I made a smarter selection and strolled to the end of the aisle to blankly stare at the massive variety of cashews that I had no intention of purchasing. Yeah, kinda sleepy today. A huge, eye water inducing yawn escaped just as I heard the *whirrrr* of one of those motorized shopping carts quickly approaching. While I expected to see an enormous, wheezing woman that allowed her FUPA to man the handle bars, when my eyes came back into focus, I saw a normal sized man instead.
A waterfall of greasy gray hair cascaded from a baseball hat perched on his head and his weathered eyes peered out from behind a long, bushy beard. The distinct smell of a man that has smoked two packs a day since he was 12 seeped out of his pores and into my nostrils as he abruptly stopped in front of the wall of trail mix.
"What would you recommend for a baby squirrel?" He asked, seemingly to nobody as I walked past his cart.
It took me a second to both realize he was directing his odd question at me and to process what he was asking. I stopped in my tracks just as he added:
"It's in my shirt right now," he said, gesturing. "It's the only way he'll keep calm."
I gawked as a small mound on top of his right shoulder rippled the plaid pattern on his shirt. Perhaps the baby squirrel in question is less than calm because it's in the middle of a Super Target...and because it has rabies.
Side note: Are you fucking kidding me?
"It's in your shirt right now?! That's...funny..." I said as politely as possible.
Just as I was about to make a run for it, I saw that his hat said, 'Vietnam Veteran' and I instantly softened...My experiences as a journalist and in my personal life have provided me with a certain respect for veterans...apparently one that convinces me to continue ridiculous, squirrel-in-the-shirt-in-the-middle-of-Target conversations.
There's a fine line between eccentric and batshit crazy, but a difference nonetheless. Proceed with caution.
He explained that they like walnuts and dried fruit, but not the hard nuts and definitely none of them there peanuts. I suggested a blend of nuts and dried blueberries, which he quickly vetoed and began to tell me an elaborate story about his dogs' encounter with a raccoon. Just as he explained that the raccoon climbed on his head to get away from the dogs, then onto his china hutch and has been there ever since, as in living there...for five years...seriously, living on his INDOOR china cabinet for FIVE YEARS...out of the corner of my eye, I saw my Mom recognize me in the aisle, see that I was talking to a scraggly old man driving a scooter and quickly scamper away into another aisle as if she had no idea who I was.
There was more talk of sunflower seeds before I said, "Good luck with your critters" and quietly
I found Mom, thanked her for the awesome save, then wondered how many other people have been lucky enough to encounter a mountain man and his pet squirrel while hunting for a lower cholesterol substitute for Doritos.