Fandom: The Rockford Files (specifically, The Queen of Peru episode)
Characters: Ginger Townsend, Lou Trevino; OCs
Prompt: Table 3, Prompt #61 - One Thing
Word Count: 4,813
Warnings/Spoilers: Silly slice-of-life fun.
Summary: Ginger and Lou are shopping for the week and puzzling over the right wedding gift for someone at work.
Ginger and Lou had a great deal of money thanks to their extensive savings and to their good jobs. Ginger especially liked to live in the lap of luxury because of it. But when it came to grocery shopping, he saw no need to spend more than they had to when Wal-Mart offered all the big brands they needed at cheaper prices. Ginger refused to touch store brands with a ten-foot pole, but as he saw it, the name brands were the same in every store, so why not choose the best price? Lou was quite willing to go along with that, so every week they stocked up at the nearest Wal-Mart.
This particular week they had a bit of extra shopping to do in addition to the groceries. One of the secretaries in their department was getting married and she had invited everyone to attend the reception. Lou had hurriedly scrawled Wedding gift for Cera on the week’s list as he and Ginger had left the office with the intention of going straight to the store as usual.
Ginger glanced over the list while Lou drove. “Why would anyone spell their name that way?” he grumped. “It looks like the name of a dinosaur.”
Lou snarked. “Actually, that’s probably why she spells it like that,” he said. “I heard her saying that her mom was nuts about the first Land Before Time film, the 1980s one, and she hadn’t picked a name for her kid before she was born. So when the doctors asked her what to put on the birth certificate, she kind of gave the impromptu response of Cera, spelled that weird way.”
Ginger rolled his eyes. “Giving children pop culture-related names is bizarre and idiotic,” he proclaimed. “They won’t always be relevant and the meaning will be lost.”
“Well, it could’ve been worse,” Lou laughed. “In her case, anyway. At least Cera sounds normal. I mean, what if Ducky had been her mom’s favorite character?” Upon catching a glimpse of Ginger’s expression, Lou was even further amused. “On the other hand,” he mused, “with NCIS being so popular, Ducky might actually be a legitimate given name now.”
Ginger did not look any more impressed. “Ducky is a terrible name,” he retorted. “It’s only marginally better to think of it as a nickname.”
“I’ve gotta agree with you there,” Lou chuckled.
“And why is it that we even know the names of dinosaurs in a children’s film series?” Ginger continued in irritation.
“Mike,” Lou supplied.
“Exactly,” Ginger grunted. “And you’re not actually thinking of buying that woman’s wedding gift at Wal-Mart, are you? A wedding gift should be from somewhere more expensive.”
Lou shrugged. “Well, we’ve gotta get groceries anyway, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to just see what Wal-Mart’s got.”
“It can’t look cheap,” Ginger insisted. “Not from us.”
“Yeah, because we’ve developed a pretty big reputation as big spenders,” Lou said. “But hey, Wal-Mart has other big brands besides the grocery stuff. They probably have something really nice.”
“Perhaps,” Ginger grudgingly conceded. He frowned and leaned back. “I doubt we’re especially wanted there anyway. She likely only invited us because it would look bad to invite everyone else in the department except us.”
“I think she likes us,” Lou defended. “At least, you know, she sure had a crush on you back in the day.”
Ginger shrugged. “She was one of those whose crush was clearly superficial only.”
Lou sighed. “I knew you would’ve noticed that and remembered it. And yet you still wanna make sure the gift is nice.”
“There wouldn’t be any purpose in giving something that looks cheap. It would look like we were superficial to do that.” Ginger folded his arms. “On the other hand, we don’t want to spend too much, either. It would also look bad if it seemed we were trying to outshine all the other guests.”
Lou had to admit that Ginger definitely had points. “So that’s all the more reason to check Wal-Mart,” he said as he turned into the parking lot. “They have stuff that’s good but inexpensive.”
“Fine.” Ginger looked over the list again. “We should look for the gift first, in case it takes a while. If we already have the frozen foods, they might be half-unthawed by then.”
Lou winced. “That’s logical.” He parked next to a cart drop near the Home and Pharmacy doors.
