THE SUPERMARKET WAS especially quiet in the early hours. Being scarce of customers and all, it allowed Allison to tackle her shopping list one item at a time without the constant yielding and weaving. She checked off each thing as she removed it from the shelf, and very soon, only spices were left to get. Careful not to miss the designated aisle, all the while strolling along, she kept her head up for a sign that read “SEASONINGS.”
It was when she was absolutely devoted to her task, something strange happened. From the corner of her eye, aisle after aisle moving by in a blur, she noticed the existence of one suspicious man, who happened to wander at the opposite end of the aisles at precisely the same pace as hers — when she stopped, he stopped; when she picked up her feet, so did he. Coming up to an end display, she parked there briefly to peek into the next aisle, startled to find him standing in the middle of the lane staring back at her. Panicked, she withdrew quickly. When mentally ready, she moved on, but the man was already gone.
The absurd incident could have ended there, only curiosity had her gripped. While all buckled up to go home, she waited in the car until seeing the same man, empty-handed, walk out into the parking lot and head for a white sedan within her view. Having no basis, she knew pursuing him would be pure madness, but in the moment he steered out of his space, she foolhardily did just that.
Before long, they came to downtown Arbington. She saw him pull over on a side street, get out, and walk to a nearby telephone booth. She as well parked at a spot a block away where she had a clear sight of him, observing the booth window keenly.
Something in her shuddered at the anonymous call to her cell phone that faltered her concentration. She answered it on the third ring.
“Hi, Allison, having a blast following me around?”
Her heart skipped a beat, knowing it was that man. “Who are you?” she asked him.
“I’m an old friend of Adrian’s, but that’s not at all important. What’s important is that I know what you are hiding for him.”
She was confused. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Really. Just who do you think you are fooling?”
“It is the truth —”
“‘My dear, sweet Allie.’ That’s what he used to call you in front of me. As far as I know, he tells you everything. Things will only get worse from here on if you don’t do something about that secret of yours soon. You can’t sleep without your pills now can you?”
“How do you —”
“I’m… I’m not afraid of you.”
“No? Then why are you stuttering?”
“Stop… stop stalking me you creep!!!”
“Haha! Who is stalking whom?”
“I will call the cops on you I swear!”
“But I’m on your side. There’s absolutely no need to be hostile towards me.”
“Whatever it is that you want from me, I don’t have it.”
“Who said that I want something from you? Because I don’t.”
“Then why are you telling me all this?”
“I’m afraid you will have to figure that one out yourself, because at the end of the day, you can trust no one, believe no one.”
“You are crazy.”
“I am? Ha. Tell your brother, Justin says hi.”
The man hung up. Before he even got out of the booth, Allison had stomped on the gas pedal, leaving the scene faster than greased lightning.
This Justin guy coming out of nowhere claiming to know her secret beyond her recollection was simply baffling. During her way home, it continued to bother her. While she could only rely on her memories for clues, all that senseless searching for an answer was starting to give her a headache. She turned up the volume of the radio to keep from being further absorbed in the matter. Her favorite hourly segment happened to be on. In the midst of listening in, she let her mind go free…
HOST: Thank you for listening in on KDM1 — your favorite radio station from the Twin Cities. Local time is 11 a.m., let’s give it up for our fifth caller… *CANNED APPLAUSE*… Hello?
HOST: Ms. Allison! Welcome to Truth of the Hour. How is your day going so far?
ALLISON: It’s okay.
HOST: You sound a bit down, but don’t worry. We’ve got just the person to cheer you up! Your brother is also on the line. Adrian, say hi to your sister.
ADRIAN: Hi, Allie.
HOST: I see that you are married, Allison. Since I’ve been doing this segment, I know most contestants would have picked their spouse as their soul mate. But when we asked you, you immediately credited your brother. Can you guys tell us just how close you are?
ALLISON: My brother means the world to me. I tell him almost everything that goes on in my life. I just feel like I can trust him.
ADRIAN: I pretty much feel the same way about her. I would do just anything for her, because I love her.
HOST: That sounds like some powerful bond you have going on. Now, let’s put it to the test. Minutes ago, we asked Adrian to tell us some of the darkest secrets you share. Remember, in order to win these concert tickets, you must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Whenever you are ready, Ms. Allison, please say our slogan.
ALLISON: ‘Cross my heart and hope to die.’
HOST: Alrighty! So, here goes — tell us the one secret you’ve been keeping from your husband that you must not tell him regardless of circumstances. Sounds like a toughie. Allison?
ALLISON: Something I mustn’t tell Dan… hmm… I can’t think of anything.
HOST: Are you sure? Nothing pops up at all?
ADRIAN: Come on, Allie. Think hard.
ALLISON: The one thing I mustn’t tell him… what is it…
HOST: Would you like a hint?
ALLISON: Yes, please.
HOST: It has something to do with a shoebox.
ALLISON: A shoebox… shoebox…
ADRIAN: Concentrate on your thoughts, Allie. You got this.
ALLISON: A shoebox…
ADRIAN: Remember I told you to get rid of it?
ALLISON: You told me to… get rid of it…
ADRIAN: It’s black, got duct-tape all over it… the one that I hid under your —”
HOST: Hey-ho! One hint is all that we allow unfortunately. I’m sorry to say this but, Ms. Allison, you didn’t win. Please continue to tune in every hour, on the hour, for Truth of the Hour, where our next winner could be you…
As the applause track rose and faded, Allison contemplated her figment of imagination some more, feeling suddenly obligated. On arriving home, she marched into the guest room to retrieve from under the bed a heavily duct-taped box, and decisively moved along with a garden trowel into the backyard. Beneath a big willow tree, she got down and dug a hole deep enough to fit it in. Before she let go of it, she shook it a little and searched for a rupture of sorts, but then, on second thought, ceased her inspection. Knowing best that no good could possibly come from something Adrian intended to keep confidential, she laid her concern to rest and buried the mystery.
Out of sight, out of mind.