Emily, Martha and the other three from the boost crew got out of van for the fourth time this morning. They were at a CVS parking lot. Martha looked at her sister, “All I said was I wanted to join a gym, and now I’m spending the day going from store to store boosting deodorant and baby formula.”

Emily put her arm through Martha’s, leading her to the CVS entrance. “Take a look at this pedometer, we’re only halfway done with the job and we already have six thousand steps for the day. Six thousand, that’s like three miles, I think. This is so much better than paying forty bucks a month for a gym. You’re getting a workout and being paid.” Though the gang was out of Boston, they were foraging around Nashua, New Hampshire. It was best to spread around this type of scorched-earth thieving.

Martha shook her head. She told her sister yesterday about the gym and now Emily hired them off to a Russian boost gang for the day. They were to get a few hundred each. All they had to do was quickly fill up a hand basket with good product that was easy to turn over at a swap meet. The secret was to move quickly and not stop walking. The rule for these stores was as soon as the shoplifter was out the door, they were free and clear. Martha had deodorants, toothpaste and baby formula on her list.

Emily picked batteries and cough syrup, because they were heavier. “I’m trying for cardio and tone up, so I have to boost the heavier items.” Martha rolled her eyes and went through the door. They had to be in and out in two minutes. The van was leaving thirty seconds after that.

Martha picked up her basket at the front of the store and walked towards her aisle. She spotted the store detective leaning his pimply self by the toy car display. He was looking at her legs and she gave him the “look but that’s it” smile.

She picked up the pace and put ten deodorants in her basket. She turned to toothpaste and get eight boxes of the teeth whitening nonsense. She finished off with six tubs of formula. None of these were close together so she was moving fast and feeling conspicuous.

Martha made the final turn and headed for the door when an arm took her collar and stopped her. She looked. Stupid store detective being cowboy. “Let’s put those away and sit in the back office, shall we?” Shall we? Who really talked like that? Did they train these yahoos by having them watch old John Wayne westerns?

She moved away with a twist and the damned kid put his second hand on her. She was stuck. Dumb. Then she heard heavy breathing and saw Emily charging down the aisle. She had her full basket in one hand and a small canister in the other.

Emily ran right up to the guy’s face and coated it with a healthy dose of pepper spray. The idiot screamed, clawed his eyes, and fell to the floor. “Let’s go, and don’t forget the basket.” Martha saw she still held onto the items and they walked out past the gaping mouths of the check-out clerks.

The other boosters followed and they all got in the van. They dumped the items into a large cooler and tossed out the baskets. They were gone in a little less than two minutes.

“See that, your heart is racing and you got some calories burned,” Emily said with a smile.

“But I’m going to eat a candy bar or two to calm my nerves, so it probably evens out to no benefit,” Martha said.

“Come on, this is so much better than a smelly gym. What could make it better than this?”

Martha shrugged. “The gym has a pool.”

Emily said, “A pool? You didn’t mention a pool. I like swimming.” The van sped through a few lights as it headed toward the next stop. Five more stores to go.

David Macpherson lives in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.

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Every Day Fiction