rage. . . AS AN OPTION


     It happens. I was in the check out line at the super market reading the covers of the gossip rags when the first lady in line discovered she didn't have enough cash and held the rest of us up while she went to the courtesy counter to cash a check. Next, a woman with three screaming kids in her cart took turns unloading the cart and unloading on her kids. Another super market person walked over and whispered something to our cashier who then placed a closed sign behind the man's groceries ahead of me. "Closed. Break time," she said, snapping her gum.

     I looked around and the three people behind me scattered to the other open registers and I just stood where I was. Thinking. Thinking about whether I really needed these groceries and thinking about how much crap I'd taken all day from my boss and from my clients. How fitting an end to the day.

     "Tell that guy he might as well move to another aisle," gum snapper said to the man in front of me without so much as a glance my way. Her ear was rimmed with earrings, hair unkempt, and her attitude sucked. I wasn't a person to her. I was an orange traffic cone blocking the path between her and her precious break. The man in front of me turned my way and shrugged a what can you do shrug.

     "Mirsky!" my sales manager, Feldman snapped. "Get in here." The rest of the salespeople pretended not to hear. They kept their heads down as I walked the cubicle gauntlet to Feldman's office.

     "What's up Chief?" I ask, not really wanting to know.

     "Mrs. Crenshaw called and said that you've promised her you'd have an open house for the past three weeks, but you haven't shown up on Sundays. What gives?"

     "I've been real busy." I tell him, putting on my sincere face.

     "Mirsky, don't put on that sincere face with me." Feldman snarled. "Mrs. Crenshaw has lots of friends and she can turn off her referral spigot anytime at all. Open house Sunday. Call her now."

     "But . . . Chief . . ."

     "Now!"

    

     I began to unload my cart onto the conveyer belt. I was trying to think pleasant thoughts. It wasn't easy. I envisioned myself picking up this check-out twerp and running her through the scanner until her break was over.

     "I'm going on break, Mister, read the sign. The sign's right there. You better put that stuff back in your cart and go to another check out," she said finally acknowledging my presence directly.

     I continued to unload. An eight pack of toilet paper. Why do commercials call it toilet tissue? Is there a second product that I'm not aware of? Dial soap, two six packs of diet Pepsi, . . .

     "What are you doing?"

     . . . a dozen cans of store brand cat food, large bag of Double Stuff Oreos, a loaf of Grossinger's seedless rye, Mancini's roasted peppers, two cans of anchovies, hot dog relish, a half-gallon of 1% milk . . .

     "Hey mister. . . "

     . . . red kidney beans, Campbells chicken rice soup,

     "Hey Mister! . . .

     . . . twenty pound bag of Kibbles and Bits, a red onion, box of frozen White Castle Hamburgers, six comice pears, . . .

     "Are you deaf? I said I'm closed," the checker said as she put the last of the man's things in a flimsy plastic bag.

    

     Mrs. Crenshaw was the least of my problems. I was supposed to pick up the Wong family at their motel this morning and give them a tour of the area and show them a half dozen homes and I blew it. I woke up with a hangover so bad my hair hurt. I lay down in the tub and left the shower on. I woke lying in cold water an hour and a half late. I called the motel and the Wong's message said that they were going out with a competitive firm-a more reliable one. At one this afternoon Mr. Wong called to tell me that they just put a deposit on a four hundred thousand dollar house. "You were right," he said cheerfully into my voice mail. "When you sent me the pictures you said that I'd love this one best. You said it was perfect and you were right. Thanks, Mirsky. Our new salesman wouldn't have known about it if it wasn't for you."

    

     . . . Tide, red seedless grapes, romaine hearts, large chocolate Jimmies, two cans of garbanzos, (why do some people buy garbanzos and some buy chick peas?) box of Bachman's Sour Dough Pretzels, large jar of store brand hot chunky salsa, . . .

     "Hey!" yelled the checker.

     . . .jar of Smucker's Seedless Raspberry, six cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, cantaloupe, . . .

     "Manager to aisle six. Manager to aisle six."

     . . . bag of frozen peas, two cans of Libbys Corned Beef Hash, package of Egg Beaters, plastic container of crumbled Gorgonzola, three plantains. . .

    

     "Mr. Wong bought Sue's listing, the colonial on Amherst Drive. Did you know that, Mirsky?" Feldman asked.

     "Oh."

     "We could have had both sides of that transaction, Mirsky. What happened? Weren't you supposed to pick up the Wong Family at the motel?"

