Image By: Derrick Tyson
Elvis walked down the beverage aisle in his casual yet imperious manner. His hips swayed, his lip curled and the large golden eagle medallion that hung low on a thick rope of gold swung. Behind him his wife, Priscilla trotted along pushing a cart into which Elvis casual flung bottles of Bubba cola and bags of chips. She smiled at him and he was indifferent to, but possessive of, her. Herbert Frodert watched them from the corner of his eye and mentally checked off another interaction with the store’s regulars.
Elvis and Priscilla weren’t Elvis and Priscilla. At least not Priscilla. Herbert had named them that when he’d first noticed them at the store four years ago. Elvis, who he thought might work construction, was in his late fifties and wore the tinted glasses favored by Elvis Presley toward the end of his career. He always wore a pompadour, with long sideburns and had his gold chains with the eagle medallion. Priscilla, who was a fit and petite brunette in her early forties, favored capris, but occasionally wore crops or cigarette pants. She always had on full make up and usually had her hair in a hive. Herbert thought he might have seen Priscilla in a bouffant once, but that had been on one of the rare occasions she wasn’t wearing capris.
Herbert was making his slow tour of the store, gathering items from the list as his wife, Helen, ran side errands to other parts of the store. This arrangement had been working for them over the last few months; since the incident with the avocados and being banned at the new store. Herbert found it agreeable as it gave him a pattern to follow, rather than a zone to explore. It also made it easier on Helen, who could estimate with some precision Hebert’s location in the store at any given moment.
Turning into the cereal aisle Hebert found Tiny Tim struggling with the question of what sugary cereal to get. He was looking at the premium brand name sugar flake cereal, while holding the box of the store brand sugar flakes. Herbert grabbed a box of wheat bran and left Tiny Tim to his crisis. He knew how it turned out, Tiny Tim always bought the store brand. No one came to this store for the name brand products. In the paper product aisle Sam Kinison was yelling at his girlfriend about the toilet paper she was selecting. She was yelling back at him about his “fat, pimpled ass” and Herbert moved on before the store security guard came over to escort them out. Tiny Tim and Sam Kinison had started shopping at the store in the last two years. Tiny Tim worked in a big box electronics store and Sam Kinison was a minister whose church was a few blocks away on MLK Boulevard. It seemed to Herbert that the regulars were mostly from a particular era, but not one he could easily categorize. In the meat section he saw Rosanne holding up a picnic pork roast and considering it. Rosanne had been shopping at the store as long as he could remember. She’d been there on his first day, in the meat section, picking among ten pound bags of chicken wings. He’d never spoken to Rosanne, Sam Kinison, Tiny Tim, Elvis Presley or Priscilla in all the time he’d been shopping there. There were a few people who he passed light conversations and comments with, clerks, store managers and one particularly funny security guard. But, like a fan in the presence of a star, he felt it was better to leave these regulars alone to do their shopping.
“I got the mushrooms,” Helen said, slipping in beside him behind the cart.
“Sam Kinison and his girlfriend were fighting again,” he said.
“I know, I saw Sinbad throw them out,” she said.
“He doesn’t look like Sinbad,” Herbert said.
“And Elvis isn’t from the Ukraine,” Helen said.
Hebert said nothing.
“I’ve got to find the paprika,” she said. “I will meet you in the frozen goods.”
Hebert nodded his head. Helen kissed his cheek and was gone. Rosanne nodded at him as he turned the corner down the next aisle and he nodded back.
For the next two aisles Herbert thought only of his list. He was heading up the frozen goods section to where he would meet Helen when he saw something that shocked him. It was someone new. The new person was a woman in her late thirties. She was wearing a pinstripe suit with wide lapels, a light blue blouse, a single gold chain, black pumps with a two inch heel and she had designer purse. Hebert knew about the purse because of the knock offs he would see some of the regulars carrying with them in the store. The phone she was holding was one of the newer ones and her hair style was from the present decade. She was clearly lost.
“No,” she said into the phone, there is nothing I can do about it. They cut the entire division.”
There as a silence on her side and then she resumed. “I had to let her go. I’m going to have to cut everywhere in the budget. I’m doing the grocery shopping right now.”
Herbert cruised on past and heard part of the other side of the conversation, “You haven’t done grocery shopping in years.”
“I know. But I have to start doing it again now and I have to do it where I can afford to,” she said, and became choked up. “I’ve got to go. I’ll call you after I get home.”
Herbert arrived at the far end of the frozen goods section, near the case where the ice cream was and he waited for Helen. He tried not to stare at the woman as she looked through the cases, cringing as she read the contents. It seemed to him that she was having a bad day, possibly one of the worst in her life. He saw the tears start to flow and then he saw Rosanne turn the corner. Rosanne ignored the weeping woman until she had to ask her to pass her the cottage cheese. The woman was partially hiding in a diary cooler.
“You look lost,” Rosanne said, what Hebert had previously been thinking.
“I lost my job today. I’ve got to shop for my kids,” the woman sniffled.
“Tough break. What do you normally buy for the kids?” Rosanne asked.
“I don’t normally shop for them at all.”
“Ah, that kinda fall,” Rosanne nodded sagely. “How old are they?”
“My son is fifteen and my daughter is twelve,” she said, regaining her composure.
“Ok, well then we need your basic high density fuel,” Rosanne said and led her back to her cart and up the aisle.
Hebert watched the two women as frozen burgers, frozen vegetables and frozen snacks were placed in the woman’s cart. They disappeared around the corner into the meat section. A few minutes later Helen arrived with the Paprika.
“I just saw the strangest thing,” Helen said.
“I saw Rosanne in the meat section with someone who looks like a young Judith Light.”
“You know, Who’s the Boss?”
“Oh, yeah that’s where I knew her from,” Hebert agreed. “What were they doing?”
“Rosanne was explaining about crockpots and pork roasts and Angela-“
“That was her character’s name in Who’s the boss, Angela Bower.”
“Oh, ok,” Hebert didn’t like this going with character names as it broke an unspoken rule but he let it pass.
“So Angela reaches into the cooler and pulls out a goats head and nearly screams. Rosanne calmed her down and explained that people use those to make soup,” Helen said chuckling.
“The goats heads are always a shock for newbies,” Herbert said following Helen down the aisle as the Big Bopper sang “Chantilly Lace.”
By the time Herbert and Helen were done shopping Johnny Burnette was singing the 1960 pedophile anthem, “Your 16” and they got into the checkout line behind Priscilla and Elvis.
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