As he and Ginger got out, they both studied the list. Their usual procedure was to divide the merchandise in half, each pick up their half, and meet somewhere along the way. It was swift and efficient, exactly how Ginger liked it. They didn’t often explore other areas of the store unless they were either looking for gifts for people or craved something new to watch. Of course, those events happened semi-frequently, so they were really quite well versed with the basic layout of the store.
“Most people have those Wedding Registries these days,” Ginger remarked. “Are you sure she doesn’t have one?”
Lou shrugged. “She said she and her fiancé talked it over and decided to do it more the old-fashioned way and be surprised by whatever people got them.”
“That’s a bloody good way to get duplicates of items,” Ginger declared. “Registries make everything more simple and logical. It’s the same principle behind writing wish lists for birthdays or Christmas.”
“Which I don’t think you’ve ever done,” Lou mused.
Ginger shrugged. “You’re about the only person who gets me anything anyway, and you know me well enough to know what I like.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Lou said, and even though he was still sad that Ginger didn’t have many friends, he had to admit that he was happy and honored that he knew Ginger that well.
They took one cart to share while they were looking for the gift, something they generally did together instead of separately. As they wandered past the seasonal section in the front of the store, Ginger paused by a large wire bin marked Emoji Pillows. “I still don’t understand the attraction to these things,” he remarked. “They’re faces. Why would anyone want pillows of faces looking back at them? Why would they want to lean on or lie on faces?”
“You know what I really wonder,” Lou said, and he pointed to a bizarre brown spiral, “is why that one exists at all.”
Ginger stared at it. “What is it?” he asked, lifting it up by the tip. “The others are clearly meant to be cartoon human faces, but this is utterly nondescript.”
Lou gave him a weak smile. “I don’t think you wanna know what it is.”
“I’m sure I don’t, but I have a certain morbid curiosity,” Ginger grunted.
Lou’s answer absolutely scandalized him. He dropped the pillow like a hot rock and stared at the bin as though it was contaminated. Then, pulling his overcoat closer around him, he stalked on without a word.
Wincing even while he was amused by Ginger’s reaction, Lou pushed the cart ahead of him and soon caught up with his friend.
“You were right,” Ginger said flatly as he stared ahead. “I could have gone on all my life without knowing that.” Finally looking over at Lou, he continued, “And I thought people couldn’t possibly become more shallowly obsessed with scatological humor than they already were.”
“That’s a new low, alright,” Lou said. “I really don’t get it myself.”
Deciding he really wanted to get his mind on something else, Ginger turned to go down the nearest Home aisle. Lou followed with the cart, eyeing the blenders, toasters, and other small appliances on the shelves. He didn’t speak, instead waiting for Ginger to find something that caught his interest and stop. When Ginger did, he was pausing to look at various types of cookware.
“So . . . what are you thinking we should get?” Lou asked at last.
“I’m thinking that we don’t know anything about the husband’s interests,” Ginger said flatly. “He might like working in the kitchen, as you do, or he might not. And it seems bloody impolite if we get something only she might use.”
“For that matter, I’m not sure we know that Cera likes being in the kitchen either,” Lou pointed out.
“So the most logical thing would be to get something they would both be more likely to enjoy,” Ginger said. “If it’s anything for the kitchen, it should be something that everyone generally uses regardless, such as a toaster or a blender.”
“You wanna do that then?” Lou cautiously asked.
“On the other hand, everyone is probably going to give kitchen items,” Ginger said in irritation. “With perhaps a few bedroom and bathroom items thrown into the mix. They really should have had a Registry.”
“Well,” Lou said slowly, “I guess we could do something weird, like an entertainment thing. I’ve seen some people ask for Disney movies on their Registries. As far as I know, Cera is the ‘embrace your inner kid’ type.”
“Wedding gifts should be practical and useful,” Ginger retorted. “Let them spend their own money on the little extras.”
“I kind of agree,” Lou admitted, “but what the heck are we gonna get that someone else isn’t likely to get too?”
Ginger paused, thinking. “A clock radio,” he determined.
“Huh?” Lou blinked.
