I went over to where she had stood and placed my feet in the exact two spots where her feet used to be just moments ago. In an attempt to recreate what life would be like at 4 feet tall, I squatted down in the aisle and peered up at the shelves of food looming before me. I scanned the myriad selection of canned soups and stretched my arms high, but struggled to reach the New England Clam Chowder. Being 4 feet tall would exclude my number one pick from the dinner list, forcing me one shelf lower to where the less desirable soups were kept. Damn, life at this altitude sucks.
I pivoted around while still crouched down low, sort of like a goose waddle, and slid my empty grocery basket toward the opposite shelf. After flipping the basket over, I climbed onto it and was able to reach a jar of bread & butter pickle spears. Score! I climbed back down, erected myself once again, and dropped the jar of pickles into the basket. Upon looking up I noticed a mother and child halfway down the aisle. They were looking directly at me, standing completely still, and as I gathered my basket and started walking toward them, the mother grabbed her daughter's hand and quickly stepped to the side.
"Hi there," I said with a smile as I passed by. My greeting was met with silence and a bewildered look from the mother, while the little girl eyed me curiously from the safety of her mother's hip. I tried to imagine how it appeared as they turned the corner and saw a grown man goose walking in circles, trying to reach for food while crouched on a plastic basket. I can't imagine any excuse that would've eased their curiosity, and the truth (that I was pretending to be the midget who was currently browsing the next aisle over) probably would've been equally alarming.
I left the soup section, turned the corner into the chips and soda aisle, and there she was again. She was walking away from me, her short muscular legs pumping vigorously with each little step. She held her basket by clenching the handle in the crook of her left arm. It was full of groceries and the head of lettuce sitting on top gave the appearance of a baby being carried in a basket. Her orange sleeveless shirt was riding up and I could see the chubbiness of her side undulate as she continued walking. An orange shirt? Why would someone who already attracts stares everywhere she goes be wearing a brightly colored shirt like that? I'd be going dark blue, maybe earth tones, anything but orange.
She stopped when she got to the flavored pretzel section, hooked a quarter turn, and looked up. She was eyeballing a bag of honey mustard pretzel bites, a fine selection if you asked me. I was standing several feet away from her, staring at her pudgy arms and noticing the way her legs bowed outwards slightly, when suddenly I realized she was no longer looking at the pretzels. She was watching me watch her look at something she couldn't reach, damn. Her feet were so tiny, like babies feet stuffed inside sneakers. Her face was long and thick and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail to reveal a forehead that was shiny and well developed. I pictured her blowing a giant pink bubble with the gum she was chewing and imagined her little fingers pulling the sticky strands off her face after it exploded.
"I'm not gonna get any taller the longer you stare at me," she said, snapping me back to attention. The pink bubblegum disappeared from her face and suddenly I could see her eyes for the first time. They were set low and looked up at me widely, her eyelashes caked in mascara. She kept staring at me, waiting for something. "Well, aren't ya gonna say something?" she asked.
I stood there quietly, not fully understanding the situation. She was very little and her body twitched slightly when she spoke. I wondered if somewhere beneath her blouse was a metal circle attached to a string waiting to be pulled. "How many different phrases did this one know?" I wondered. "What about songs? Does she know any?" I thought to myself. She had turned her attention away from me and back to the pretzels. She set her basket of groceries down and stretched out her arm, massaging it with her other hand. There was a red mark where the handle used to be. She looked back at me and shot me a peculiar look. I wasn't exactly sure if the look was meant for me or for someone else, so I turned and looked over my shoulder. Nobody there.
We were all alone in this part of the grocery store. I turned back towards her just in time to catch a blurred glimpse of her war face as she rushed at me full speed. I thought I heard a hawk screeching seconds before a painful blow was delivered to my groin. Before I could even register what happened, a second blow to the nuts rocked me to my knees. We were now eye to eye, almost. She still had to look up slightly as she spoke, "You fucking weirdo pig! Whose handicapped now, bitch?" She stormed back to her groceries, reached in and pulled out a can of soup, tossed it at the bag of pretzels which fell straight down into her basket. After giving me one final pissed-off glare, she turned and duck-waddled her way down the aisle and disappeared around the bend forever.