The old man brightened considerably when we both ended up in front of him. Why, here we were, side by side and we had already given him something to talk about for the rest of the week. The next few moments would certainly fill up the month.
Standing next to Jeff felt like waiting with an old friend. Neither has to say a word because you've spent years creating the circle you share, but when Jeff spoke, he was a stranger. All of us have run behind a familiar coat, grabbed an arm and gasped at an unrecognized face.
"I didn't mean to put you off," I said. "You were just trying to be friendly."
He looked down at me, pupils almost black. "No, I wasn't trying to be friendly." He bit the final word. "That wasn't what I was trying to be ... friendly." He snapped off the end.
I turned white hot in that betrayal. "Congratulations then," I retorted. "You didn't compromise yourself."
He threw his head back in a belly laugh so loud and sudden that I was afraid he couldn't hear me.
"You're going to drop your groceries!" I gasped.
As Jeff doubled over, I looked helplessly to the old man.
"You can't tell him anything," he announced cheerfully.
Jeff tightened his grip on his hand basket and panted for breath. "Please go in front of me." He swooped his arm, grinning. "You deserve it."
"No," I hesitated. This man was too unpredictable to show my back.
"I've got to get my jug out of the Jeep. Please." Jeff stretched out his arm, ushering me to the cash register before bounding out the door.
A jug for water, I wondered, like we did in the city?
"Lemonade," the old man read me. "We sell it by the gallon. Got to bring your own container."
As I stuffed my change in my purse, Jeff returned with a dented plastic milk jug. "You'll spring a leak in that," the old man said.
Jeff shook his head, "No, I won't."
The old man eyed him for a long heartbeat and started filling.
I had just turned on the ignition when Jeff jumped off the porch, holding the jug up to his face. He squinted at the bottom, watching one drop ooze out, then another. I turned off the engine and scooted down in the seat to watch over the dashboard. I peeked out just as a fine yellow stream