The Soupster finds the third time is the charm.
It’s a fact well-known by the people living in Our Town that other Our Town folk may play multiple roles in life and one never knows for sure what roles they might be. Your child’s skating coach could be also be your dentist. Your waitress, starring in the town melodrama, crumbles your pickup’s fender. Your elderly neighbor plays a swarthy villain in the same production and then bakes you Christmas fudge.
This is why Road Rage is not as endemic in Our Town as in other burgs. It’s just too fraught to hurl unkind words and gestures at someone who might turn out to be your sister’s boyfriend’s brother. The immediate release of tension does not feel good enough to overcome the dread of possibly making an enemy of someone you might badly need some day. You don’t want to flip any kind of bird at all at your cardiologist.
One fine summer day, the Soupster strode into a local hardware store, where he spied Carol Worthington buying towel racks for her bathroom. Worthington owned the local jewelry store and the Soupster needed to do some business with her. Carol was a serious recluse – she hired charismatic young people to run the front of the store, while she crafted sparkles in the back room.
Should the Soupster say hello? Certainly, if Carol was looking at him. But she wasn’t. Should he tap her shoulder? Before the Soupster even knew what he had decided, Worthington’s shoulder was tapped by him.
But it wasn’t Carol Worthington at all.
“Pardon me?” said the woman, a stranger.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” said the Soupster, moving on.
At the clothing store, the Soupster thought he saw Carol Worthington again. Not wanting to make the same mistake, he regarded the woman from a distance. Carol’s medium-length brown hair, the same bangs. The same mid-length kind of dress that Carol always wore, running shoes she called “trainers.”
The Soupster was both more confident in the details of his sighting and put aback by his recent case of mistaken identity. This time he didn’t need to tap. The instant he entered the woman’s personal space, the Soupster knew it wasn’t Carol.
“Can I help you?” said pseudo-Carol. “Do I know you?”
The Soupster slunk away. He kept his head down, lest he see another false Carol. His head felt light, as with a low blood-sugar level. He stumbled into the soda shop and grabbed a brown padded stool by the counter. He had no sooner ordered than a woman sat down next to him.
“Hi, Soupster,” said the real Carol Worthington, patting the Soupster on the arm. “We have business together, don’t we?”
Carol ordered a confection from the young man at the counter. She turned to the Soupster.
“What’s wrong with you?” Carol said. “Why do you keep looking at me like I’m a ghost?”
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