“It’s practical and useful, but it’s also more or less in the entertainment category,” Ginger said. “It’s a compromise.”
“I like that,” Lou said. “But don’t most people have things like that? Maybe one or the other of them or both of them already do.”
Ginger scowled. “That could be the case with just about anything.”
“Maybe it should be something like a painting or a home decoration thing,” Lou suggested. “That’s not exactly silly like animated movies, but it’s something nice and fun that will help them make the place homey and inviting.”
Ginger pondered on that. “That might actually work,” he mused. “We already know she’s into decorating. But I doubt we’ll find anything like paintings here. They probably only have pop culture posters.”
“Good paintings might get way too expensive anyway,” Lou winced. “Let’s see what kind of home décor stuff they’ve got.”
Ginger nodded his consent, but added, “Just be prepared for the possibility of a trip to somewhere such as Bed, Bath, and Beyond anyway.”
“Or IKEA,” Lou muttered.
They wandered amid the décor section before Lou sighed and leaned on the cart. “I was hoping for something like an inspirational quote in a frame or on wooden blocks or something like that,” he remarked. “Mom likes that kind of stuff.”
Ginger frowned. “Where would we find something like that?”
Lou shrugged. “I got no idea. Mom usually gets them at local shops. Maybe a clerk would know if any big chain stores sell them too.”
Ginger grunted. “Fine. We can ask one on checkout. Meanwhile, are we ready to start the actual grocery shopping now?”
Lou perked up. “Yeah, let’s do that. And I don’t know, maybe since we’ve already been at it a while, it’d be just as well to stick together to pick up everything now. Or maybe hang out in the same section and each of us get some of the stuff on the aisles in that area and then move on to the next area and like that.”
Ginger considered that and then said, “Very well; we’ll try that. Although I don’t know that it will help us get done any faster.”
“Well, we can try anyway,” Lou said.
They were closest to the personal care section, so they went over there and collected hand soap and shampoo and other toiletries. The shampoo aisle, being directly across from the first toy aisle, was nearly the scene of a collision between Ginger and a young child when they both arrived. “Sorry, Mister!” the kid exclaimed as he scooted away and almost knocked over an entire end display of Old Spice.
Ginger stumbled back into the other side of the aisle and several Prell shampoos on another end display began to fall like dominoes. Annoyed, he tried to quickly grab the most precarious bottles before they could join the spill and land on the floor.
Lou winced. “. . . Well, at least the kid apologized?” he offered as he helped Ginger get the teetering bottles under control.
“That was appreciated,” Ginger admitted. “So many children are cheeky and inconsiderate.” Eager to forget the matter, he turned and ventured deeper into the aisle. “What kind of shampoo do you want?” They didn’t really stick to one brand and often sampled assorted varieties of what was available. Ginger especially liked to make sure he used the best possible brands. He prided himself on his hair.
“Huh? Oh.” Lou shook his head. “It doesn’t matter much to me, Buddy. I don’t have that much hair to wash.” He shrugged. “You usually know the best stuff to pick anyway.”
Ginger selected a favorite brand of his and they moved on.
Frozen food was always one of the most interesting categories. For breakfast, they were often rushing too much to do anything other than to heat up some frozen French toast or breakfast sandwiches. Lou had adapted to that but really preferred to make their dinners each night. When they were recovering from their many harrowing experiences, however, he was not up to it. Sometimes they sent out for food on those occasions, but other times they weren’t in the mood for that, either, so they liked to keep a few ready-made meals on hand from Stouffer’s and other big-name brands. They also tended to purchase frozen juice and desserts. Ginger loved anything chocolate, and ice creams and other related treats were no exceptions.
They picked up a couple of loaves of bread as they transitioned to the non-frozen aisles. Soon they had loaded condiments, crackers, and cereal in the cart, as well as ingredients for that week’s dinners, and were moving on to the dairy. Ginger plunked the usual chocolate milk amongst their chosen belongings while Lou added the 2% milk. After collecting butter, cheese, and yoghurt, it was time to pick up the paper products and the rest of the cleaning supplies.
“I will never understand why all the cleaning products aren’t together,” Ginger grunted as he passed the Clorox wipes to Lou.
