“I sure hope Hank didn’t wake up,” Minnie grumbled as Claire backed out of the driveway.
“Why would Hank wake up?” Claire asked. “You said he’s a heavy sleeper.”
“Are you kidding me,” Minnie exclaimed. “You threw rocks at the wall. You think he’s gonna sleep through that noise?”
“I had to throw them,” Claire retorted, irritated. “You didn’t wake up when I threw the first pebble.”
“It’s two in the morning, Claire! Excuse me for sleeping through the sound of a pebble hitting my window.”
“We discussed these plans last night!” Claire exclaimed, exasperated. “I told you not to drink all that wine. Wine makes you forget and then you over sleep. Remember, the last time you drank wine? We were supposed to go the casino only you overslept and we missed the bus?”
“That doesn’t count,” Minnie protested, irritated that Claire had brought up that incident. “It’s not my fault people kept refilling my glass and I didn’t know it!”
Claire rolled her eyes. “It was a wine party for goodness sake! Of course they’d refill it. What did you expect?”
Maybe Claire was right, Minnie thought. Maybe she shouldn’t drink wine. Clearly, she loses all common sense after a glass or two. She certainly couldn’t explain any other reason for agreeing to this harebrained idea. Lord knows, she never went to black Friday sales. At least, she never went to them when the sky was still dark and the sane were still sleeping.
“Wine doesn’t make me forget.”
The sound of Kitty’s voice scared the heck out of Minnie. Clutching her hand against her chest, Minnie whipped her head around to peer into the backseat. She could barely see Kitty. It wasn’t because it was dark but rather because Kitty’s head was barely visible above the seat. There was no denying the iron grey pin curls though. They were all Kitty.
Minnie turned to Claire. “I thought you were going to leave her home?”
A scowl creased Claire’s face. “I wanted to but she beat me to the car.”
Kitty’s sharp, thin, laughter cackled from the back seat. “You should have seen it Minnie. I scared the hell out of Claire.”
“You didn’t scare me,” Claire scoffed in denial.
“Oh really? Then how come you let out that scream?”
Claire rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t a scream. It was barely a squeak.”
“Yeah, a squeak that could wake a neighborhood,” Kitty shot back.
“It didn’t wake everybody,” Claire stated with a pointed glance in Minnie’s direction. “Anyway, Kitty was already at the car and you know her, when her mind is made up there’s no changing it. Besides, she’ll be able to help me get those door buster items I want.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” Kitty protested. “I’ve got some things I want to get too.”
“Oh really?” Curious, Minnie turned around to face Kitty. “What do you want to get.”
“Well, I saw some nice boxer shorts on sale. I thought Burt might like them.”
“Don’t you think a pair of flannels would be better for Burt?” Claire asked as she turned onto the highway and started towards Albany.
Kitty shook her head. “Naw. They’re too warm for him. He starts to sweat then he has to strip down to his skivvies. This way we eliminate the stripping down.”
Claire wished she could eliminate the picture Kitty painted of Burt stripping down. Unfortunately, she couldn’t erase the image of Burt’s knobby knees and wrinkled skin from her brain. Maybe if she was lucky, the boxer shorts would be sold out. Conversation died down after that as Claire drove through the dark streets to Albany. By the time they reached the mall the parking lot was packed.
“See, this is why I wanted to leave at midnight,” Claire grumbled as she circled the parking lot for the fifth time.
“We couldn’t leave at midnight,” Kitty replied. “Minnie was passed out. Remember?”
Minnie gasped. “I was not passed out. I was just tired. Thanksgiving takes it out of a person.”
Claire had just made another pass around the mall when Kitty pressed her hands to her stomach and let out a low moan. “Oh lord, I think I’m gonna be sick.”
Panicked, Claire glanced up in the rearview window. “What?”
“Sick!” Kitty shot out. “We’re spinning like tops in this parking lot. That makes a person sick!”
“Oh jeez . . .” Claire grumbled as she came to a sudden stop. Fortunately, there was a traffic jam in front of the mall when Claire slammed on the brakes. “Minnie, you and Kitty wait here while I find a parking spot.”
“Sure,” Minnie said as she stepped out of the car.
Kitty let out another groan as she clutched her stomach and climbed out of the car. She stood on the sidewalk, hunched over and moaning. Minnie rubbed her back as Claire started to pull away. The brake lights flashed on again. Both Minnie and Kitty looked up in time to see Claire roll down the passenger window. She gave Kitty a hard look before turning to Minnie.
“Make sure Kitty doesn’t get into trouble while I’m parking the car,” Claire ordered.
“What trouble could Kitty get into on a sidewalk?” Minnie asked as she breathed warm air on her redden hands.
Claire gave Kitty a pointed look. “You’d be surprised,” she grumbled.
As soon as Claire’s car was out of sight, Kitty straightened up. “Come on. Let’s go,” she announced as she started for the mall entrance.
Minnie reached out and stopped her. “I thought you were sick.”
