Grocery Store


Grocery Store        



Luke and Breanna push a trolley into the Country Foods, a cornucopia of colors and cans under a high, flat ceiling.  The light shines bright and fluorescent. “I can’t do the math for the groceries, I can’t do the math anymore,” says Luke. 

For the past few days, he’d been having dizzy spells.  When they parked, he left the engine running in the truck and walked away.  Breanna turned back and switched off the ignition.

“You’re anxious,” says Breanna.  “You’re always over dramatizing, Luke.  Let’s just live a normal life, like other people."

“I think it’s more than anxious” Luke replies.

He holds tight to the trolley. He knows Breanna’s never been big on weakness.  She’s pale and thin and always moving.  It’s hard to keep up.

“Wow, I wonder if they have any more Roman Gods Yogurt,” she says.  She snaps her fingers to the upbeat background music.  “What a great store,” she says.  “Let’s go find what dead stuff is good to eat.”

Luke looks over.  “Why do you talk that way?”

Breanna sighs.  “It’s funny, it’s very funny. I mean, the food is not alive.  But we make it live again through our consumption.   We turn it into energy. I think that’s miraculous, don’t you?”

Luke nods his head.  “That does seem amazing.” he whispers.

“What?” says Breanna.  “I can’t hear you.”

            “Amazing,” Luke repeats.

All around them there’s shelves full of bags, boxes, cans, rows of goods stacked up for the milling shoppers, who poke and look and stand in the way.

“These fruits are immigrants,” Breanna says.  “Fresh off the boat.  I wonder if there’s any local tomatoes.”

“Tomatoes don’t grow here this time of year,” Luke tells her. 

“Greenhouses,” Breanna says.  “Local tomatoes live in greenhouses.”

She pulls a jar of honey off the shelf to check the due date.  “This came all the way from Turkey.”  She turns the jar upside down.  “Probably rich with pesticides.”

“That’s looking on the dark side” says Luke.

“What do you mean, the dark side?” she says.  “I’m joking.”

Luke’s knee and hip hurt, and his cane isn’t much help. 

“People keep bumping into me,” he tells Breanna.

“I like locally grown,” she says.  “I should write a story about this banana,” She picks it up. “You know, about its very traumatic journey across the sea.”  She looks closer.  “How come these never get bruised?”

A couple of little kids scream by “milk! milk! milk!” they yell, and jog Luke’s leg.

“Those kids sure have a lot of energy,” he says, as their mother examines the celery.

Breanna reaches for some gluten free cereal.  “This stuff tastes kinda flat, but it’s good for you.  Why isn’t there ever any diet pop?” she continues.  “This place never stocks enough.”

Luke leans on the trolley, pushes it back and forth.  He likes the feeling of the wheels moving.

“Havarti is 5.99 here,” Breanna holds a package to Luke’s nose.  “It’s 6.29 at Bowron Bay Market.”

“An amazing deal,” whispers Luke.

They reach the meat department.

“I want to buy some chicken,” Brianna says.

Luke has an interesting thought.

“You know how that chicken got there?  It had one hell of a journey, just like the banana.”

“O.K.,” Breanna says.  “You’ve turned me off the chicken.”  She grabs a tray of beef instead.

“It’s only an opinion,” Luke insists.  He finds another clear idea. “If you don’t buy the chicken, someone else will.”

They move up to the cashier, past the last-minute displays, “I need popcorn,” says Breanna.

Luke’s heard about popcorn getting stuck in people’s throats, or was that chicken throats?  Or maybe some other animal.

“Popcorn’s not good for you,” he says.  “They say it causes cancer in rats.”

Breanna shakes her head.  “When I came into this store, I felt happy.”

Luke puts the items on the counter conveyer belt.

“It was a joke,” he tries to smile.

“I don’t like jokes that aren’t funny,” Breanna answers.

“Hi,” says the cashier, an older lady in glasses and a brown uniform. “Are you having a good day?”

Luke moves to the other side of the counter.

Outside, two workers lift a giant Y, a six-foot-high letter, part of the grocery store sign they’re replacing. Luke sees them straining, he remembers he could lift a mighty load like that all by himself at one time.

The clerk glances up.

“The cleaning’s done once a year,” she says. “What a back-breaking job.”

