Ten minutes later, a pair of customers walked into Lola’s just a few minutes before closing. There were just a few shoppers lined up at the cash register, and no one else around except the cashier. Nate and Dr. A began to peruse the merchandise, looking at nothing in particular.
“Can you read the cashier’s name tag?” asked Dr. A.
“It says ‘Clarisse,” whispered Nate. “If Sandra’s here, I don’t think she’ll be wearing a name tag.”
“Will you recognize her voice?”
“Nope. I never could hear her. I only heard Lalo’s side of the conversation.”
“In the end I suppose it doesn’t matter who it is, if they have a rash,” said Dr. A.
Behind them, someone locked the doors to the store. It was a woman Nate and Dr. A had not seen when they entered. They exchanged a wink.
“Oh! Excuse me!” Dr. A called out. “Miss?”
The woman approached. “May I help you?”
“Oh, I’m so glad I saw you. I’m here with my grandson,” said Dr. A, indicating Nate, “and we’re looking for a birthday present for my daughter, who is his mother. We’ve heard such wonderful things about Lola’s that we had to come see for ourselves!”
“That’s very nice,” said the woman. “Perhaps she would like a pareo? We have many styles on this rack…”
“Actually,” Dr. A cut in, “she would prefer a blouse.”
“I’m happy to show you our line of blouses, ma’am. What is her size?”
“I… uh, I forget, but… looking at you, I can tell you must be her same size. What size are you?”
“At Lola’s, we carry only small, medium, large, and extra large. I’m a medium.”
“Let’s see…” Dr. A and the woman went to the blouse rack. Nate, seeing that the last shopper had paid and walked out, approached the cashier.
“Good evening. Do you have any sales, or anything on clearance?”
Clarisse looked at him and shook her head. “So sorry, sir, not today. But if you come back tomorrow we will be holding a special clearance sale, yes.”
“I see,” said Nate. “Any idea why?”
“New shipment, sir. Tomorrow, everything you see here in the store will be half off the regular price.”
“Interesting. Maybe a new style, or something…? I mean, the new shipment.”
“I do not know, sir. I am just a cashier, But you can ask Sandra for more information,” and she nodded toward the woman helping Dr. A. “She will be happy to help you.”
“Thanks,” Nate responded, and walked back over to Dr. A. When he caught her attention in a moment Sandra wasn’t looking, he winked at Dr. A and nodded in Sandra’s direction.
Sandra held out a brightly colored blouse with a tropical flower pattern.
“Oh, that’s lovely,” Dr. A enthused. “And can you confirm, please, that this fabric is the wonderful Super Silk we’ve seen advertised?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sandra replied. “Every item in the store is made from our signature Super Silk, 100% guarantee against moths.”
“Wonderful! But… is it comfortable?” Dr. A asked, with a piercing look at Sandra.
“Very breathable, light – yes, very comfortable,” said Sandra, who did not make eye contact.
“You’ve been so helpful, and I’m sorry to bother, but…” began Dr. A, “do you think you could try it on, please? So I can see what it would look like. You really do have a strikingly similar build to my daughter.”
“Certainly,” said Sandra. “I’ll just pull it on over the blouse I’m wearing.”
Dr. A and Nate smiled and waited patiently. Once the blouse was on, Dr. A looked at Nate and asked, “Well, Ethan, it fits well. What do you think? Do you think Penelope will like it?”
“It looks great,” said Nate. “Mom will love it.”
Dr. A nodded and smiled. “We’ll take it, uh… what is your name?”
“Sandra,” she said. “Here, I’ll just pull it back off…”
And, just as Dr. A had planned, as Sandra pulled the top blouse off, the friction against the bottom blouse raised it up enough to reveal Sandra’s lower back, covered in angry red spots.
“Oh my!” feigned Dr. A. “Sandra, your back! What happened?”
“Oh,” she said, a little flustered as she pulled the hem of her own blouse back down to her waist. “Chiggers.”
|Magnified view of a chigger. Source.|
“Chiggers?!” exclaimed Nate, who immediately began scratching himself all over.
“Sandra, I have to tell you,” said Dr. A, “I am a dermatologist. Let me see that again – perhaps I can prescribe a treatment for you.”
Sandra stopped folding the blouse for purchase and looked at Dr. A. “A dermatologist. Really?”
Dr. A drew herself up to her full height and said, “Well, a retired dermatologist. Although, can one ever really retire from being a dermatologist?”
“Hmmm…” said Sandra. “It’s true I really could use some professional advice. What do you think?”
“Step into the changing room, here,” said Dr. A, “and let me have a good look at it.”
Once they had disappeared around the corner to the dressing room area, Nate could hear Clarisse on the phone.
“No sir, we’re closed… A rash? But perhaps she is allergic to silk. That is not the responsibility of the store… I don’t know what you may have heard about satisfaction with our products, sir, but I am not allowed to speak on the issue of complaints from other customers… Good bye.”
Nate waited a moment and then walked closer to the checkout area. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but, you know… it was on the news,” he lied.
Clarisse looked up. “What was on the news?”
Nate shrugged. “All the customer complaints about Super Silk. Channel 8, just an hour ago.”
“Really? That’s news to me. But then why did you come in? Didn’t you believe it?”
“My grandma and I wanted to see for ourselves. All the advertising, you know.”
At that moment Dr. A and Sandra returned from the dressing room. Dr. A was saying, “… definitely not chiggers. It’s contact dermatitis. You’ve had an allergic reaction to something you’re wearing.”
Sandra smiled. “I recently changed the brand of my laundry detergent. That must have been it!”
“Sandra,” interrupted Clarisse, “this man says that Super Silk customer complaints were on the news this evening.”
“Oh, I am absolutely positive that’s all a bunch of hooey,” said Dr. A, with the slightest of winks at Nate. “Here, Nate… I mean, Ethan, pay for this, please. Now, Sandra, what you need to try is a hydrocortisone cream…”
Just as Clarisse began to ring up the blouse, the phone buzzed again, She answered, listened, and hung up. “It was the owner,” she said to Sandra. “He said he needs to see you as soon as you can get there.”
Sandra gave the appearance of trying to look calm while actually hurrying. “I need to go. Have a good evening.”
“Start with 0.05%,” Dr. A called after her. “The hydrocortisone, I mean!”
Then she whispered in Nate’s ear: “Change of plans: I’ll pay. You go follow her, and I’ll catch a cab as soon as I can.”