Finally! After trudging along the speckled, reflective tiles for what seemed like days, we made it to our long sought after destination: the checkout line. No longer would I be subjected to the passing, tortured gazes of my fellow brothers and sisters. No longer would I cower amidst the drowning shadows of the towering shelves. My mother had a heaping carriage of groceries, and it was time to go home.
Perhaps I did well in subduing my intense boredom and could coerce my mother into buying the Holy Grail of candies, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a consolation for my steadfast endurance and unwavering patience. My salivary glands moistened at the thought.
I thought I’d play it safe; being too assertive might botch my chances. I attempted to think of some infallible design. Perhaps a subtle hint to inform my mother of the existence of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? I instantly spouted an ingenious grouping of words. “Hey, Mom? Did you know that the peanut butter in a Reese’s is made of mashed up peanuts?” The words resonated from my maw with the passion of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.
My mother forwarded her loving gaze in my direction. “What? You tryin’ to tell me you want some candy?”
Were my intentions really so transparent? No matter, the window was now open, and I was sure not to miss my chance. “I haven’t had a Reese’s in a while, and I forget what it tastes like,” I said with incomparable confidence.
“Fine,” my mother’s angelic voice sang, “put it in the cart.”
Mission: success! I reached for the shelf and gently wrapped my fingers around the Reese’s in a delicate yet secure fashion. I circled my thumb around the smooth surfaces of the peanut butter cups, made my way outward to the pointed chocolate ridges on the rim. Every groove I passed over was met with the climb and descent of another. I repeated this pattern over and over again as I tried to account for each ridge.
It took me some time to depart from the candy, but I was assured that we’d be reunited once we were cleared for checkout. One more shopper stood between me and the perfect assortment of chocolate and peanut butter. My profound excitement was well warranted but was unexpectedly interrupted when a flurry of frightening words left my mother’s mouth. “Oops, I forgot something. Watch the cart for me.” The words echoed throughout the store, reverberated off the walls, and silenced all foreign sounds.
Before I could object, she was off to find whatever item called out to her in desperation in the last retreating moments. Her body was swallowed by the frozen food section as she disappeared from my line of sight.
Panic engulfed my mind like a wildfire as the shopper in front of my emptied the last of her items onto the counter for pricing. What if my mother failed to return in time? What tortuous procedures would I be subjected to?
And, then I heard the cashier howl the fateful word, “Next!”
I looked about frantically, attempting to make a connection with my absent mother, but to my dismay, she wasn’t anywhere in sight. The cashier barked another order, “Let’s go! Pull your cart forward!”
I did as the banshee commanded and pushed the carriage until it collided with the metal shelf with the sound of clashing swords.
Her lips parted and made way for a flurry of spittle as she hissed, “Plastic or perishables?”
Plastic what? Perishables? In the deafening turmoil, the words might as well have been Latin to me.
“Sir, if you can’t make up your mind, you’ll have to make your way to the back of the line.” Chaos clouded my judgment as I mindlessly obeyed her command.
I didn’t remember hauling the cart to the back of the line. All I remembered was the pungent smell of beef stew and starch wafting from the man in front of me and the look of wrath on my mother’s face as she rounded the corner and slam dunked a bag of frozen peas into the carriage.
I put on my glossy eyes of innocence as I stuttered a pathetic excuse. “The c-cashier said that I-I-I needed to go to the back of the line.”
“I asked you to do one thing, Billy. One thing!” The words flowed like lava from her mouth. “You can’t follow one, simple instruction?” She reached into the cart and dangling the Reese’s like it was the focus of a public execution. “Then, no candy for you!”
As she bitterly slapped the candy back alongside its kin, a creeping darkness began enveloping my mind as oblivion came to conquer my consciousness. All saliva retreated from my mouth as I collapsed upon the cold, hard tiles.