     "Shoot. Was that today?"

     "Yes, Mirsky," clenched teeth Feldman said. "It was today. I know for certain because I gave you that referral."

    

     . . .Koskiosco mustard with horseradish in the drinking mug, two cans of Bumble Bee Tuna in water, a three pack of Bounty paper towels, Colgate mint toothpaste in the stand up container, package of Hebrew National Knockwurst, a six pack of Yoo Hoo . . .

     I initially stopped at the store for cat food and milk. I could have gone to the quick check-out line and been home by now. Principle. That's the name of the game. I'm going to win one today. I caught the checkout girl leaving as I bent over to get the fifty pound bag of kitty litter. I saw her out of the corner of my eye.

     I actually felt the rage subside as I stood there at a checker-less counter loaded with my groceries. Power. I now had the power. I could create a scene with the manager and then he surely would have someone ring me up quickly, or I could just start knocking stuff off of the conveyer onto the floor to show my displeasure, or I could just leave it all and walk out. No way was I going to give them the satisfaction. Just like my co-workers sneaking peaks from their cubicles, I knew I was being watched by customers and employees alike--all of them expecting a show of displeasure of some type. "Screw them," I thought.

     I began returning everything to my cart and when I was finished I backed it up and went to another line. I even surprised myself. The shortest line had three people in front of me. No one turned around to look at me or offer any condolence or encouragement. It was like not making eye contact in New York.

    

     I left a message with Mrs. Crenshaw on her answering machine apologizing about the open houses but assuring her that I would be there from one to four this Sunday. I canceled my golf game and two hours later Mrs. Crenshaw called and told me that this Sunday was no good because she was having family over. "But I'll expect you next Sunday, Mirsky," she said sternly. I called the guys to resurrect my golf game but they had already replaced me. I walked across the street to the Cafe and had two Bloody Mary's and a bowl of pretzels for lunch and when I came back I listened to my voice mail.

     "Dad, Mom says you haven't paid her in two months and that's why we can't go to the movies and have to use one ply toilet paper," my sixteen year old son David began his message. "I can pick up the check for Mom when I pick up the car tomorrow night. I know you won't mind about the car'cause it's an important date. Thanks."

     "Mirsky, this is your mother. Elaine, the mother of your children called and said you stopped sending her checks three months ago. What kind of creep did I raise? Pay her."

     "Mirsky. This is Mr. Wong. Did I mention to you in my last message that my company is bringing over six more people? Please send more photos so I can give them to the other agent and make their house hunting go quickly also. You have a good handle on our needs."

     "Mirsky. Hey buddy. Mikey here. My cousin's in from Philly--you'll love her. Funny lady. How about Friday night? Call me."

     "Mr. Mirsky. This is T. Robert Pender. You listed my house four months ago and I haven't heard from you since. Are you planning to put a sign up? My other friends have signs up when their homes go on the market.

     "Send a check or I'll call your Mother again," a voice from the past threatened.

     "Mirsky. Feldman here. The deposit check you took last week for the ranch on Forest Rd. bounced. Think of something creative and drop by my office."

    

     The lady in front of me pushed her groceries toward the cashier and smiled at me as she put the plastic divider down. I began the unloading process again.

     Fifty pounds of kitty litter . . .

     "How many cats do you have?" the nice white-haired woman asked smiling. "I have a tabby and an Angora,"

     "I don't have any cats. My wife is incontinent," I smiled back.

     Her eyes teared and she turned away.

     Anchovies, Bumble Bee tuna in water, Tide, hearts of Romaine, Colgate tooth paste in the stand-up container, a six pack of Yoo-Hoo, red seedless grapes, a large jar of store brand hot chunky salsa . . .

     She was heading towards my aisle with her cash drawer. This ear- ringed, gum-chewing, snotty cashier, was bouncing up and down as she walked and mouthing words to a song. She was obviously renewed and energized by her break. She stood waiting until the woman in front of me was rung through and bagged and only then did she put her drawer into the register. She hadn't looked at me at all. I kept loading. Bachman's pretzels, Smuckers Seedless Raspberry Jam, bag of almost frozen peas, container of crumbled Gorgonzola . .

     Moving her lips as she counted, she finished with the pennies and moved on to the nickels.



Back to Chapbook / Collections

© 2017 Paul Beckman’s Short Stories • Rights Reserved.
Palm Tree Creative