As soon as I heard myself say, “I’m gonna fill the car up at BJ’s on my way back from the gym,” I knew I had made a mistake.
I swear I could see my wife’s ears perk up, cocker spaniel-like. “Oh good, I’ll make a short shopping list.”
For the uninitiated, BJ’s is a Costco wannabe warehouse where they sell laundry detergent by the ton and ketchup in hundred gallon vats. For the unmarried, “short shopping list” is a phrase as horrifying as “President Trump.”
Seeing no way out, I accepted my fate like a man. I made a tsk sound with my tongue, rolled my eyes, and mumbled, “Okay.”
I walked into the stuffy warehouse, the air smelling like the inside of a cardboard box left out in the rain, and instantly regretted ever marrying; upon hearing the whoosh of the giant ventilator fans, I regretted having ever been born. The customers looked like hordes of looters grabbing the biggest boxes of whatever they could carry. Entering hell, I joined the pack.
Only a few wagons were available. The one I chose, not filled with candy wrappers and torn coupons, was sticky to the touch and made a “bababoom, bababoom” sound with every rotation of the left front wheel.
Penance. I must have done something to deserve this.
I shuffled around the store, hearing what sounded like the murmur of mummies searching through bins of sweatpants and swim trunks, not to mention the grumbling from deep withing my own stomach. I negotiated a 48 pack of toilet paper into the wagon, a carton of four dozen eggs and a supply of coffee in case the Russian army dropped by for a visit.
“Sir, would you like to try this delicious new…”
“I would,” I said. A woman, wearing a white net cap and sitting behind a portable stove, handed me something on a toothpick that looked like chocolate but tasted the way fish food smells. I ate it anyway, asked for seconds, and bababoomed away, hungrier and far more uncomfortable than before.
Defying the laws of physics, not to mention the law of averages, everything on my list was located on the other side of the store and my legs were reminding me that I had just put them through a workout at the gym.
“Twenty minutes on the treadmill and now this?” I could hear them complain.
I had just one more thing on my list. Dial Soap. Easy. I hiked to the aisle marked, ‘Soap.’ Nope. All I could find were jugs of liquid soap, dishwasher soap and detergent.
I broke down and asked a teenager in a blue smock pushing a hand truck. He looked at me like I was a fool to be looking for soap in an aisle marked Soap.
“Bar soap is at Beauty Supplies,” he said, adding, “The other side of the store.”
“Never again,” I told my wife when I finally got home and collapsed onto the living room couch for a nap.
I would have gone to the bedroom, but it was on the other side of the house.
Wayne Scheer has locked himself in a room with his computer and turtle since his retirement. (Wayne’s, not the turtle’s.) To keep from going back to work, he’s published hundreds of short stories, essays and poems, including Revealing Moments. He’s been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.