Checking Out, Part 1

[The first in a series of Town Tales, in which I show each of my novel’s characters in the world outside their school and fencing club]

With a sweep of his long arm, Rex waved Ariana Blagotvoritelnost into the checkout line, a white number 3 blazoned on a plastic blue field above. Two of the twelve cashier stations (all manned, Thursday being the busiest evening of the week) had one fewer occupant, but a rough estimate of product volume in each cart had led to his deduction that line three provided the quickest exit from Stop and Shop Market.

“After you, madame.” As she had done all evening at each display of Rex’s comic gentility, Ariana blinked and tittered, before pushing the cart into position immediately behind a middle-aged woman in a body-length brown jacket. Almost immediately, a bearded man in gray coveralls received his receipt from the cashier and spun in the direction of the exit; Rex silently congratulated himself, as Ariana pushed the shopping cart forward.

“Do you still do the fencing?” Ariana’s question caught Rex by surprise. He spoke with Ariana nearly every day, her house a stone’s throw across the street from the trailer he shared with his family, but he couldn’t remember ever talking to her about his fencing. Certainly wasn’t a topic he expected her to raise in order to pass the time.

“Yes.” He smiled and nodded, his head bobbing on top of his tall body. “We started practicing again last month, around Columbus Day. Tuesdays, after school.”

“Ah.” Her voice conveyed sincere interest, as did her eyes.

“We practice in the cafeteria, not the gym. Coach Dan, he says the cafeteria’s better anyway.” He pointed down at the floor. “It’s the tiles — they’re black and white, and the way they’re arranged, they make almost perfect fencing strips!”

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