Lt. Ballencek is stymied by a traffic signal while on a shopping excursion
“Aarg!” Ballencek exclaimed as he banged the palm of his hand on the steering wheel. “Aarg!”
Bill Jr. wasn’t wearing a restraint and had to pick himself up from the backseat floor of the SUV. “What was that all about?”
Ballencek pointed to the stoplight. “I hate that thing. I hate this intersection.” He grumbled. “It’s called Five Points because there are five corners here.”
“I only see four,” Jennifer said.
The Chief of Staff pointed again, this time to a barricade surrounded by overgrown weeds. Several houses lined the street behind the barricade. “That was the fifth corner. They closed it off because it made the intersection too complicated.”
Bill Jr. squeezed into the middle between the front seats. “That should have made it easier.”
“That’s what you would have thought.” Ballencek said. “It doesn’t matter what direction I’m going, what time of day it is, or how fast I’m going. I always get stopped at this light. I hate it.”
“It waits to see if you are coming,” Bill Jr. laughed.
Ballencek narrowed his eyes and said in a low voice, “Yes. I think so.”
He gunned the engine waiting for the light to change. Everyone was pushed back into their seats when the light turned green and he raced through the intersection.
The front of the building Ballencek parked near was about 80 feet long. A sign centered above a door in the middle of the building read “OMart.”
“This is the place,” Ballencek announced excitedly as he opened the driver’s side door.
Jennifer stepped out of the Trooper onto the gravel parking lot. “A little small,” she observed.
“It is,” he admitted. “They might not have everything, but they might have anything.”
“How about games?” Bill Jr. asked. “Do they have any video games?”
Ballencek shrugged his shoulders, “They might have anything.”
Bill Jr. reached for door when he noticed a weathered sign. “’Going Out Of Business.’ That doesn’t look like a very new sign.”
“Oh, it isn’t,” the Chief of Staff said. “They’ve been going out of business for at least as long as I’ve been here.” He held the door open for Jennifer and her son.
“How long have you been in Oslea, Lt. Ballencek?” Jennifer entered the building.
“I’ve been here since I arrived,” he replied.
Once they were inside, they found the OMart was not very wide, about 15 feet, but shelves filled nearly the entire space and they were jammed floor to ceiling. Food items were on the left with a small refrigerated and frozen section. On the right were dry goods. Otherwise it was jumbled up with what seemed to be very little organization. Bill picked up a box, “’Air filter, Corvair.’ What’s a Corvair?”
“Unsafe at any speed,” Ballencek replied.
“What does that mean?” the teen was puzzled.
“You might find anything here,” was Ballencek’s lack of an answer. “I think there are some video games over there.” He pointed to a corner at the far end of the store. Bill wandered off to see what might be available.
Jennifer found a shelf of curtains and wall hangings. “I’m looking for something to brighten the receiving room at the Embassy. It’s rather drab right now.”
Ballencek helped her look through the shelf. “We haven’t had anyone do any significant decorating for a while.” He noted. “We’re probably due for some updating.” Ballencek pulled out a packaged set of curtains and displayed it to the Ambassador’s wife. “Wha’cha think?”
“I don’t think winged cats would be appropriate for official business.” She turned back to the remaining curtains. Ballencek tucked the set under his arm. He thought they might look good in his quarters.
“Hello, Hello! My, my, my, what have we here?” Guillermo Jackson burst into the building, removing the bowler from his head and waving in the same motion.
Ballencek waved back, “Hiya, Mayor! How’s it goin’?”
“Makin’ it happen,” Jackson said cheerfully. He walked to the counter with the board clerk. “How are you today, my dear?”
The young woman shrugged her shoulders. “Your special order arrived yesterday, Mr. Jackson.”
“Very good, very good,” he looked around the room but couldn’t quite find what he was looking for. “Where is it?”
“I have it locked in storage behind the building.” She reached into a drawer and retrieved some keys. “It’s fairly large and will take two people to carry it.”
Bill Jr. walked up to the two men with a box in his hands. “What’s a Genesis MegaDrive?”
“It’s cool!” Ballencek exclaimed.
The Mayor took the box from the teen and examined it, “Everybody have fun tonight.” He looked at the colorful pictures on the back of the box. “You’ll like this.”
While he put the box on the counter for purchase, Jennifer approached with two packages of curtains. “I think we’ll take these. But we will need to order more.”
The bored clerk entered the purchases into the register, “Are these separate orders?”
Ballencek pulled a slip of paper from the pocket of his flowered shirt. We’d also like to order these, and please put our items on the U.S. Embassy account.”
The young woman frowned as she entered the information into the register. “Anything else?”
“I think that will do it,” Jennifer replied.
The register spewed out a receipt which Ballencek dutifully signed and shoved his copy into a pants pocket. “Thank you.” Jennifer and Bill Jr. collected their items and headed out the door. The Embassy Chief of Staff waited for the Mayor to pay for his order.
“That will be 1.23 million dollars, Mayor Jackson,” The clerk reported blandly. “Is there anything else?”
Jackson thought for a moment, “A can of Diet O Cola, please.”
“That will be 1.23 million dollars and 89 cents,” the clerk added.
The Mayor selected a credit card from his wallet, inserted it into the card reader, and entered his number when prompted. The card reader beeped happily while the register printed his receipt. “Do I need to sign this?”
“No, sir. It was a PIN based transaction,” The clerk answered. “They know who you are.”
“I’m just an average man, with an average life,” the Mayor noted.
The clerk raised her hand and made a circle with the thumb and forefinger, “Be seeing you.” She dismissed them by returning to the magazine she was reading.
Ballencek and Jackson headed out the door. The Mayor stopped at the refrigerator on the way and grabbed his frosty Diet O Cola. “Freshly squeezed!” He popped open the can, raised it in salute, and took a big gulp.
The Mayor placed the bowler back on his head when they exited the building. “The storage unit is over there.” The two men walked to the small building and Jackson pulled open the door. A large wooden crate was the only item inside. He checked the shipping label and announced “This is it.”
The Mayor and the Embassy Chief of Staff reached for the crate. “Lift with your knees,” Ballencek reminded Jackson.
“Always and forever.” They grunted as they lifted the package.
Ballencek stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth in concentration. “Wow! This dude’s heavy!”
Jackson’s eyes widened as he stepped carefully backward, “It’s a power supply for my wife.”
“Oh, yeah, that particle accelerator thing,” Ballencek remembered as he slid an edge of the crate onto the back of the Mayor’s pickup.
The top executive of the City of Dennado shoved the crate into the bed. “She needed something big to run the ceramic magnets. It’s something like five gigawatts. Prime Minister Lucero Pierce also says he’ll be able to use the deep freeze it generates. So it all works out.”
“Awesome,” Ballencek said while he slammed the truck gate closed. “I didn’t know you could order something like that.”
“It’s OMart,” Jackson said. “You won’t find everything, but you might find anything.”