I drove over to Price Chopper late this morning, to pick up a salad and maybe a couple other things. Before I left, I shoveled my walk and part of the driveway, thinking all the while that the plow guy didn’t do much of a job. I was tired when I was finished and I immediately jumped into my car to go shopping.
It didn’t take me long to select the salad, some toothpaste, and an air freshener—only three items, so I went to the self-checkout. When I reached for my wallet, I discovered that all I had was an empty back pocket—no wallet, no card, and now some worry on my mind. I started to set the items aside so I could go home and investigate. While I was lifting them out of the shopping basket, a lady, who was unknown to me, volunteered to pick up my tab. I looked at her, suspiciously. What was she after? I asked myself.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m not going to pick you up and take you home,” she laughed, inserting a $20-dollar bill into the machine. I thanked her and asked for her address so that I could reimburse her, but she wouldn’t think of it. “This is my opportunity to do a good deed this week.” It was a little under $18, but it was way more than that to me. I’ve never, ever, allowed myself to feel beholden to anyone, especially to a stranger.
I bent down to get my—actually, her—change and, when I turned, she wasn’t there. I looked in the nearby aisles, but she had vanished. Recalling that she had snow-white hair and was wearing a black cape with a hood, I went searching for her. After a good twenty minutes of not finding the lady, I returned to the information counter and enquired if anyone knew who she was.
“No,” Michele, the store manager, told me. “I’ve never seen anyone by that description.”
When I reached home, I found my wallet, exactly where I had left it—in the bedroom. Thinking about my good fortune in the store, I put my coat back on, went outside, and picked up my shovel. I then walked over to my next-door neighbor’s and started shoveling her walk. After I’d shoveled my next-door neighbor’s walk, I walked over to her neighbor’s and began shoveling his walk. All afternoon, I walked from house to house in my neighborhood, shoveling neighbors’ walks, all the time thinking about what that kind lady had done for me—for a total stranger.
Eric Lande was born in Montreal, but have lived most of his life in the south of France and in Vermont, where he now lives with his partner on 500 acres caring for more than 100 animals most of which are rescues. With a PhD in economics, he has taught at l’Université d’Ottawa, where he served as Vice-Dean of his faculty. Recently, his stories have been accepted by Bewildering Stories, and by Literally Stories.