“Are you serious? Damn, okay, yeah, tell him—tell him I need to talk to him tonight, I’m good after six. Yeah, thanks.”
Welles hung up his phone and let out a deep groan as he stood there, shoved into a corner at Trader Joe’s. This was not what he wanted to deal with today. He had assumed after leaving the office that the goons would be able to handle a simple smash and grab but of course, he was wrong.
He walked across the store in a zombie-like trance. A few minutes ago, he had felt like he had just entered grandma’s garden to pick out some succulent food for the week while he worked from home. Now it felt just like any other grocery store, the food around him wasn’t exactly a choice; it was a necessity of his survival.
“Dammit, Mugsy,” Welles muttered under his breath as he took a box of Kashi cereal off of the shelf that he really didn’t want to eat. “Maybe I’ll get some strawberries to go with it…”
Welles turned his head robotically and pushed his cart towards the produce section. And then he saw them. The game changer.
He pushed his cart over to them and picked them up. They looked so beautiful in his rough hands. Immediately, he felt connected to them. He had to own them.
And then another thought. Eggs! Salsa! Jalapeños! Onions! Beans!
He abandoned his cart and ran across the Trader Joe’s, nearly tripping on his overcoat in excitement. He grabbed onto a carton of eggs and popped it open. None of the eggs had any cracks. Because these were the eggs for him. This was a sign.
The jalapeños came to him just as easily. But as he scooped them up, an anxiety he had never felt before slammed him like a truck. He couldn’t just get eggs, tortillas, and jalapeños, right?
No. He couldn’t.
Because he needed cheese! How could he forget the cheese?
He ran towards the cheeses, vaulting over a pile of oranges, and landed before the cheeses with precision.
There was a Jalapeño laden cheese. That sounded really good, but was it excessive? Would it excite him? No, he needed to mix it up. Do something crazy. But wait, wasn’t having two Jalapeños flavored items in his tacos insane?
He smiled to himself, looking around with childlike wonder. Tortilla chips! He had to put tortilla chips in the tacos! And of course have some rice on the side…and oh my gosh, was that corn on the cob really just thirty nine cents?
He paused as he held an ear of corn in his hand, his thumb brushing against its hair. He was a wealthy mob boss. Definitely in the one percent of society. Should he really get this excited about something so ordinary?
Of course he should, thirty nine cents for corn is insane! These people are insane.
He ran through the store, swiping item after item off of the shelves. Faster and faster he went, plucking more and more things that caught his eye. He wasn’t even checking the nutrition facts! He was a mad man! A lunatic even!
Suddenly, he stumbled over, his foot snagging on an abandoned eggplant that was to never be eaten. Welles fell flat on his face, dropping everything in his hands. Rubbing his forehead, he craned his neck up from the shiny floors to the sea of everything he had intended to bring home. Getting onto his knees, he shuffled over to the middle of the mess, scooping up the egg crate.
He bit his lip, opening the crate to find that all of the eggs had been crushed in the tragedy. He winced, dropping the eggs on the floor, the yolk dripping onto his hands.
Falling onto all fours, Welles took in a deep breath, trying to hold back the tears that were now inevitable.
Welles looked up to see a pony-tailed girl standing above him, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt that concealed a skeleton shirt underneath. Her name-tag read “Bertha.”
“I’ve lost control of my life,” Welles said in a hollow voice, getting back to his feet, feeling like he had just wet the bed.
“Groceries are dumb, dude,” Bertha lamented, picking up a shattered glass of Vodka sauce, pouring what was left onto the floor.
“Yes!” Welles cried out. This was just what he was thinking.
“You should just eat Kashi cereal my man. Shit’s good for you.”
Welles nodded along to the rhythm of Bertha’s voice, making his way back to the cereal. He reached forward and grabbed onto the box of Kashi. Turning the box on its side, he read the Nutrition Facts. This was exactly how he felt when he held his son in his hands for the first time.
“Can I put jalapeños in this?” Welles asked, reminiscent of the grandpa who was Googling for Google.
“Dude, it’s Kashi. It’s what you want,” Bertha said as she tossed the bag of jalapeños back to Welles.
Welles stared at the two food items in his hands for a long time. That fourteen grams of fiber was hard to argue with.
Welles looked up, brow furrowing. Clapping a hand to his mouth, he exclaimed, “What the Hell is that?!”
Bertha turned, ponytail whipping behind her as she followed Welles’ pointing finger. But what she turned to see was nothing out of the ordinary. Just a normal day at Trader Joe’s before her. Turning back to Welles, she saw him missing. Looking down to her feet, all of the fallen food items had been retrieved.
Bertha’s eyes widened. Was this…free will?
Bertha trudged over to a wall of pickle jars and stared at it for a long time. Narrowing her eyes, her fist lashed out and smashed a jar. Blood streaming from her knuckles, she plucked a pickle out of the debris.
She bit into the gherkin hard enough to tear into it but to not snap it. And then, with her tongue, she sucked the pickle dry of all of its juice and spat it onto the ground, her life forever changed.