When I was young, one of my favorite things to do at supermarkets was to hide in the clothes rack; but I never imagined I’d one day be contemplating spending the rest of my life in one.
I peered out from between two pairs of jeans to where Muse was hiding under the cloth drape of a pastry cart. The waiter was busy at the moment preparing a huge cake for someone known as the Green Mistress, and Muse’s mission was to pinch some sweets for us. Dude was positioned in a dress stand closer the food market bakery, and was to whistle if the baker returned early. As for myself, I held the bag ready to catch the doughnuts, mini pies, and sweet rolls that Muse would sweep off the cart.
Two velvety paws slipped out from under the white drape, landing silently on the floor. They began to softly walk forward, pulling the cart after it. I held my breath and watched. So far so good, I thought as I prepped the bag.
The cart was close, I could practically taste the sweet goodies, and my hungry stomach growled in anticipation. As Muse stopped the cart and carefully flew up to the top, I glanced to where Dude was hiding. I hoped he was paying attention, this was the most delicate part of the mission.
Muse was in position. He leveled his head, ready to push the first doughnut off…
Dude’s whistle split the air moments before the baker came around the corner. He let out a shout when he saw Muse and lifted the rolling-pin over his head. On instinct I sprung from my spot, grabbed Muse and a handful of pastries, and ran. The baker chased us through the crowds and vending booths, until I lost him by slipping into one of the girls restrooms.
I leaned against the door and tried to catch my breath, “That was sketchy. What do you think happened to Dude?”
Muse sat on the floor with a very pompous air, as if he thought the bathroom should be honored that he would grace it with his buttocks, “If he were smart, he grabbed all the snacks while the baker was chasing us. Then he would wait for us in the agreed spot.”
“Maybe, I guess we should make our way to the rendezvous point, then.” I pulled back my hair and turned on the sink. After splashing some cold water on my face and getting a couple gulps of water, I tied the bag to my belt and looked out through a crack in the door.
“Hey Muse, does something seem different to you?” I ask, as I observed the crowds shuffling past.
“What do you mean?” Muse flew to my shoulder and peered out over my head.
“Just that, in the hours we’ve been stuck here, the atmosphere of the mall has shifted. The shoppers seem even more zombie like, the Christmas music and spirit has gone, and I keep hearing mention of this Green Mistress.”
“Hmm,” Purred Muse, “Perhaps. Maybe after we find Mr. Dude, we can find this Green Mistress. She may even know the way out of this place.”
“Agreed, let’s go.”
I had no idea how long we’d been trapped in the mall, but it was long enough for me to get really good at sneaking around it. After the incident with Wanda, we were trying to stay out of site as much as possible. Blending into the crowd, Muse and I wound our way through, up and down escalators, and around the different levels, avoiding anyone that looked like they might be serving the Green Mistress. A few times we had to duck behind Christmas decorations, but eventually we found ourselves again in a clothes rack in another part of the mall.
As soon as we slipped in, I pulled my knees into my chest and sighed, “Man I hate that.” Then I whispered to Muse, “Do you see dude yet?”
Muse lifted his delicate shoulders, then began grooming himself. He said nothing else, except to convince me to split one of the Doughnuts with him.
I was just wiping the crumbs off my lap when I heard a rustle and looked over my shoulder to see Dude crawling towards us. Our hiding place was dark, but from the strands of light piecing through gaps in the clothes, I could see a crazy expression on his face.
“What happened to you? Need a doughnut?” I asked.
He pushed away my offered doughnut, and said in a fast whisper, “Not now, I just found our ticket out of here. I found the Green Mistress!”
I raised an eyebrow, “Where?”
“You’re not going to believe this,” he mutter, pulling aside the clothes and pointing. Outside, a procession was passing. Miserable shoppers moaned and meandered around. If they tried to be happy, they were knocked in the head with a giant debit card. In the middle of the mob, glassy-eyed security guards carried a silk mattress adorned with colorful drapes and covered in cakes and crumbs. And sitting among the pounds of pastries was a lady with the body shape and skin tone of and unripe tomato.
I gasped when she turned her head, crumbs from her over-stuffed mouth falling on her solid purple dress. Because I saw the face was that of Wanda!