When they were inside, Samantha turned to Mike, feeling a little shy. He’d said she could buy magazines, but how many? What with her several shopping excursions, she envisioned her credit card being run through the little machine and the machine, like a cartoon character, clutching its belly and laughing. “Uh, Mike,” she began, “what kind of budget do I have?”
“Money or time?” he asked impatiently.
Looking at his watch, he said, “You may buy everything that you can get to the cash register within twelve point six minutes.”
“It’s now point four.”
Samantha had once read that where women made their big mistake in marriage was the morning after the wedding. In an effort to please their husbands, they often made them breakfast and served it to them in bed, thinking that this morning was special and that they would only do this on “special” mornings. But the man took the breakfast in bed as an indication of what to expect for the rest of their married lives and was therefore disappointed over the coming years whenever he had to eat breakfast at a table.
It wasn’t as though they’d been married yesterday, but they’d, well, experienced some togetherness. Now Mike wasn’t looking at her with lust, but looking at her as though he were her…well, her husband. He was being patronizing and she didn’t like it. No doubt he thought she’d pick up a couple of books and a few magazines, then he’d smile in a fatherly way and say something like, “Are you happy now?”
Samantha smiled at him. She was going to show him that she wasn’t going to be like the bride who brought her husband breakfast in bed, and she was going to teach him a lesson in the process. He was rich enough to afford what she was going to do to him in the next twelve minutes.
“Okay, Mr. Got-Rocks, you’re on,” she said with one eyebrow raised in challenge as she turned to the clerk behind the register. “I need two shopping bags, FAST!” The bored young woman handed them to her.
Samantha first made her way to the mystery section, since she knew something about those books. Grabbing all of the Nancy Pickard, Dorothy Cannell, Anne Perry, and Elizabeth Peters books off the shelves, she dumped them into the open bags at her feet.
Standing near her in the science fiction section was a tall, well-dressed man who was pretending that he wasn’t watching what she was doing. Samantha had noticed in the time she’d lived there that New Yorkers liked to pretend that they were sophisticated, that they’d seen everything there was to be seen, but the truth of the matter was that they were insatiably curious—in fact, nosy. They were always aware of what the person next to them was doing, always trying to see something they hadn’t seen before, for New Yorkers seemed to Samantha to love anything out of the ordinary. It’s just that it takes a lot to do something a New Yorker considers extraordinary.
When this man saw Samantha frantically dumping books into the bags, he asked, “Are you entering a contest?” Curiosity always overrides manners in a New Yorker.
“Yes,” Samantha said. “I’m with a nursing home and I get to keep all the books I can buy within twelve minutes.”
At that the man’s face lit up. “May others help you?”
“Of course,” Samantha said. Mike had said nothing about others helping or not.
“I might be able to choose science fiction for you and my wife could help with the bestsellers list.”
Within four minutes flat, everyone in the store knew about the lady in the contest and everyone wanted to help. Two tall black boys with razored haircuts (one of them with a Z on his temple) asked if she wanted some magazines.
When Samantha said, “One of each,” the boys looked as though they’d won the jackpot. With a jump, they slapped hands, then took off for the big magazine stand.
A man with two children volunteered to select games, and a woman said she’d buy audiotapes. A very nerdy-looking young man said he could pick out videos for her
When the twelve minutes were up, Samantha skidded to a halt before the register with her arms full of Silhouette romances and the stacks and stacks—and stacks—of books, tapes, magazines, and videos in front of the check-out counter startled her. But she wasn’t going to back down.
“Is this all yours?” the clerk gasped, her eyes wide. When Samantha—not looking at Mike who had been
watching her in disbelief—nodded, the girl said she had to get the manager.
By the time the manager got to the register, everyone in the store, most of whom had participated in the buying, were standing to one side and watching solemnly.
“I hope you can pay for all of this,” the manager said sternly.
Samantha nodded as the clerk picked up the first book and held the electronic eye over the code bar, but then Samantha yelled, “Wait!” and everyone drew in his collective breath. Was Samantha going to chicken out?
“What kind of discount are you going to give me?” she asked the manager.
At that the New Yorkers burst into approving applause, for they recognized one of their own. It was a bit later, after quite a bit of discussion that involved several people, that a discount of twelve and a half percent was agreed upon.
After all the purchases were rung up and Mike had paid with his credit card, the people helped carry the many bags into the street to get a taxi. They had the misfortune/luck to get one of the rare taxis with a native New York driver who told them they could not put all that stuff in his vehicle. There is nothing a New Yorker likes more than controversy so there erupted a bit of a “discussion.” Tourists began taking pictures of the real, live, honest-to-God New Yorkers having an argument in the middle of the sidewalk. They’d heard about such things happening but hadn’t really believed it was done; their mothers had taught them to argue only in private.
“I did it,” Samantha said when she and Mike were alone in the taxi. But then maybe alone wasn’t the right word, for covered wagons hadn’t been packed as solidly as this car was. She had two bags in her lap, four under her legs and two behind her back. A Judith McNaught audiotape was protruding from her purse (she thought she might listen to it before passing it on) and gouging her right kidney rather painfully. “Twelve minutes flat. Right on time.”