Last month’s Observer included my illustrated article about a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, where I discovered a praying mantis in my shopping basket.

Even before the article came out, I heard the news: 

Bed Bath & Beyond is closing!


I drove out to Arborland. As I wound my way through the store, I found things that I needed: a stainless-steel toilet wand, twenty-four candles, three sponges, a dozen cocktail napkins, and a scrub brush.

I got in line and waited until I was summoned to a checkout lane.

At the register stood an older woman—my age.

She looked tired and dispirited.

At the register stood an older woman—my age. 
She looked tired and dispirited. I decided to try.

I decided to try.

“I wrote a story about the first time I came to Bed Bath & Beyond,” I said.

She barely glanced at me.

“I picked up a basket, and there was a praying mantis in it.”

“I saw that on Facebook!” she exclaimed.

I said it was in the Observer.

She said, “I read that!!”

I said it had happened in this very store. It was the first time I was ever in a Bed Bath & Beyond, and I had been very excited. But when I found the praying mantis, I left.

With enthusiasm, she said, “They’re vicious!”

I said, “Yes, they do bite the heads off the males after they mate.”

We laughed.

I said, “Oh well.”

She said, “We’re laughing.”

“Probably something to think about there,” I said.

“I can still think of someone I wish I’d done that to!” she said.

We laughed some more.

She said, “You’re the author.”

Modestly, I said, “Yes.”

She said, “I’ll tell my sister! She read it too.”

She said, “It must’ve been a female.”

I asked why.

She said, “It still had its head!”