- an equivocal term; an ambiguous expression.
- a play on words; pun.
- double meaning; ambiguity.
Clint was two seconds too late.
He caught a glimpse of curly red hair exiting the shop just as he emerged from the back with a dozen pair of black orthopedic shoes. With all the strength he could muster, he resisted the urge to give into his disappointment and hurl the boxes of shoes to the floor. He knew this case of “terrible two’s” would pass and his sulking would pass when she returned.
“Here you go,” Clint muttered, angrily as he set the boxes down next to swollen ankles and began his quarterly 90-minute ritual of opening every box as every pair is tested and tried. He struggled to maintain his composure. This was the second time he’d missed her because of their slow-moving patrons.
“What’s wrong with you today, young man?”
Clint scoffed in disgust. He’d had it.
“I’m not that young! And the one time someone my age actually comes in here and I’m busy dealing with people your age.”
He shook his head, calming himself.
“I can’t today, Aunt Missy,” Clint said. “Just take this pair.”
He set the pair of O’Dells next to his mother’s older sister.
“It’s the same pair you’ve been wearing for the last 10 years and you’re not about to change it now.”
Clint gathered the other pairs to himself.
“I’m going to go put these away.”
He turned quickly, feelings as if he could stomp toward the stockroom and actually feel justified, but slowed as he approached the front counter, dumping the boxes there instead.
“Why so upset?” His mother moved a dust cloth along the opposite end of the counter.
“Mom, not today, I–”
“She said something about you the other day…”
The bait had been cast.
“What?! What’d she say?”
His mother looked up, a surprised look on her face.
Right now he detested his mother’s discernment and knack for taking concrete words in simple conversations and converting them into a source of equivoque in her mind.
He struggled to maintain his composure.
She wasn’t budging.
Clint absentmindedly cracked his knuckles, rounding the counter to plant himself in front of his mother.
When he first saw the curly red head. He was awestruck and for the first time in his life, Charlie Brown’s romantic obsession made perfect sense. Clint was sure she must be dating someone.
Her credit card read Rachel Stuart. He had purposely asked for her license to verify her name and discover more information, following his mother’s lifelong advice to be observant. With some hesitation, she flipped her license around quickly.
She was protective of her information or suspicious of him, he couldn’t tell which, but either reason made him like her more. Rachel was smart.
With a quick glance he was able to tell they were the same age and lived not too far apart.
“Mother, there was a woman with red hair who just left the store,” he explained calmly. “She’s about your height… has been here at least twice before, purchasing a pair of Grasshoppers for her mother, remember?”
His mother tilted her head upward, seeming to ponder his scant description.
He bit his tongue.
“Oh yes…” Her eyes brightened with recognition. “She said something about you the other day.”
“What?! What did she say?”
The questions tumbled from his brain and out of his mouth before he could stop them. He scarcely realized his grip on the counter had tightened as sweat moistened his palms.
“Oh, just some mutterings…”
He braced himself for the worst. The forcefulness of his heartbeat felt like it could crack open his chest.
His mother shrugged nonchalantly.
“That she wish you’d ask her out because her mother doesn’t need orthotics.”
Clint stared at his mother speechless. He checked her facial expression, her eyes, her posture.
She didn’t seem to be joking.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
She shrugged, moving the rag over the clean counter.
“Well… I’ve told you now. So what are you going to do about it?”
Clint’s shock gave way to dismay. He chided himself, wondering what he was going to do about it.
He shrugged. Other than a name and a few random facts, he didn’t know too much about her. He didn’t even know how to contact her in a way that wouldn’t be extremely creepy.
“Not much I guess,” he said, turning to retrieve the boxes.
His mother stopped her dusting.
“Clint Arnold Dancy!”
He hated it when his mother crossed her arms. It was her ultimate stance of being fed up with something.
“You like her and you need to do something about it.”
“I don’t know how to do anything about it. And if she doesn’t come back to the store–”
His mother rounded the counter and stood before him, coming up to his chest. She placed her hand gently against his cheek.
“Clint, I’ve always told you to be more observant,” she said. “Now Rachel has come in on Tuesdays, so that must be the best day for her schedule. She notoriously keeps receipts in her wallet and I’ve noticed two for Parisi on Wednesday evenings around 6.”
Clint’s mouth dropped open. So this is where his creepy stalking skills had originated.
“She’s quite habitual, which will be good for you.” She patted Clint’s cheek a little too hard and straightened his collar.
“So now that you have this information Clint Arnold Dempsey, what are you going to do about it?”
He nodded. His mind whirled with his mother’s insights as he constructed a plan around the framework of the details she’d given him.
The small bell over the front door chimed as another patron entered the shop.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Hugh, we’ll be right with you,” his mother said with a wave.
“Mom, I’ll need to leave a little early tomorrow evening to take care of something,” Clint said, a small smile growing across his face.
His mother nodded. She patted his cheek again.
“Well, I guess I can do without you for an hour or two tomorrow evening. And I do remember how to close up the shop by myself…”
Clint’s smile grew. He hoped things would go that well.
His mother was off to attend to their regular customer while Clint headed toward the pile of boxes, his mind bubbling with possibilities of the petite red head.