It was at that moment Jerry realized one thing: he hated himself.
He hated himself, and he hated the grocery line he was standing in.
It was long, curvy, and packed seven carts deep with the other idiots who thought, ‘Sunday is a mighty fine day to go grocery shopping.’
Fucking twats- the lot of them.
The idiots who stood before him had grocery carts that resembled avalanches. Their carts were a jumbled mess of random cereal boxes, paper towels, tomato cans, and meat wrapped in plastic, with the red, smooshed juices running everywhere.
And they were piled sky high, like an edible skyscraper. And in one particularly overstuffed cart, he thought he could make out the darkened silhouette of a store employee buried beneath a box of cheez-its.
Apparently, they were going home too.
Jerry stood at the end of the line with a cart much smaller. It was filled with just the essentials. Eggs, bread, lunch meat. Nothing crazy.
And because he had less – significantly less, while everyone had more, significantly more, it gave him a false sense of entitlement. Despite coming to the checkout line later, he reasoned he should be allowed to go first. And this drove him crazy.
He tilted his head left and right, trying to get a better look at the sonofabitchs slowing the line down. He figured if he could just see the faces of the bastards in front of him, it would mean something.
He logically wasn’t sure what it would mean, but he left logic behind the moment he decided to go shopping on a Sunday. He was in unexplored territory now.
But still, he held on to a glimmer of hope. He figured you need hope in dark moments, and this moment felt like midnight. And he hoped by seeing the people in the line, really seeing them, would provide a level of comfort.
So Jerry stood still, making note of every bald spot, blemish, and bad haircut, and wove together a backstory for each idiot like a detective hot on the case. With each cart analyzed for its contents, he felt he was one thread closer to unraveling the mystery of who was in front of him.
The first cart he noticed was filled with carrots. He immediately wondered, who in the Hell needs that many carrots? He’d been alive for 41 years and could count the times he bought carrots on one hand. And if he could go without a carrot, well, shit, maybe you could too. He wrote the idiot off on the spot.
The next cart was filled with nothing short of 128 cans of soda. Jerry lowered his eyes. He pictured pouring all the soda into a large container and throwing a CD in to see if it melted. If it did, he thought about throwing everyone’s groceries into the vat to speed up the line. He’d call it the express lane.
Then, a few carts down the line, a couple stood reading a People magazine.
He noticed the headline. “Celebrities, they’re just like us,” and wondered if any celebrity felt like blowing their brains out after standing in a long grocery line. If they did, he’d call People up and pitch a new section. The new headline would read, “Celebrities, they’re just like Jerry.”
He carried his gaze to the cash register. Standing behind the apron was a young man who seemed to be just as annoyed as Jerry. He chewed gum and moved the piece from one side of his mouth to the other, faking interest in small talk.
“Oh, did you find everything ok?”
“Yep – that’s why I’m in line.”
The cashier nodded, accepting the fault in his questioning, and kept scanning.
Annoyed, Jerry mentally returned to his little corner of the line, stuck his hand into the front pocket of his hoodie, and felt a familiar distraction.
The smooth case of his cell phone rubbed against his fingers, and he could feel the protruding nobs of the volume-up button. A smile grew across his face.
He pulled out his phone, more than happy to distract himself from the world, when reality hit him harder than an uppercut from Mike Tyson.
His cell phone was now more useless than the idiots standing before him.
Worse yet, a frantic ding, ding, ding came screeching from the cash register.
Each ding amplified the anxiety like a chemical reaction in a science experiment.
“Sir, I can’t seem to find the price – I’ll have to enter this manually.” The cashier announced rather mutedly.
Aww, fuck! Jerry sighed.
And then, pandemonium hit.
It’s $2.99! A cry broke out from somewhere near the center of the line. Apprently, he was fed up too.
No- it’s $2.97, a lady pleaded – with a rather convincing tone.
You’re all wrong – it’s free if he can’t find the price!
The cheap bastard smiled and raised his eyebrows in a see-what-I-mean kind of way, trying to gather who was with him.
And as the line slowly turned into chaos, Jerry only knew one thing.
He hated himself. And he hated that damn grocery line.
After a while, the chaos subsided, and he was checked out. When he made it home, it was after unpacking that he realized something that shook him to his core.
He forgot to buy the fucking milk.
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