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Zones (or, Herbert Dreams of Shopping)
“I have zones,” Helen Frodert told her husband as she handed him his portion of the shopping list.
Herbert reviewed it. This was his mission and there was no turning back. He set off to the produce section and found the first three items, bananas, green beans and garlic. He wasn’t sure how, if at all, the three items might relate. It was a question he would consider when they shopped. He would look for meaning and reason in their purchases. Coffee creamer might mean he would be drinking coffee or it might mean they were having company and Helen was getting something special. He would string the purchases together into extravagant meals, exciting social engagements and evenings of passion. Once she’d put two ripe avocados on his list in the produce zone and he’d spent fifteen minutes testing them to find the right one. She’d grown concerned and came looking for him. When she found him she said he’d been fondling them. He disagreed. They agreed to disagree and later that week he had ham and Swiss cheese on a croissant with guacamole for lunch.
Herbert was in front of the dairy case looking at nothing in particular. He was wondering why he hadn’t bought egg nog over the holidays. But he remembered that Helen hated egg nog and thoroughly disliked Christmas. He considered this and decided that it was just as well since egg nog was bad for him. It was then that Helen called out, “Herbert, what are you doing here?”
He turned to see her with her shopping cart two-thirds full and her portion of the list all but finished. “I was looking at the dairy section,” he answered truthfully.
“You are in the wrong zone,” she said.
He looked at his list and saw that he was supposed to be in the crackers and cookies section picking up crackers. He gave her a little nod and went to find that aisle. Later, with all the items on his list collected he went to the front of the store. He stood there for some time, waiting for Helen.
Someone came out from a cashier’s station and pointed at him. It was Helen. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Waiting near the registers you normally go to,” he answered.
“You are in the wrong zone,” she said.
Herbert joined her and they completed their purchases.
Later, that night they had a simple but satisfying meal which included the green beans and garlic, but not the bananas. They went to bed early and it was clear to Herbert that the meal and the night were meant to be one of passion. He tried to show Helen some attention in a subtle manner. But Helen said, “You are in the wrong zone.”
Herbert rolled over and went to sleep. That night Herbert dreamt of shopping.
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