W

rong Willie and I wove our way around a sea of women’s wear that blocked our way through the sporting goods store. He paused, looking at a mannequin dressed in fashionable camouflage.

“I never see gals wearing stuff like this in the field.”

He was right, the shirt and pants were cut to accent the form beneath.

“It looks more like updated scrubs.”

“Yeah, fancy scrubs.”

Instead of heading around to the section containing shooting vests, which by the way is with the rest of the hunting gear located in the far right-hand corner of the store, we found ourselves studying modern product placement.

“This is like a grocery store. They put the impulse buys at the front, and the things you need and want, like milk and eggs, are at the far end, so you have to walk past them.” Willie studied a pair of ladies hunting shorts. “Marketers learned from grocery stores, that target women shoppers. You and I walk in a store, head straight for what we want, and then boogie out. Ten minutes tops.

“But Jan’ll spend an hour like this, looking at women’s clothes, then she’ll drift into the kids clothes, the kids toys, and maybe later she’ll wind up in the grocery section where she wanted to go in the first place,” he said.

I rounded a table full of women’s shirts, angled around racks of pants, and paused at even more racks of fishing shirts.

“Look at all this,” I said. “I can promise you that we’ll find less than half of this merchandise in the men’s section.”

“I like this shirt.” Willie lifted it off the rack. “It’s vented, just like mine. I’d buy one if it wasn’t pink, and so small.” He held it up in front of me.

I liked the vent idea.

“Maybe they’ll have some in the men’s section, if we ever get that far.”

We drifted to the right, passing through the women’s shoe section. Deck shoes, thousands of sneakers, flip flops, sandals, and hiking shoes stretched great distances.

“Look at all these.” I paused in awe. “When I was trying to find new hiking shoes a few years ago, I had about three styles to choose from, because my foot’s so narrow. I should’ve come in here, found a pair that was long enough, and changed out the laces after I bought them.”

“You don’t like neon laces?”

“No, and I don’t want dragonflies on them either.”

I found a size that looked as if it would fit. Kicking off one cowboy boot, I balanced on one leg and stuck my foot in the shoe.

“I don’t think you’re gonna look good out there in salmon-colored hunting shoes.”

“They’re hiking shoes, and this is just an experiment.”

Two women paused in feeling the material of the shirts a few feet away. The shortest one gave me a wink.

“I’m proud of you, hon.”

I realized she was talking to me.

“Uh, whu?”

“Well, you obviously are in tune your feelings. I think those shoes are nice.”

I frowned, and Willies eyes lit up.

“Yeah, he’s been curious for the last few months.”

“Curious?”

The tall lady nodded.

“Well, don’t let anyone pressure you. Be yourself.”

A lightbulb clicked on overhead at the same time Willie grinned and ducked out of sight

 “Oh! It’s not like that. I have a narrow foot.”

“You know, I do too. It’s hard to find high heels that will properly hold my foot. Have you…”

“I don’t wear women’s shoes.” It was spinning out of control. “We’re here to get me a new shooting vest. See, my old one’s coming apart and we just got caught in here on the way to the men’s section.”

One of the ladies held up a shirt.

“Here, this one’s cut a little fuller than the others.” She inclined her head. “The dressing room is right over there.”

“No.” I replaced the shoe and backed away, holding my boot.

The tallest of the two shrugged and replaced the shirt.

“Suit yourself, but I think this one’s cute.”

I pulled the boot back on, and when I straightened, they had their backs to me, taking a selfie. I realized their intent was to get me in the picture with ‘em, and dove through a stand of mannequins in workout clothes, topping a couple.

A large store employee appeared.

“Can I help you?”

“Uh, no.”

He crossed thick arms.

“Can I help you find something?”

“Uh, shooting vests.”

“Women’s?”

“No. For me.”

“This is the ladies section.”

“I know that.”

Willie came around a corner.

“I told him we needed to go to the back of the store. He just wanted to browse.”

“Did not. You’re the one who stalled out here.”

The salesman slowly uncrossed his arms and pointed a thick finger.

“Hunting gear back there. We should have your size, and most of the common camo patterns. Nothing…flashy.”

I got his meaning.

“I just need a shooting vest.”

“They’re not form fitting.”

“I just want comfort.”

His eyes lit up.

“We just got in some really colorful sweats back there. You might like them.”

“Just the vest.” I grabbed Willie’s shoulder and turned him around. “Let’s go.”

“And sir, you probably need to keep your hands to yourself while you’re here.”

“Just as soon as get them out from around his neck,” I growled and pushed Willie down the empty ammo aisle so I could throttle him.

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