The spandex showed some frayed spots where the elastic was going out of it, and the green “S” emblazoned on his chest had lost a few spangles, but the cape draped nicely to the floor—or at least what you could see of the cape under his khaki windbreaker. He removed his hat and shook the rainwater out of it, all unaware of his strangeness. How most little old men don’t show up at the Food Mart at nine at night wearing a superhero outfit under their conservative khaki coat and black old-guy sneakers.
There was a single cashier at the registers, staring at him in open-mouthed derision. “Hey old guy! Hope you didn’t pay a lot for that Chinese rip-off of a costume! Don’t you know Superman has a red ‘S’?”
The elderly man looked down at his chest, flustered, and pulled the jacket closed with hands that trembled. “Oh! Oh dear..I forgot to change again…” He glanced around, obviously embarrassed, and said, “Could you, perhaps tell me where I could find some peaches?”
The cashier tilted his head over towards produce and the old man clutched his hat in both hands and ambled towards produce. “My wife likes peaches, you know,” he said, “So I thought I’d stop by on the way home and get her some, as a surprise!” He used the hat to point at the cashier, “That’s a tip for you young men! It doesn’t hurt to be thoughtful!”
The cashier rolled his eyes and sighed, dropping his elbows on the counter. “Sure, Gramps. Whatever.” He pulled out his phone under the counter and thumbed through it, his face lit up with the backlight.
Engrossed in his phone, he didn’t look up when the automatic doors whooshed open. When the cold, hard end of the gun pressed into his forehead he froze, and a man’s voice said, “Get me the money, kid!”
The cashier made a sound like squeak toy and froze, staring up at the ski masked man and the gun.
He barely registered the odd rushing sound coming from produce before a green and khaki streak blasted past him, so close that the cashier saw a wooden toggle zipping right past his nose.
The streak barreled into the gunman. They tumbled headlong in a thumping, shouting, two man chaos to land with a heavy bang against the far wall right by the manager’s office. Several plastic bag racks, ripped out of place by the fight, clattered to the floor beside the unconscious gunman. A quiet shower of loose plastic bags fluttered down after them.
The manager threw the door open, staring around. “I just called the police! What the heck just happened?!”
The old man stood up and straightened his khaki coat, quietly arranging it to cover up his “S.” The manager eyeballed the old man as he walked back to the first cash register. He picked up his hat. Then he produced a bag of peaches out of one pocket and his wallet out of the other. “I think I found some good ones.” He stopped and looked sideways at the cashier, a glimmer of humor in his eye. “You okay, boy? I didn’t knock you over or anything, did I?”
The cashier went blotchy with embarrassment and rang up his order, eyes on the counter. As he said, “Your change is 3.17” he glanced up involuntarily and met the old man’s eyes. They were faded, and blue, and patient, set over a knobby nose and a gentle smile. It was a pleasant face, a personable face.
The blotches on the cashiers’ face spread until he was an unattractive brick red. He looked past the old man’s left ear. “I guess it’s not such a bad costume….um…thanks.”
He risked a glance sideways and the blue eyes had crinkled into a smile. Wordlessly, the old man took his change, put it in his wallet, and ambled off towards the automatic doors.
But he stopped only two steps away, holding up a finger as if he’d forgotten something. The cashier cringed as the old man half turned and raised one eyebrow.
“Young man,” he said, “This ‘S’ stands for speed.”