A sparkle of laughter lit Kitty’s eyes. “Naw. That was just so I could get away from Claire.”
“But we’re supposed to wait here for her,” Minnie said as Kitty once again started towards entrance.
“Look at this place.” Kitty spread her arms wide nearly hitting a swarm of people on the sidewalk. “There are more people entering than leaving. The parking lot is like a sea of red brake lights. Not to mention that it’s freezing out here. Why, I might die of hyperthermia before Claire finds a spot. Do you want my death on your head?”
“I think you mean hypothermia,” Minnie corrected as Kitty opened the mall door.
“Well, I don’t want to die of that either,” Kitty retorted as she pushed her way past the group of customers saying, “Sick old lady here ready to puke.”
People scattered like the plague was about to hit Albany. Minnie had to race to keep up with Kitty. It wasn’t easy. Between the crush of people, Kitty’s shorten stature and her uncanny ability to zig zag through crowds like nobody’s business, the woman was impossible to spot.
“Kitty! Wait,” Minnie called out as she ducked under the outstretched arm of a man.
Kitty stopped and glared at Minnie. She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited. “Would you hurry up!” she grumbled. “We’re going to lose all the best deals.”
“Jeez, it’s not easy getting around people. I’m a little taller than four feet ten,” Minnie pointed when she finally caught up with Kitty. “And when you zip around people you’re hard to keep track of.”
“Oh, I got those moves from the sniper movies.”
Minnie frowned. “What?”
“Jeez, haven’t you ever seen a sniper movie?” Kitty replied. ‘The actors always run in zig zags when they’re trying to get away. That way they don’t get hit by the bullets being shot at them. I just applied that knowledge to the crowd here. Worked like a charm.”
Minnie looked around the mall. “How the heck is Claire going find us in this crush?”
“She’s got a cell phone,” Kitty retorted, apparently unconcerned about the loss of her niece. “Come on. I heard Hutton’s has some nice silk boxers on special. I’m thinking my Burt would look darn good in a pair of them.”
Claire was ready to panic. She’d searched the mall for a good half hour and still she couldn’t find Kitty or Minnie. The crowds made it nearly impossible. Of course, if she hadn’t been fooled by Kitty’s lie, she wouldn’t be in this predicament. She knew Kitty. The woman never got motion sick. Heck, the woman never got sick!
After her third circle of the mall, Claire was desperate. There was no other alternative but to go to mall security to have them search for Minnie and Kitty. She turned about and started to head towards the security offices when she caught a glimpse of a scuffle just inside of Hutton’s. A crowd was quickly forming around it. A sinking feeling settled in the pit of Claire’s stomach as she hurried to the store.
When she reached the front of the crowd, Claire wished her aunt and Minnie were still lost. There, straddling Gracie Pickler, was her eighty-nine year old aunt. Gracie was making a valiant attempt to get away but Kitty was having nothing to do with it. Not only was she straddling Gracie but she was playing tug of war with the woman over a piece of blue and turquoise fabric. Minnie stood over the two, shouting words of encouragement in Kitty’s direction. Suddenly, the fabric slipped free from Gracie’s grip. Kitty didn’t waste a minute. She scrambled off Gracie’s prone form and dashed out of the store as Minnie threw some money in the direction of the cashier before chasing after Kitty.
“Where’s the get-away car!” Kitty demanded.
Stunned, Claire watched as Kitty zipped past her. “Don’t lose her!” Minnie called out as she raced past Claire. “She’s got the sniper escape down! In this crowd, we’ll never find her.”
Later, Claire would say she was lost in the moment. That was the only reason she could come up with for following the two women. She caught up with them just as Kitty burst out of the mall and into the cold morning.
The sun’s glow was barely visible over the horizon as they dodged cars trying to find a parking spot. Claire fumbled in her purse in search of her keys. Her hands were shaking so much she couldn’t seem to grip anything. When she finally found them, she beeped the car open. The three of them dove inside.
Claire let out a shaky breath as she turned to face Kitty. “What the hell just happened back there?”
“Gracie happened! That’s what,” Kitty grumbled. “She tried to steal these.” Kitty held up the blue and turquoise fabric as evidence.
“What the hell is that?”
“Boxers. For Burt,” Kitty retorted. “I told you I wanted to get some.”
“But what does Gracie have to do with this?” Claire asked as she zipped the car out of the parking lot.
“She tried to take them. They were the last ones in this color and if you think I’m going to let Gracie Pickler have them, you’ve got another thing coming,” Kitty announced.
“So, you stole them?” Claire demanded.
Kitty shrugged. “What choice did I have?”
Claire could think of a hundred different choices. She didn’t bother to mention any of them. It wouldn’t have helped anyway. Kitty wouldn’t have listened. Instead she turned and glared at Minnie.
“Is this how you keep Kitty out of trouble?”
Minnie threw her hands up in the air. “That’s it! I am never drinking wine again!”