Prepping bananas had an excellent rhythm to it. Peel the banana in three quick strips, break the banana into three semi-equal pieces, break the next one off the bunch; then do it all again, and again, until the five gallon bucket had been filled to the top. Lori slipped into a song as she worked, enjoying the routine and the feeling of having some time to herself within an otherwise busy day.
Movement caught by the fringe of her peripheral vision caused her to fall abruptly silent. A man approached the counter, his gate slow but deliberate. His eyes were locked on the menu behind her; but they had a odd, glossy look to them that did not bode well.
She kept prepping as she watched him approach, waiting for a sign that he had decided on something. His gaze never left the board. He even bumped into the counter without glancing down. Then he simply stood in silence, staring, as the seconds stretched on and on.
Lori cast a frantic glance across the foot court. Empty, thank goodness! It was only this one. One wasn’t too bad. She slipped off the food gloves, dropping them into the trash as she stepped up to the counter. The man continued to stare at the board above her head with a vacant expression.
“Hello, what can I get for you today?” Despite her trepidation, she kept her voice pleasant. The man’s eyes drifted in the direction of her voice, shifting suddenly into focus as they settled on her. It took conscious effort not to flinch at the sudden snap of intensity.
He stared a while more, silent. Lori held her breath.
“Anything with strawberry?”
Lori turned to look back at the board he’d spent so much time gazing at. She did it to hide a sigh, she already knew what she would find there: A simple list of smoothies, with pictures of their composite fruits dancing enticingly beside each title.
“Um, how about Strawberry Banana?” There were at least four drinks with strawberry right in the name, so she went with the most popular.
Another long pause while the man stared and Lori’s smile became increasingly forced.
“What size would you like?” Lori prompted. “Small, medium, large?” She gestured at each cup on the display behind her.
She rang him up, took his money, and turned to get started on the drink without further comment. Scoops of fruit flew into the blender-bowl, ice and syrup were measured with a practiced hand, and then the old blender’s roar filled her ears. Lori’s first Black Friday had drilled efficiency into her, but now she moved at hyper-speed. Barely forty seconds after she handed the man his change she was turning back around, medium cup in hand and a smile on her face.
“Here you go, have a great day!” She beamed, hustling him on his way. As he walked off, she took a deep breath of relief. She had been really lucky that time. Only one had been caught.
She leaned on counter a moment, and that’s when she spotted three ladies turning the corner into the food court, heading her direction with determined steps. It was possible that they would pass her by. Maybe they were headed to the sandwich shop, or the Chinese place? A slim hope at best. Even at this distance she could see the glassy look in their eyes.
The sound had carried much further than she thought. No telling how many unwary shoppers she had snagged this time.
Lori sighed, resigned. Man, she really had to stop singing at work!