Thursday, February 22, 2007

My first short story (rough)

The grocery scanner beeps twice, indicating a double charge. I don't so much notice. A woman with big breasts just entered the store. I trace her movement with my head and shove groceries across the scanner like Stevie Wonder at an autograph signing. She's curvy and nubile, like the perfect high school teacher. Or the perfect World War II nurse. I watch her white sun dress dance like curtains around tan silky legs; I throw her telepathic vibes, telling her come to register six when she was done shopping.

It's a busy afternoon in the market. I'm feeling horny and hungover. I tend to get exceptionally horny when I'm hungover, something about a night's worth of vodka leaking from my pours. Don't ask me what it is. She leans over to study the chocolate rack. Her breasts cling to her body for survival. I start imagining ways to lure her into the meatbox for some prime cut-

"Excuse me", a voice of gravel kicks in. "I think you double-charged me."

I look up at my customer for the first time. She's ancient, with hair that looks like it was cut by a parakeet.

"I think you double charged me on the prune juice" she goes on. "You see, I bought ten bottles but I count eleven on this screen..."

She points at the screen.

"I apologize ma'am. Let me take that off "

"And could you make sure my bags aren't too heavy? Here let me show you.... This will be one bag right hereee."

She scoots a bottle of prune juice over to a pack of gum.

"Anything for you ma'am..."

She nods then returns to reading a magazine she props against my register. One of the captions reads "Sixty is the new Fifty". Now Courtney is coming over. Courtney is a new hire, which means she still smiles.

"Courtney, could you come here real quick?"

She smiles and hops towards me like a posterchild for ritalin.

"Yes Mike?"

"I'm gonna piss, do you know how to work the register?"

"Well I've watched a few-"

"It's easy, you'll be fine."

I walk away. I don't need to pee to be honest but I'll be damned if stood bagging ten bottles of prune just for some weathered old tree when I could be working my youthful charm on a beautiful woman. Because of course, my supermarket encourages all its employess to give only the finest customer service.

I've been working at this grocery store, Overpriced Healthy Shit, for about four years now. I know all our little secrets. For instance, I know our trademark protein powder actually substitutes portions of higher quality whey protein with less effective casein proteins, passing it off as being more effective, when it's really like mixing beer with champagne. I also know if a customer's cherries end up on our backroom floor they'll go right back on the shelf, because only dumbasses don't wash their fruit.

I follow my afternoon cupcake into the cooking aisle. I stalk casually behind her and watch as she pauses to browse our selection of syrups. She scratches her leg and her dress rides up a little. I watch her pluck a bottle of chocolate syrup off the shelf and place it into her cart. What a kinky little kitten... I knew where I could pour that syrup and it didn't involve mil-

"Excuse me", a voice breaks in, "do you work here?"

I turn around to face a considerably large African American male.

"I was wondering if you had any blueberry preserves" he says. "I always get them here but I don't see any today."

This was a question I could easily handle.

"The blueberry preserves are temporarily out of stock sir. Something was wrong with the crop. We should have them back within the next two weeks".

In philosophy and science there are holy grails of things. The holy grails of logic, the holy grail of the universe - simple pieces of brevity that hold everything together and spell things out for us. In a grocery store this is a holy grail of an answer. Answers like these are what scientists get when they split atoms.

"Well maybe then you could explain to me," he goes on, "how you could carry blueberries in your produce section, frozen blueberries in your frozen section, but have no blueberry jam in your preservative section, if the crop so bad this year, or so you say".

I look past the man towards my chocolate feline as she moves towards the produce. I see her eyeing the bananas. In my head I'm bending her over them.

"Sir", I respond, "The blueberries used for the preservatives come from Mexico. I don't know what the Mexicans are doing, or how the weather is over there, but they haven't sent us any jam".

"So you're telling me you guys are out."


"You have no more blueberry preserve"

"That is correct"

"Could you check the back for me?"

"There's nothing back there"

"You can't be sure of that if you haven't checked"

"I'm sure of it sir, I was just back there"

"If you were just back there then how come I saw you on the register when I wal-"

"Hey look at this!" I say pointing at the shelf. "We have raspberry and strawberry jam sir. They're from the berry family."

At this point my afternoon cupcake picks up two cantaloupes and holds them both in each hand. She jiggles them up and down, trying to guess which is the ripest one. I could take it no longer.

"Did I ask for those?"

"No sir... But I know what we could do."



"Excuse me?"

"Do you want to pray with me sir? Because I was thinking, maybe if we just held hands and prayed hard enough, God will hear us and send us your blueberry jam.... on the back of goddamn unicorn."

He looks at me in disbelief.

"Son do you know who I am?"

"Noo", I reply.

"Mr. Abbot?" a voice calls out.

It was the voice of the lady I pursued. The man turns around.

"Mr. Abbot, oh my God it is you! I thought I recognized your voice. Do you remember me? You taught me freshman year!"

"Monica? Monica! My God Monica look at how you've bloomed! And what did I tell you about calling me Mr. Abbot? It's George."

"Monica, as I now knew her by, looks at the cantelopes she held in each hand.

"Well what are you waiting for sweetheart, give me a hug. But you better put those down before you hurt somebody."

Monica laughs.

"Oh, I was just trying to figure out which was the riper one."

"Oh I could tell you that" Mr Abbot says. "It's whichever one is the softest. Here, let me take a look at those..."

Mr. Abbot looks at me one last time.

"Forget about the jam", he says.


Back at the cash register I stare at the grainy peices of dry skin that hang from the elbows of the lady in front of me. I shove bags of dried fruit to Courtney on my right, who was now helping me bag.

"Young lady, do you think you could help me to the car with my bags?"

"Anything you want miss!" Courtney replies.

"No Courtney" I interject, "allow me." I toss a wink at the old lady.

We trade places again and Courtney gives me an odd stare.

"Oh my, I wish all the cashiers here were as polite and as handsome as you, young man." the old lady says.

I smile brightly.

"You flatter me ma'am. I'm afraid if you inflate my ego anymore, I may just float into the ceiling!"

We all laugh.

In the parking lot I finish loading the last grocery bag into the old lady's car.

"You know young man, you would make an excellent construction worker. You have that... look"

"I work out", I reply.

"That you do young man"

"Please ma'am". I point up at the ceiling.

She smiles.

I open her door and help her climb into the car, shutting it behind her. She rolls down the window.

"Young man, my eyes are a bit weak. What does your name-tag say? Ike... Tyke...?"

"It's Mike ma'am."

"Mike, you have just made my day. I will remember you."

Backing out she looks at me one last time through her rearview mirror. She waves. I smile, waving back. Her beige cadillac spits exhaust as it hovels forward, out of the parking lot and into the street. And with that, the old hag was gone.