I feel the same way about grocery shops as I do about Catholic churches. There’s something about it that sets me on edge and my main modus operandi is to get in and out as quickly as possible. I know what I want before I start out and I try not to stand around looking confused. Time is too precious to be wasted on boxes of cereal and fifty different kinds of egg. Fact.
So it’s unusual that I find myself at a complete standstill in the confectionery aisle. They don’t have the chocolate I was after and it’s a careful process choosing a substitute. Besides, they’re on sale, might as well get two.
“Mum, is that a vampire?”
It’s asked in the stage whisper of the young, when you’re entirely self-assured that only the person you’re addressing can hear you. My eyes slide from the rows of chocolate-y goodness to a young girl not two feet away, eyes wide and holding onto her mother’s hand. She looks about six. Her mother, for her part, looks mortified.
“I’m sorry,” she says but I wave it off.
“It’s fine.” I turn to the little girl, still staring at me with open curiosity. “Why do you think I’m a vampire?”
She draws a little closer to her mother’s leg but answers with complete conviction. “You’re tall, and pale, and you’re wearing funny clothes.” She takes a breath as if considering. “And you look sad.”
I nod. “That’s true, but look,” I smile widely. “No pointy teeth.”
“Vampires don’t always have pointy teeth,” she says in a huff – an honest to God huff – and giving me a look that implies I should know better. What did I think she was, an idiot? “They go in and out, like they need them.”
“Well, you’ve done your research!” My eyes go to the mother. She seems stuck somewhere between embarrassment and amusement. I’m curious as to why her six year old knows so much about scary monsters, but I won’t ask. She must read it in my face as she gives me an apologetic smile. I return my attention to girl. “No vampire’s ever going to catch you, huh?”
“Can I tell you a secret?” Her eyes go wide in that way only a young kid’s can and she shakes her head. “You promise not to tell?” Even more head shaking. I glance over my shoulder then crouch down. “Truth is,” I begin in a loud whisper. “I’m a vampire hunter.”
“Really?” she whispers back.
“Ahuh.” I flick another glance up and down the aisle. “See, you have to blend in, otherwise they’ll know what you are. So you thinking I’m a vampire means I’m doing a good job. Do you think I’m doing a good job?”
“Okay, good. I’ve got to go now, but if you see any vampires, you leave them to me, okay?”
“Okay,” she says, her face a mask of solemn importance.
I straighten up. The mother is grinning at me. I smile, give a little shrug, and leave without looking back. I didn’t get the chocolate I was after but maybe, just maybe, there’s something to be said for grocery shops after all.
Music: Sophomore slump or comeback of the year - Fall Out Boy