugh together at the nerdy stripling!

Surely, I wasn't going to have to ask for condoms at the checkout counter! In a store that seemed to have only female employees!
99 printed pages
Original publication



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