I stood in line at the CVS on Columbia Road and 17th St. I had gathered two packages of tissue paper, one sheet of kitten stickers, and a small bag of sparkly accoutrements. When I return home, I thought to myself, I plan to fashion a diorama out of these materials and display it in my modest basement apartment. I was considering the dimensions of this diorama – its base (a discarded shoebox), its theme (James Spader), and possible adhesives (Tape? Glue?) – when I noticed that a cashier had become available. He beckoned me toward him. I began to advance. But before I reached him, a woman intercepted my path to the counter.
“I’m looking for a weasel,” the woman announced.
“I’m sorry, what?” the man behind the counter said.
“A weasel,” said the woman. “Do you carry weasels here?”
“I’m sorry.” The man behind the counter was visibly confused. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
“Weasel,” the woman repeated.
It was clear the man behind the counter was not accustomed to the woman’s request. No one, it seems, had ever asked for a weasel before.
Again, she said it – “Weasel” – and waited.
The cashier was stumped.
“What do you do with it?” another customer chimed in. She, too, was waiting to purchase her merchandise from the man behind the counter.
“It’s for emergencies,” the woman explained.
“Emergencies?” asked the cashier.
“Emergencies,” the woman confirmed. “I know an old woman. It’s for an old woman.”
“Is she saying ‘weasel’?” the other customer asked me.
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“Someone said I could find a weasel here,” the woman insisted. “They said to go to CVS.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, I just don’t know what you’re asking for,” the cashier admitted.
Exasperated, the woman placed he hands on her hips. She seemed deep in thought.
Weasel, I imagined her thinking. Weasel.
Then, the woman moved two fingers to her lips and blew twice, directly into her fingertips.
“Oh!” exclaimed the man behind the counter. “A whistle!”
The woman, the other customer, the man behind the counter, and I, all began to laugh. We laughed together for several seconds.
“No,” the cashier said. “We don’t have any whistles.”
Later that night, in my modest basement apartment, I assembled my diorama. I adhered a kitten to my diorama with a piece of tape and thought of the old woman. What will she do in case of emergency?