“I don’t get it either, but oh well.” Lou grabbed a set of scour sponges. “I’d like to know why these wear out so fast. They used to last longer.”
“Everything used to last longer,” Ginger grumped. “These bloody companies deliberately make things flimsier so we’ll have to buy new ones more often and they will get more money.”
“And I can’t even say you’re just being negative and pessimistic,” Lou said, shaking his head. “I’m pretty sure you’re right. I remember we used to be able to get a lot more years out of our computers than we do now too.”
“Exactly,” Ginger said flatly.
Lou looked at the Clorox. “I wonder what we’re gonna do the next time we clean the house. I kind of wish we could clean up the basement rooms more.”
“It’s your decision whether to try,” Ginger replied. “And if there is anything existing in the basement, I suppose it’s their decision whether to let you succeed.”
Lou scoffed. “Why would they not want the place cleaned up?”
“Why are they there at all?” Ginger returned. “They’re absolutely not fond of change. You should know that as well, after they have made us unwelcome in our own loo.”
That brought a heaved sigh. “Yeah, I know.”
Ginger brought the cleanser and Lou leaned on the cart as he went over the list. “Did we miss anything?” Ginger asked.
“Nah,” Lou replied. “But we’re gonna have to go back to that grocery store again since Wal-Mart still doesn’t have the juice we like in stock.”
“They take so long to restock products when they sell out,” Ginger complained. “And sometimes they never bring them back at all.”
“Sad but true,” Lou admitted. “We’re still looking for some of those foods they got rid of.” He glanced down the aisle, looking towards the entertainment section. “Is there anything we needed to get in the DVD department?”
“Not unless we want something new to watch,” Ginger said.
Lou hesitated, then said, “We’d probably better pass since we’ve gotta worry about the wedding gift for Cera.”
Ginger looked displeased. “Of course,” he grudgingly acknowledged. “Don’t forget to ask that clerk about stores.”
“I won’t,” Lou promised.
The wait was long; Wal-Mart was crowded. But finally they reached the front of the line and the clerk was only too happy to be chatty. Soon they had learned all about the types of crafting stores that were likely to sell the type of present Lou had decided was the best thing.
“We’ll be too busy getting these groceries home and put away to do anything more about it tonight,” Ginger determined as they wheeled the cart outside to the car. “But perhaps we’ll have to plan to go tomorrow after work.”
“That’s fine with me,” Lou said. “Only now I’m wondering if what I had in mind is really an appropriate wedding gift. Maybe it’d look too cheap, or more like a house-warming gift or something.”
“We’ll decide tomorrow,” Ginger said flatly. “If it looks like it won’t work, we can devote that entire evening to finding the perfect thing. But,” he added, “it had better not take that long.”
Lou winced. “I sure hope not. Man, who’d think buying a wedding present would be so confusing and stressful?”
“Not even knowing the bride makes it any less so.” They reached the car and Ginger held onto the cart to keep it from rolling forward while Lou unlocked and opened the doors. “Perhaps what we really need is a woman’s perspective.”
“Maybe,” Lou said slowly. “You think we should ask Stefanie or something?”
“She’s about the only woman in our department I’d actually trust,” Ginger said. For that matter, she was about the only person in their department that he trusted period, but he didn’t bother to add that aloud.
Lou started loading the groceries into the car while Ginger handed them over. “I’m not sure if she really knows Cera that well, though. I think she stopped really associating with anybody she felt wasn’t treating us right.”
“She still likely has a better idea than we do of what kinds of wedding gifts they’re looking for,” Ginger said.
“I guess that makes sense,” Lou agreed. “Okay, we’ll try to ask her tomorrow.”
As it turned out, Stefanie was rather confused herself about what to get Cera and her husband. She liked Lou’s idea of an inspirational quote for the home and Ginger’s idea of a clock radio. As far as she was concerned, they could go with either or both of their ideas and it would be just fine. So, after work that day, they traveled to the nearest craft store to try out Lou’s idea first.
“Do you see anything you like?” Ginger asked as he weaved among the aisles. The inspirational quotes seemed to be at the front of the store and also on several end aisles nearby. He raised an eyebrow at one rather cheeky one that quipped If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.
