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  • Writer's pictureGary Gruber

Not a Wise Crack

The bag boy had accidentally dropped a gallon of water on the floor and it exploded like a miniature H-bomb early this afternoon. The staff were pretty quick in controlling the mess and the damage -- circling the liquid muddle to keep customers from accidentally slipping and sliding into a quick and easy lawsuit.


The young lady behind me appeared to be about 30 and was wearing a halter top and one of those sets of spandex pants that leaves little to the imagination. Pretty much the opposite of what I'd consider sexy. I don't like that word; I'd rather use alluring or fetching if I wanted to let my mind run wild about what makes a woman look attractive. Personally, I pretty much think it's what you don't see, not what you do see, that gives an air of mystery to a Pretty Woman -- and lets your thoughts rock and roll.


She didn't have more than five or six items on the conveyor belt. The checker was a nice lady, perhaps in her mid-40s, with a contagious smile. She asked the young woman with her butt crack shimmering back and forth between the Hershey Bars and the bags of beef jerky to please take her items to aisle #4 to check out. They were doing their best to contain the spill and prevent a logjam in the market.


Miss fancy pants looked straight at her with the thousand yard stare you'd expect from a Vietnam War veteran who was jaded from all of the action he saw overseas. She didn't budge. The checker was wise enough to not ask her twice, and just let it go. I get a little riled at scenes like this because it seems to add a vulgar punctuation mark to the lack of common courtesy that plays itself out so frequently in public that few of us gasp or sigh when we encounter such overt efforts to dehumanize one another and push us back into the Dark Ages.


I let it slide -- and whipped out my American Express card to handle the plethora of fauna and flora moving from the endless belt to the bagger to my cart again. Every time one of these candles of sanity gets extinguished in a moment of vanity and narcissistic pleasure, I can almost see the sun beginning to dip below the horizon for the last time.


I thank the checker and the bag boy and start moving the exceptionally heavy and unwieldy cart towards the exit. I'm sure by this time Miss Butt Crack 2023 is just grabbing her own little bag of muffins and Cheese Wiz, her mind aimlessly drifting towards whoever gets to stare next at this wildly overdone casserole of human sexuality.


I have just about moved her into the basement of my memory warehouse as I cross paths with a woman in her early 80s or thereabouts on her way into the market. She has fashioned a face mask out of three or four pieces of paper towel and has frantically pushed them underneath her glasses in an attempt to protect herself from whatever beastly viruses are floating in the air today.


My mind reels back to the cantina scene in the original Star Wars and I want to scream out “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”, but I am genuinely frightened by the reality of those words at this point in space and time. I hurry towards the car, my arthritic wrists overloaded with the weight of 40 pounds of cat litter, a dozen bottles of water, and the mishmash of the rest of my purchases.


Frantically, I throw open the rear gate of my aging SUV and begin to quickly pile all of my goods inside as my head rotates on a swivel looking for #3. “Bad things come in threes” -- I remember that warning from my childhood and I am waiting unceremoniously for the other shoe to drop.


I quickly push the empty cart into the concrete divider in front of me and scurry around to the driver's side, hoping I can make it out of here alive one more time.


The most prescient words of the late Hunter S. Thompson begin ringing madly in my head: “It just hasn’t gotten weird enough for me yet.” I assure you it has. If I can just make it home to Phyllis and the cats, I know I’ll be fine. I draw in a long deep breath, hoping that whatever madness has contaminated the air today is not already working its way through my nervous system to what’s left of my brain.


I get home and my lungs explode. I draw the drapes, take the phone off the hook, and dim the lights. Safe at last.


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