Tales from a Grocery Store

Hello again, dear readers. Happy November!

I realize I haven’t blogged in a while, and I’d like to apologize yet again to anyone who visits this page on a regular basis. As of right now, three or four posts are in the works; I plan to get those out within the next month. In the meantime, here’s a short story I wrote last year for a journalism class at King’s. As always, your thoughts, critiques and praises are welcome. Enjoy!

“Tales from a Grocery Store”

A baby screams from his stroller, his mother frantically trying to shush him while balancing eggs, bananas and a carton of milk in her arms. The child inadvertently kicks an ill-placed stack of apples and they tumble off their display and onto the floor, a few of them smashing upon impact, others rolling away to places unknown. The mother looks around for help, but none is to be found; the butcher is not at his station behind the deli counter and there are few customers here today.

“Please stop crying, Jamie,” she says to the baby in a soothing voice, although the look on her face tells me she’s on the verge of tears. “Mommy is so sorry she had to bring you with her today, but Daddy’s on a business trip and our babysitter is on vacation. Can you be a good boy and stop crying for a little while?”

Jamie doesn’t listen to his mother. He continues to scream bloody murder and I realize that my headache from earlier is rapidly getting worse. The mother looks at me imploringly, noticing that I’m not carrying any groceries and that I don’t even have a shopping cart, but I’m busy struggling with the reality that this is how my Sunday has turned out.

I’ve always regarded Sunday as a universal day of rest during which I sleep in, finish my homework and catch up with various TV shows that I missed during the week. However, my roommate Rachel has convinced me that I’ll starve to death if I wait until Tuesday (my usual grocery day) to buy food. Flawed logic aside, I figure there’s some truth to her words which is why I’m with her right now. I’ve only known Rachel for two months, but in this short time it has become clear that the fourth-year Dalhousie student is smart, funny and great at giving advice. Her energy is infectious and I can now personally confirm that she has little trouble convincing people to do things with her, no matter how mundane the activity might be.

We’ve just walked from our house on South Street to the Atlantic Superstore by the waterfront. It’s a surprisingly warm day (for October) and our faces are red from exertion as we survey the empty-looking store before finding shopping carts. As the baby’s shrieks get louder, Rachel makes a beeline for the fruits and vegetables and I follow suit, half-heartedly tossing items into my cart and paying little attention to the price stickers. A minute later, I glance over at Rachel and am slightly alarmed to see that she is using her BlackBerry to take a picture of a large, deformed-looking fruit with dark green skin.

“Don’t mind me. I’m weird sometimes,” she says by way of explanation, then walks over to me and rests her forearms on the edge of my cart. “This store totally has a better selection of veggies than the one on Quinpool Road, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it does,” I agree. “But here they have about twenty different types of mushrooms and I don’t know which is best for making a stir-fry.”

“I do!” she says enthusiastically, gesturing towards a section of small white mushrooms and handing me a brown paper bag. I take the bag and look at the mushrooms wearily, unsure if they’ll be worth the effort.

“Take ten, and make sure they’re not wimpy-looking,” she instructs me in a businesslike tone. “You can use my sunflower oil to fry them later.”

I thank her as I try to distinguish the wimpy mushrooms from the apparently stoic ones. The baby’s shrieks are getting louder and all I want to do is get home and collapse in front of the TV. I start to wonder if Criminal Minds is on, then suddenly remember that a Friends marathon was scheduled for today.

“Oh my God, Gazalla, we’re missing the Friends marathon right now!” Rachel gasps, somehow reading my mind. “Shit. Think it’ll still be on by the time we get home?”

Avoiding her eyes, I mutter, “Not at the rate we’re going.”

Rachel smiles and gives me a knowing look before taking off in search of white cheddar cheese. Fifteen minutes later, she is laughing and tickling baby Jamie, who has stopped crying and actually looks cute with his dimples and flushed cheeks. Mother and baby are behind us at the checkout counter, so Rachel and Jamie’s mother make small talk while I load my items onto the conveyor belt. As I hand my debit card to the clerk, Rachel steps forward to unload the items from her cart and cheerfully calls out, “It was great meeting you, Lisa! And Jamie, you little cutie-pie…make sure you take care of your mommy, all right?”

When we finally leave the store, I’m carrying three heaving, overstuffed bags and a 12-pack of Nestlé water bottles. What we hadn’t realized earlier was that the South Street bus stops running at 5:30 on Sundays; it is now 5:45. I take a moment to let this sink in, closing my eyes as I do so. This is the cherry on top of a crappy day, and right now I’m struggling to keep my cool. My arms and back are already sore from effort and, thanks to my heavy sweater, I’m sweating like a cold glass of water on a hot day.

Rachel’s shoulder-length light brown hair glistens in the sun as she turns to look back at me while she talks. I smile and nod where appropriate, but she can see that it’s a struggle for me to concentrate on what she’s saying. This prompts her to offer to carry some of my grocery bags. She asks me twice, once as we pass a bus stop and again as we start our ascent up South and towards our house. I decline her offer, mostly because she’s not a donkey and I don’t want her to feel like one by making her carry my bags.

As if right on cue, I trip over a twig on the pavement and the heaviest of the three bags slips from my grasp, landing with a thud on someone’s grassy lawn.

“Okay, I can’t take it anymore,” Rachel says, exasperated. “I hate seeing people in pain. Hand ‘em over!”This time I don’t resist, although I can’t help but hesitate when she grabs the bag from the ground as well as one of the ones I’m carrying.“Rach…are you sure?”

She’s already smiling, as if she anticipated that I would give in and then immediately question her generosity.

“Of course I’m sure. It’s what good friends do. Plus,” she adds with a wink and a flex of her toned bicep, “it’s a great arm workout.”

As we continue up the hill, my headache grows smaller with each step I take and my smile grows larger. My whole body will be aching tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve just discovered that Rachel is truly a wonderful friend. I know she’ll help me get through it.

One thought on “Tales from a Grocery Store

  1. Dad says:

    Nice story Gazalla, good thing I wasn’t there or else you’d have made me carry you on my back, up the hill – as I once did on a steep hike when you were younger….Dad

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