Lou chuckled at that one and walked on. “Here’s a possibility?” he suggested, pointing at one that said Home is where the heart is.
Ginger grunted. “Saccharine, but I suppose newly married couples like that sort of thing.”
“Hey, it is a nice thing to say, even if it is a little cheesy,” Lou said. “Let’s keep it in mind, at least.”
“Fine,” Ginger acknowledged.
There were several others with appealing statements, but in the end Lou found himself gravitating back to the standard he had shown Ginger near the beginning of their search. “I really like this one best,” he said.
“Then let’s get it and go,” Ginger retorted.
Lou took it off the shelf, but paused. “Do we have wrapping paper and Scotch tape?” he wondered.
“Tape, yes, but I don’t know about wrapping paper.” Ginger folded his arms. “You would be more likely to know about that.”
“Yeah, I guess I would,” Lou weakly chuckled. “Only I’m not sure. I kind of think we don’t have anything that would work for a wedding. My memory is that we’ve got birthday and Christmas paper.”
“Which would look ridiculous,” Ginger finished. “Very well; we’ll have to stop somewhere and get appropriate wrapping paper. Preferably back at Wal-Mart.”
Lou was amused but agreeable. “Okay, Buddy.” He headed for the checkout stands. “We’ll get this and go.”
The wedding reception was that Saturday night. Ginger held the wrapped present on his lap as Lou drove them to the reception center. Despite the fact that it was summer, the event was being held indoors instead of outside. Apparently the summer heat made the thought of a garden reception most unpleasant.
“I hope we won’t have to stay long,” Ginger said as Lou turned onto the correct block.
“Just long enough to congratulate them and get something to eat,” Lou said.
“The food is generally the best part of a reception,” Ginger grunted.
Lou smiled to himself, amused but really not able to completely disagree.
It was difficult to find a parking spot in the crowded lot, but finally he took the only vacant spot available, way off in the corner. “Sorry we’re so far from the place,” he said with a weak smile.
“At least we’re in here and not out on the street,” Ginger responded as he climbed out.
They entered the building together and left the present with all the others before finding the guest-book and leaving their names in it. When they passed into the main room and saw the length of the line stretching to greet the wedding party, Ginger stared in alarm.
“Oh boy,” Lou groaned.
“I abhor lines,” Ginger muttered as they took their place at the end. Lines moved far too slowly and it made him all kinds of nervous to be standing half-boxed in with so many people. Being the last in this line didn’t remain the case for long, as several more people soon slipped in behind them.
Lou watched his friend as they waited. Ginger was very tense and Lou could easily sense that, but visibly he remained completely impassive. He stayed quiet, since with the crowds talking all around them it was almost impossible to hear and he didn’t want to shout. As they reached the head of the line, he brought out his polite and charming persona to greet the wedding party.
“Oh, you must be some more of Cera’s friends from the office,” Cera’s mother exclaimed.
“Yeah, you could say that,” Lou said, not sure he wanted to outright say that they were friends but not wanting to counter it by saying coworkers instead.
“It’s very good to meet you,” Ginger said smoothly as he shook her hand.
“My, but you are just as charismatic as she said,” she gushed. “You are Ginger, of course?”
“Yes,” Ginger hesitantly admitted.
Cera was very bubbly and friendly, hugging both Ginger and Lou as she had done with everyone she knew in the line. “I’m so happy you could come!” she chirruped.
“We’re glad we could make it,” Lou said. He glanced at Ginger, wondering how he was dealing with the sudden embrace. Ginger’s manner bespoke none of his inner feelings, however, and he reached to shake the groom’s hand.
“It’s always good to meet Cera’s friends,” he said. “But I hope you’re not anything besides that to her.” He gave Ginger a hopefully pretend glare. “She did tell me she had a crush on you for a while.”
“That’s true,” Ginger admitted, “but we only worked in the same department. It never went beyond that.”
“Your loss, my man,” the groom smiled.
The groom’s parents were congenial but just introduced themselves and seemed eager to move on to the rest of the line, so Ginger and Lou happily greeted them and hurried away from the crowd.
