Since Henry was a dear and preparing all the food for game night, I agreed to make the journey to the grocery market to get the stuff he needed. All by myself. Alone. Me, in a grocery store. Solo.
To make my trip easier, Henry was nice (smart) enough to make me a list. (He spelled ‘vegetable’ wrong.) But at the last minute, I panicked and begged Christina to come with me.
And thank god. She showed me how to choose good peppers. "Ew, no, that one’s bad." I’d pick another. "Um, no, that one’s bad too." I’d pick another. "OK look — when there’s mushy spots, that means they’re bad."
Christina picked the peppers.
Giant Eagle was out of pumpernickel rounds (I kept calling them boats?). I panicked, but Christina assured me that we would get the damn pumpernickel somewhere else.
I made friends with an old lady. Her cart was jutting out in the middle of a very critical thoroughfare, blocking my advances. We made eye contact and she threw her head back in joyful old woman laughter, pulling her cart back for me. I saw her a few minutes later as I was bounding out of an aisle acting like my cart was a plow, and nearly collided with her. I pulled back and let her pass. Her face moved into an exaggerated expression of relief and we laughed. I kept talking about her after that and Christina had no idea what was going on. I think she thought I had an imaginary friend. I wish.
There was an older couple in the beverage aisle and I hated them immensely but I’m still not sure why. Christina said they weren’t that bad. Oh, they were in my way, that’s why. But then I forgot about them when we approached the snack aisle and I realized with great excitement that Kenny Rogers’ "You Decorated My Life" was plunking away quietly on the sound system overhead. I lifted my arms in graceful ballerina motions and, in my signature "I’m Excited" fast talk, rambled, "I used to make up ballet routines to this song and dance on my mom’s front porch when I was little!" Christina, distracted by a Wise potato chip sale, mumbled that she knew, I had already told her, and that I made her listen to that song once in the car because it was on one of my Greatest Lite FM Hits mixed CDs. She threw two bags of chips in the cart and we moved on.
While looking for sour cream (for some reason, this was the item on Henry’s list that Christina had latched on to the hardest. She was intent on finding it and very concerned that we might forget it), some older broad approached us and very seriously asked us to point her in the direction of Pillsbury pie crust. At first we thought it was because we looked knowledgeable and approachable, but then we figured it was just because we look like we like pie. I told her to try the freezer section, but Christina realized it was a few feet down from us, with the rolls. Thank god for Christina, else that poor lady might have been lost and devoured by the freezer section. But I didn’t really care.
At the check out, I started to feel nervous. I’m a notorious tight wad, and the thought of spending money on all that food frightened me. But then I realized that my purse was at the bottom of the cart, giving the illusion of a full load. "Oh thank god, it only just looked like a lot of food," I sigh, hand on chest. My purse is super gigantic. I could be Mary Poppins. If I liked kids.
We loaded all the bags in the car. Well, Christina loaded all the bags in the car while I played on my Blackberry. At the end of the parking lot is a beer distributor that my dad’s family once owned, so because I’m always using my brains, I suggested that we just walk down there and take care of the alcohol acquisition while we were out.
"My dad used to bring me here when I was little," I told Christina as we crossed the parking lot. "I’d have a fucking field day climbing atop all of the stacked beer cases and crawling through the tunnels that the tight aisles made. I’d have so much fun there." When we walked in, I wondered if my dad’s brothers would be working. I thought my dad had mentioned recently that they still work on weekends, just for the fun of it. But I only saw some middle aged man that I didn’t recognize.
We grabbed a case of Woodchuck. Well, I pointed to a case of Woodchuck and then Christina hoisted it up. As we neared the register, the customer in front of us turned to leave, revealing another man behind the counter. It was my dad’s dad.
My dad, though he adopted me when I was nine, is essentially my step-dad, and if you want to get nit-picky, he’s not even that anymore because my mom divorced him back in 2001. But we get along, not so much that I could legitimately say we’re close, but he’s a nice guy and I enjoy seeing him.
His dad, however, is another story. I haven’t seen my Grandpa Kelly in about ten years or so. He has an extreme case of OCD — he’s been hospitalized for it and he pretty much thinks he has AIDs anytime he uses a public restroom. The last time I went over his house, my dad met me outside and gave me a refresher course. "Don’t talk about your cats! Oh my god, he’ll have a fit. And don’t let him know you smoke! Just…don’t talk. Don’t talk, OK? And don’t pick up things from the floor." It was Father’s Day, I believe, and he didn’t even come out of his room anyway.
Christina dropped the Woodchuck on the counter. And I’m standing there, just standing there awkwardly with my arm extended limply, credit card and ID cinched between my thumb and forefinger, and he’s staring at me. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me, was trying to place my face, or was just zoned out because let’s face it the dude’s about eighty-five years old now.
I cleared my throat. "I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m…" Crap, what’s my dad’s name? "D-Denny’s ….. stepdaughter. Erin? I haven’t seen you in many many years."
He continued to stare at me, his eyes were pearly and milky behind large glasses. Something registered and he gave his head a sharp shake. "Erin! Oh, Erin, why, how are you? What are you doing buying beer, young lady? You’re supposed to be this big!" He held his hand out by his thigh, indicating the height of a child. He flicked his eyes toward Christina and I introduced her. He took her hand and held it in a lingering clasp. I was shocked that he was touching a stranger’s hand. Especially Christina’s, that dirty Mexican.
"So, where are all the contestants?" he asked, looking behind us. We shrugged and look at him confusedly. "All the contestants….in the beauty pageant."
This was a line right up Christina’s alley and she played him like putty from that moment on. It’s kind of sickening how she has the ability to flirt with old people. She’s like the physical embodiment of "wink wink, nudge nudge" and her cheesiness makes me uneasy sometimes. While they bantered, I grabbed a handful of jerky for Bob. I wasn’t sure what kind he was always dyking out over at work, but I knew it wasn’t Slim Jims, because the kind that MSA offers in the vending machine "blows Slim-Jims away."
"Erin was just telling me how she used to come here and climb on the beer cases," Christina schmoozed. Grandpa Kelly waved his arm out toward the store and told us to have at it.
"Eh, I think I’d do quite a bit of damage now," I grimaced, while Christina was yammering on something about "wait until we drink some of this stuff, then we’ll come back and play" and I realized at that point that she should really start wearing leisure suits while trying to pick up helpless women at the gym. I wanted to leave. It was hot in the store and kind of uncomfortable being leered at by this old man that I haven’t seen in ages. He scrutinized my drivers license for too long and he rang us up at a snail’s pace. I’m quite sure his tenure at the beer distributor should have ended ten years ago.
He kept making comments about how I grew up to be such a beautiful woman, and the way the words were passing through his old man lips made my vagina beg for a staple gun. Sleazy. Which is probably why Christina forged such a quick rapport with him.
The middle aged man came back into the store and Grandpa Kelly had him carry out the case to my car. I tried to talk him out of it, insisting that we had parked too far away, but he made it clear that it was his job. So this younger man heaved the case up and Christina fake-flirted with him too, the whole way back to the car. She’s such a sexual predator.
"You having a Super Bowl party?" he asked, with just a touch of Pittsburghese.
"No, we’re having Game Night," I said, opening the car door for him. Christina and I laughed about that later. "He probably thought to himself, ‘Isn’t that what game night is?’" I mocked on the ride home.
The next day, I called my mom and told her of my run-in.
"He still owns that place," she corrected me. "It’s just not called Kelly’s Distributor. It never was, I don’t know why they had all those shirts with that on it."
And that asshole didn’t hook me up! He could have at least thrown in the jerky for free. Bob didn’t even eat any of it.