“Yeah, my shoulders ache just watching them,” says Luke.  He puts his cane in the cart along with the groceries and starts wheeling everything outside.  The couple move towards their car as the workers affix the letter Y to the wall behind them.  Luke stops for a moment and watches.

“Hey, there’s Arthur!” says Breanna.

Arthur stands outside the store sitting on a walker.  He has his hat open on the ground before him.  “I’m gonna give ten dollars to Arthur!” she says.  “He looks good today.”

Luke glances at the panhandler.  He’s never been a beggar, and he wonders what made Arthur that way. 

“Why don’t you give the money to the cashier as a tip?” Luke says.  “She could probably use it better.”

Breanna explodes.  “All day you’re miserable, you’re putting me down and I can barely hear what you’re saying.  This is one thing I want to do to make me feel good and you slap me in the face.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m not slapping you in the face,” says Luke.  He lifts himself up into the truck.  He sits there for a few seconds then slaps himself twice.  “I’ve got to wake up,” he says.

A big man with a walrus moustache walks by and stares at Breanna and Luke.

“You’re embarrassing me in public!” Breanna says.  “Stop that.  Stop that right now!”

 “I already stopped!” Luke whispers.

“I only wanted to give Arthur a little cash, and you freak out,” Breanna continues.

Luke rubs his face where he hit himself.  “Please.  Give him the money.  I’m sorry.”

“Only five-year-olds do tantrums,” says Breanna.  “Are you a five-year-old?”

A stout woman in a brown outfit hustles across the parking lot, she’s scanning the cars, holding and waving a blue wallet.  Breanna jumps from the truck.

“Hey, cashier, over here!” shouts Breanna.  She calls to Luke. “You must have left it in the store.  Are you sick or something?”

The cashier jogs over.  “Hello, I noticed the gentleman set it on the counter.”  She peers into the truck, at the bags of groceries and the comfortable seats, at the clean and intricate instrument panel, at Luke, the silver wedding band on his left-hand glinting in the sun’s reflection.

“Wow, you folks are so lucky!” she says.  “You have so much.”  She hands Breanna the wallet.

Breanna leans forward “Here’s ten bucks,” she says.  “Thanks for coming out with Luke’s wallet.” 

The cashier looks surprised but takes the money.

“You’re welcome,” she says.  “I like to help.”

She stuffs the ten dollars in her shirt pocket as she heads back towards the store.  Luke notices the giant “Y” is now successfully in place.

Breanna starts up the truck and drives through the parking lot.

“That’s some hard work they’ve finished,” Luke says.  “I used to like hard work.”

Breanna stares straight ahead and clutches her husband’s wallet in one hand, and the steering wheel in the other “I want to get home safely” she says.

Perhaps I am like a five-year-old,” Luke thinks.

He watches each street as they pass.  He tries to remember the names, instead he recalls walking to the grocery store with his mother.  Everything looked bigger, stronger.  For a second, that doesn’t seem so long ago.  The streets and the people changed, but his life came full circle, and he feels small again.


Breanna and Luke arrive at their house, and Luke goes to the T. V. room.  He looks around, finds a pen and paper, writes down his age, then tries to multiply it by twelve, to find out how many months he’s lived.   It is the same as if he were five, he can’t figure it out.

He stares at a photo of himself and Breanna at the casino.  He thinks they’re winning.

“What would give her happiness?” he ponders.

The harder he thinks, the more one thing comes to mind.

“I should’ve let her hand Arthur the money.”

He walks out the back door and heads in the direction of the grocery store.  He pictures Arthur sitting outside the store, waiting.

“I’ll give him that cash,” he thinks, and the wish to do this propels him forward faster.  “I’ll buy Breanna some popcorn.”

He doesn’t need the cane.  The problem with his knee is the rock in his shoe, and he’ll remove that rock as soon as he arrives at the end of the block.

“I will think in a clear and positive way,” he repeats to himself.  “I won’t joke around.”

He approaches the street sign at the corner. He doesn’t hear Breanna calling him to help unpack the groceries.

“I’ll make things right,” he thinks.  “I will give her happiness.”


Kim Harrison


I live and write out of Victoria, Canada, recently retired as a teacher of special education.  Work has been published in Ariel Chart, The Horror Zine, Spank the Carp, Liquid Imagination, The Chamber Magazine, The Blue Lake Review, Horla, Hobart, and others.   

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post