Locked In At Fish Pro by Melanie D. Calvert-Benton
It was a quarter before eight, on a cool October night, when I suddenly realized while reading a brochure, that a pair of camouflaged house shoes that I wanted were going off sale at my local Fish Pro. It dawned on me; I’d better drive down and get a pair before they closed. I hurried into my light camo jacket, grabbed my keys, purse and jumped into my car. I cranked the car, backed out of the driveway and shifted into “D.” It was all of less than ten minutes to get from my house to “my home away from home.”
I am always in hog heaven when I enter the beautiful cedar building, decorated with what looked like old rusty tin, and wild game footprints. The huge fireplace was always cheerfully aglow, with its large fire grate designed with small camping figures. The store’s greeters most always gave me a welcoming smile and shook my hand warmly. Out of all the greeters, “Jack” was my favorite. One year Mr. Jack couldn’t go hunting, so I brought him some venison sausage. It made Jack’s eyes tear up when he realized that I had brought him that sausage especially for him. I try to follow through on my promises.
As I walked by one customer service employee, I smiled as I took in the huge grizzly bear, mountain goats, and cougar near the gorgeous stairway where three mountain goats, stood fixed in time. There was a large water fall and aquarium filled with fish from our native area. A huge clear bubble was located to the rear of the aquarium and I happily pressed my face up to the glass and a huge-mon-gous bass swam by fluffing it’s fins and causing water bubbles to erupt from the commotion.
I hurried over to the elevator, pushed the button for the second floor and waited for it to come down. Several people got off as I went into the elevator and it let me out in front of the shoe department. It was glorious with the rows and rows of shoes and boots for hiking and hunting! I giggled with rapturous glee as my eyes settled on the shoes I was looking for. I walked over and pulled a size eight and half pair off the shelf and sat down on the nearest fitting chair. The leather uppers smelled wonderful and the flannel inner sole felt “heavenly.” Slipping on the new shoes, I stood up and walked in them, it was if I was walking on a cloud, they were soft and fluffy. I sat back down and had the sales lady put the shoes in a box and bagged them for me as I paid her, they were even priced cheaper than the ad stated. The feeling I had getting those shoes was, like.. Christmas. Having those new camouflaged shoes caused me to think about all the wonderful times I had as a child on my grandparent’s farm.
As I walked to the elevator, hugging my much loved shoes, I realized with much dismay that I really needed to visit the ladies room. It was after a few minutes had passed that I finished my business, washed and dried my hands off with a paper towel, that I noticed the quietness. It was eerie, you could have heard a pin drop. Slipping around the ladies room door, I was in shock! The entire building was–empty. It was then I realized I was all alone, locked up for the night at Fish Pro!
Oh my God, what am I going to do? How would I get out? Would I be arrested for being where I shouldn’t for the night? Questions popped in and out of mind as I tried to sort out my situation. Several minutes later I crept over to the camouflaged overalls, slipped a pair on and placed a camouflaged cap over my ears. Now, I could walk around unseen, nobody could see me because I was.. Invisible! I thought. I was delighted with my prowess at the deception. I had to have a plan for the rest of the night, until I could slip out in the morning. The only thing I could do in a situation like this was to pretend I was camping.
I walked over to the camping department, selected a tent on display and pulled a sleeping bag off a shelf to roll up in. I placed the flannel bag down where I could watch most any store activity going on. I had the front entrance in view as well as most of the critters. Those stuffed animals looked frightful in the dim lighting of the store, they were almost menacing, I thought. Grabbing a flashlight off the shelf, I moved over to the tackle department and found a readymade fishing kit. I removed the fishing pole from the kit and opened up a tub of catfish dough, it smelled to high heaven, so it must be good.
Easing over to a side rail, I put some bait on the hook and threw it down into the large aquarium. Big mistake, I thought as a huge fish yanked on the line pulling me down into the murky water. I came up sputtering and gasping for breath as I felt something try to swim up my britches leg. It was all I could do to pull myself up over the air filter with a soggy pair of overalls on. Back to the men’s wear I went to change into something dry. I found a camo sweat shirt and pants to slip on after my dunking. I stuffed the receipts into a pocket, so I could pay for what I was using. Moments later I realized I couldn’t eat anything live so I opted for a bag of Elk jerky, a soda and some crackers. I passed the rest of the night, reading a hunting magazine with the flashlight I had borrowed, I eventually fell asleep listening to the splash and drip from the waterfall.
Some where’s about daylight, I was rudely awakened by the security guard making his morning rounds. The full beam of his flash light, shined brightly into my face, giving me a “deer in the head light” look. I was jerked up to my feet and the guard began to question me.
“Where did you come from and how did you manage to stay here all night?” he drummed out.
I hesitated before I explained to him what had happened last night. That I was in the ladies room when I realized that I was locked in the building and that I fully intended to pay for everything I had eaten or used. Moments passed by before the guard began to smile. The look on his face was priceless as he spoke, “How did that happen?” motioning toward the assortment of wild animals.
I looked over and there to my amazement was a twelve pack of beer, the bear was wearing sunglasses, a possum was showing off a pair of hunting boots, a fox was wearing a swim suit and an eight point buck was dressed for a four wheeler ride, helmet and all. It was so .. bizarre! Gulping, I could only figure out that I had been set up. The manager walked up and escorted me to his office, unknowing that an old homeless man slipped out a side door smiling as he left me holding the bag. It would be awhile before they’d let me back into Fish Pro.
Melanie D. Calvert-Benton