That’s just supposed to be a catchy title—we were actually shopping at Bealls, which for some reason known only to Mr. or Mrs. Beall, is really pronounced as “Bell”. Perhaps they started their store by ringing a bell.

According to internet sources, Bealls /ˈbɛlz/ is a “United States retail corporation of over 500 stores founded in 1915 in Bradenton, Florida.” It has two chains (perhaps originally bells), one a set of Department Stores and the other a set of Outlet Stores, but they are not affiliated with Bealls Texas, so I’m not sure where my wife was shopping.

In 1915, a certain Robert M. Beall Sr. opened a dry goods store in Bradenton, Florida and because he sold everything for not more than one dollar he named his store The Dollar Limit. Later it was  The Five Dollar Limit and now it has no limit.

My wife is shopping at Bealls because she has a $10 birthday coupon. She doesn’t really need it because everything is on sale all the time. There are rewards, hassle-free rewards and new rewards, that is, new every day. But there is so much to shop for that I will not accompany her.

Instead, I will sit in the lounge just outside the main door and inside the big mall and I will watch people. Sometimes I don’t go in the mall at all and just have a snooze in the car. However, Texas has just passed a law that anyone can carry a gun (with a permit of course) and I don’t own one. I will be a suspect immediately without a gun. People walk by my car and carefully peer in to see if I have a gun in my holster or in my lap. It I do, they will be satisfied but, because I don’t, they may call the security police. “There is a man in the parking lot, sitting in his car, pretending to be asleep, and he does not have a gun.”

Men without guns in Texas are like dogs without fleas or I-35 without an accident: something is terribly wrong and needs to be investigated. I don’t want to cause the police a problem and can’t afford a $475 pistol, so I am going to stay inside.

Before I go, I will mention that another problem with staying in the car is the Texas sun. It isn’t summer yet so I can still touch the steering wheel and seat belt buckle, but it is still hot. I can put the windows down a bit but the dust and rubbish will blow in unless I am on the port side of the mall. About one person a day, on the average, dies of over-heated and bloated bodies in a car in Texas in the summer.

But back to my station. There are not many mall walkers today and many who walk by me are phone walkers. They stare intently at their phone as they walk along and sometimes glance up if the reception is bad. I notice that the jewelry store directly opposite me, with its watches and rings and shiny things, has no customers. I wander out into the center aisle of the mall, where trinkets, telephones, ice cream and electronic attachments are sold. I try to strike up a conversation with a young man who is “manning” two stations. He is from Hyderabad in India, I understand that much, but the rest is the kind of AT&T customer service English that I get from the Philippines and India when I want to report a problem—which, I might add, is often.

There is no way I can communicate with this man so I wander farther down the mall hall and sit down at a table opposite Chick-Fil-A. It is about noon so there are lots of customers. Some of them are very big and must have eaten a lot of chicken. In my area there are 3 tables, in an adjacent area there are 18 more and in still another area there are 15. Each table will hold 4 people, so that is a lot of chicken to eat. No wonder the the Chick-Fil-A cows are smiling—people could be eating hamburger elsewhere.

There are about 11 large, well-lit, menu boards above the serving area. The choices are bewildering, but they all contain at least a bit of chicken. There is a “Nu Frosted Lemonade”, said to be the “Chikinz best frend”. I guess you dip your chicken in it.

A gaggle of young boys descend on the roost and buy big plates of chicken. They are the typical teenagers with baseball hats on backwards, t-shirts with slogans, and wearing sneakers. They talk loudly but must be OK if they are eating chicken.

I wait patiently for my wife and she soon appears and asks me if I can give her another half hour to shop at Bealls. “There are just so many bargains” she says. And of course there are.

So I go back to watching people. A thin man supporting an even thinner woman shuffles by. No chicken for them—they need ice cream and beef steak. Four very large women get in line, as best they can. Lots of chicken for them, plenty of dip and sauce, and extra large containers of Dr Pepper and Coke. I want to get out of here before they start eating.

Two young—but not exactly spring chickens—women arrive. The one hands her bag to the other and darts toward the restroom. Nothing chicken about her.

My wife arrives. “Should we eat here?” she asks. “Let’s check out Subways” I reply. We get a foot long sandwich (cut, with a third for my wife) with, of all things, chicken in it. Here we are sitting next to the main chicken filling station in the mall and eating chicken at a competitors shop. It doesn’t make sense.

We can afford it today—my wife hasn’t bought anything except a pastry brush for $1.99. And it wasn’t even on sale!

Oh, and why did the chickens cross the mall? Because someone was counting them and they were afraid they might hatch at Burger King. (That doesn’t make sense, but most “chicken” jokes don’t.)

May 6, Richland Mall
Waco, Texas