Monday, February 15, 2010

'Twas the day before Valentine's Day....

By Jim Heffernan

With the warmth of Valentine’s Day still on our backs – if not our hearts – here’s a scene from the day before – Saturday, Feb. 13.

Our scene takes place in a large chain drugstore in Florida, the greeting card section, the area in that section marked off in red: valentines. The cast consists of one woman, likely in her late 20s; two uniformed deputy sheriffs, armed to the teeth with service pistols and taser guns, and two ordinary blokes, one of whom was me.

We all jockey for position before the vast array of valentine sentiments ranging from the sweet and simple to the elaborate over-the-top expressions bordered in faux lace, and everything in between, including the vulgar.

The young woman broke the silence, addressing, I thought, me, in particular.

“My father sent me here to get a valentine for his wife, and I don’t know what he should say,” she blurted out. Her father’s wife, it was clear, was not the woman’s mother.

“The funny valentines are over there,” I said, pointing to the south end of the display.

We both giggled, melting the reserve of one of the deputy sheriffs, a stocky man (you could even say portly) whose pistol belt could have been in the 50 inches range.

I spoke to him first. “Kinda close to the deadline, ain’t we?”

The husky lawman smiled and agreed, as he examined a teddy bear-valentine-candy combination handily placed next to the simple and elaborate cards. We all continued to jockey for position, the quieter, slimmer deputy never breaking a smile, and the other ordinary bloke not joining in at all.

Finally, the corpulent deputy chose the combo (not taking any chances) and wandered over to the magazine section to browse while his partner continued to peruse the valentine selection, brow furrowed, mouth unburdened with anything approaching a smile. He could have been confronting a wrong-doer.

Shortly (but quite fatly) the larger lawman returned with a periodical devoted to women’s weight problems, its cover displaying a svelte model that any woman could resemble if only she’d read this magazine.

“Maybe I should give her this,” the deputy laughed, showing us the cover.

All but the other ordinary bloke giggled, imagining the reaction of the deputy’s spouse – or possibly main squeeze -- to receiving a diet magazine as a valentine.

In the end, the woman in search of a valentine for her father’s wife, each deputy and I found a valentine, but as I walked toward the checkout counter, the other civilian was still staring at the array of valentines before him, moving from silly to syrupy without a decision. I know how he felt.

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