“I’m gonna get something to eat,” Lou said.
Ginger frowned at the buffet table. “There’s another line there.”
“Yeah,” Lou said slowly, “but it’ll be worth it for the food.”
Ginger had to agree with that. But as they were walking, they somehow became separated amid the myriad of wedding guests and suddenly a very flirtatious Kitty from the department was in front of him.
“Hello, Ginger,” she purred. “Did you know that the bride and groom met on a blind date?”
“No,” Ginger grunted.
“Oh, that’s right. You’re not interested in the local gossip.” But Kitty smiled and leaned in closer. “Maybe I should arrange a blind date for you sometime.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Ginger replied. “I would rather choose whom I go out with.”
“Yeah, but you don’t choose anyone,” Kitty frowned.
“Exactly.” Ginger pulled his overcoat closer around him and fled to the buffet table.
Lou had reached the front of the line by then. He was stacking a plate with huge juicy strawberries and chocolate and peanut butter bars, and he looked up with a start as Ginger hurried over. “Hey, Ginger, you should try some of this stuff,” he declared. “It looks great!”
Ginger absently grabbed something that looked like an éclair. “The thing I dislike most about weddings is that it seems to put everyone in a mood to look for the subjects of the next one,” he growled.
“Uh oh.” Lou bit into a strawberry. “Is somebody sizing you up?”
“Yes.” Ginger scowled. “I am not an eligible bachelor.”
Lou chuckled. “I know. You’re an un-eligible bachelor. But don’t worry; we’ll be out of here soon. It’d look rude not to eat something when they have all this great stuff here.”
Ginger munched on the éclair. “I still doubt she really wanted us here.”
“Maybe not, but she invited us anyway.” Lou headed to a table near the back, as he knew that was what Ginger would want.
Ginger took some other chocolate desserts and followed him. “And we won’t know for weeks if they like your sign,” he remarked. “If ever.”
“I’m sure we’ll find out,” Lou smiled.
He was right. After the honeymoon, Cera returned to the office and thanked everyone in person for their gifts. When she approached Ginger and Lou’s cubicles, she stopped and smiled at them. “Which one of you came up with the idea of that sign?” she asked. “Jerry and I both love it.”
“That was Lou’s idea,” Ginger said.
“Of course.” Cera looked to Lou. “It sounds like something you’d think of.”
Lou flushed. “Did you find a good place for it in your house?”
“Right on the bookcase in the living room,” Cera replied. “Everyone can see it when they come in.”
“Well, great. We’re both glad you like it,” Lou smiled.
“You’ll have to come visit us sometime and see it,” Cera said. “Maybe dinner some night?”
“Perhaps,” Ginger said cautiously.
Lou walked to Ginger’s cubicle in amusement when Cera left. “Come on, you don’t think she’ll try to set you up with somebody if we go, do you?” he asked.
“No,” Ginger replied. “I think she’ll try to set both of us up with someone.”
Lou chuckled. “Okay, fair enough. But it wasn’t her idea at the wedding, was it?”
“It wasn’t,” Ginger admitted. “It was Katherine’s.”
“I guess we’ll just have to see what happens if the time ever comes that we really go over to dinner,” Lou said. “Just sharing dinner with a couple of girls wouldn’t be so bad.”
“That would depend on the girls,” Ginger pointed out. “If they’re around our age, they may be so desperate for men that they won’t let us go.”
“We’ll see,” Lou said firmly. “Chances are, Cera and her husband’ll never even remember about dinner in the first place. They’ll be way too busy for something like that. I’m just glad they like the present.”
Ginger nodded. “You had a good idea.”
“Yours was good too,” Lou said.
He headed back to the next cubicle and resumed typing. In a moment, Ginger started again as well. It had been an interesting experience and Lou hadn’t minded it so much, but he knew Ginger well enough to recognize that he hoped it would be a long while before another wedding happened that they would be invited to.
Lou smiled to himself and shook his head. Ginger was a case and a highly unique person. Of course, Lou wouldn’t change anything that made Ginger what he was. He was just proud and happy that Ginger considered him his best friend.