Oh shit. I found a bunch of old junk I wrote in high school, for random writing classes, and they are painful. Because I get off on looking lame, I am going to share this one piece of feces I actually had the audacity to turn in. AND IF YOU LIKE THAT, THERE IS A WHOLE FOLDER WHERE THAT ONE CAME FROM!
“Put that back. You know your brother doesn’t like Capn’ Crunch,” Val ordered as I loaded up the cart at Giant Eagle with unwanted food. [Ed.Note: I like how I didn’t even bother to call her “mom” when writing things for school.]
“But I like it!” I whined. It wasn’t fair how the world revolved around my brother. [Ed.Note. This tiny line of dialogue makes me realize that I haven’t changed. This could have come from a trip to the grocery store with Henry just last week.]
“So many brands of cereal. But you know what? We’ve discovered that generic brands taste just as good. Plus, you get a whole hell of a lot more.”
Val and I turned around and saw a woman who – if I was pressed to guess- was in her late forties, leaning on her cart behind us. Her scraggly black hair lounged on top of her head. She looked tired and overly stressed, as if she had spent the last couple of nights trying to catch up on her soap operas. [Ed.Note: Here is where, if this was written now, I probably would have guessed she had been out all night working the pole and thrusting her pelt in the faces of bearded truckers. Oh, to have that youthful innocence back.]
“You know, I might have some coupons for some of the junk you’re buying.” The woman reached into her bulging purse.
“Oh, no thank you. Don’t bother. I’ve never been much of an avid coupon user.” Val gave me the ‘hurry-let’s-get-outta-here-before-I-get-stuck-talking-to-this-freak-forever’ look. Once we attempted to walk away, the woman started talking again, as if trying to lasso us back with her unwarranted conversation.
“When I said ‘we’ earlier, I was referring to my husband and myself.” Her face grew dark as she filled with staged sorrow. “Now I’m in a big legal battle with him.” Val knew that she was in for a long chat. “He wants to keep the dog! Can you believe that? My beloved Mitzy! I was the one who brought that dog home; I fed her, I bathed her, I played with her. Not John! No, all he did was neglect her.”
“That’s a shame. Look, I really should be on my way. It’s getting late and I have a baby at home—” Val started nudging me along.
“My lawyer, Mark? He says that he’ll handle the whole mess and that I shouldn’t worry.” I used this woman’s plight as a distraction to toss my box of Capn’ Crunch in the cart.
“I’m sure things will be fine,” Val looked at me, silently pleading for me to help her get away from this strange character, but I’m loving every second of it.
“My husband has gone so far as to lock the shed! How am I supposed to finish my garden with all of my tools locked away in the shed?” A nervous tug on a twisted strand of hair follows.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll get things straightened out. Erin, you about ready to go? My frozen foods are melting.” Val started coaxing me away from the cereals, just as the woman started to open her purse.
The first thing that ran through my mind was GUN GUN OH MY GOD GUN and that this neurotic woman had found her victims. Val, obviously sharing my same sneaking suspicions, backed away in panic.
The woman’s hand started to retreat from the depths of her bag when a voice suddenly boomed from the ceiling.
“Clean up in aisle five.” The clerk’s voice was like a knife slicing through the tension, and it caused us to momentarily break our gaze from the mad woman. When we turned back around, she held out her hand and showed off a shiny…bottle of pills?
“Check out these pills. These are my anti-depressants. Dr. Hutchinson prescribed them to me so that my mood swings can be controlled.” The woman, holding her bottle of happy pills, rambled on and on about her missing son, her kleptomaniac maid, her car that needed new brakes.
It would seem as though Val was offering an unadvertised, pro bono shrink session.
After an eternity had passed, and probably the box of popcicles I hid under the loaf of bread had melted, Val finally spoke up.
“Well…look. I wish you all the best, and I hope that you find your son soon, but I really need to get home.”
“Oh, my. Didn’t you say something about that earlier? I just go off on these tangents sometimes.” She rummaged through her purse and pulled out a piece of scrap paper. “Here’s my number,” she said, clicking a pen. “Why don’t you call me sometime and we can have tea? I’d love to hear your stories someday! I live across from the high school.”
“Yeah, sure. Sure, I’ll do that. Sure.” Val stuffed the number in her pocket and quickly shoved me down the aisle. “Thanks for all the help back there,” she hissed, pinching me under the arm. [Ed.Note: MY MOM ABUSED ME.]
“What? You mean you didn’t think she was lovely?” I dead-panned.
“Listen!” Val stood stock-still. The mad woman’s voice trailed from the neighboring aisle.
“Oh, you shouldn’t buy those diapers! I used Luvs for my baby. Im in a custody battle with my husband, by the way. He wants to take my daughter away from me!”
Turning back toward me, Val said, “Well, I’m ready to go. How about you?”
“Yeah, now that Supermarket Schizo has a new victim.” [Ed.Note: Wow, I sure was witty.]