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Victoria and the boa

September 27, 2012

The woman was strange looking, almost cartoonish. She stood a few feet in front of me with an oversized shopping cart, her daughter in a matching purple sweat suit by her side. The line to the register had been overwhelming at the Astor Place K-mart electronics department. It stretched 20 people long, the end reaching into the men’s underwear aisle.

In my hands was my single purchase, a 10-pack of DVD covers to package and send off my editing reel. The woman’s shopping cart was full.

I learned much about the woman standing behind her and Victoria, her daughter. It was Victoria’s birthday last week and she was cashing in on her mother’s promise of a K-mart shopping trip. Her father had given her a boa constrictor. It was a small one, but the woman promised Victoria that “Lucy” would soon grow to be big and strong.

Victoria was 12 and excited to “practically be a teenager.”

Their purchases totaled $389.56 and the woman paid with her credit card. The cashier asked the woman for her zip code, who turned and asked Victoria if she knew it.

Victoria scrunched her face and stretched her right arm up and over her head, deep in thought. After a few seconds, her face relaxed and she admitted she had no idea.

“Teenagers know their zip codes,” the woman said and recited the number to the cashier.

The bags were passed across the counter, the credit card returned and as the woman bent over to place the bags into the cart she noticed something, stopped, and said calmly, “Oh Victoria, the mouse got out.”

“Oh no!” shouted Victoria.

I leaped back, bumping into the couple standing behind me.

Together, we watched in disbelief as the woman shoved her hand into one of the plastic bags and frantically jerked around, knocking out some of her previous purchases. Suddenly she stopped, removed her hand slowly, fingers clenched together, a small white mouse dangling by its tail.

I took another step back, this time the couple moved with me. The security guard walked over to the woman cautiously and stood silently, not knowing what to do.

“Victoria, open up the box,” the woman said as the mouse flailed around in the air inches from her face. The box was in a bag tied tightly, and Victoria frantically struggled to get it open. She resorted to sitting cross-legged, back pressed up against the counter, trying to pry it open with her teeth.