Friday, February 25, 2011

The Costco Diet

Some days you just need a day off. Not really a vacation, just a break, you know? I did that the other day, just tried to relax, but I started to feel stir crazy. I washed the car, and remembered how dirty my neighbor’s car usually was, and figured I’d surprise him and hit with the hose. But it wasn’t there, he must have had the same idea.

So I went around the house and realized we hadn’t upgraded to those new energy saver light bulbs, and I went to Costco. I haven’t been there in ages. It’s kind of skeevy, but we paid for the membership, and it was getting ready to run out. So I figured I might as well use it.

The parking lot was packed. Another reason I skip going there. I had to park all the way in back, between two beaters, and on the long walk to the entrance, I saw the Gunderssons’ Subaru. It looked like he’d already gone shopping, so I figured I missed him.

They don’t let you in unless you have your card, and I had mine somewhere, and was digging around for it when Will Gundersson walked out of the restroom, saw me and jogged over.
“He’s with me,” he said.
Same old Will. Scruffy blond beard and glasses, he had a Devils cap on and a hoodie, like a kid.
The greeter gave me a look, if you can imagine that, but let us pass.

“Hey, Will. Saw your car in the lot. Still no time to wash it, huh?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Just never saw the point.”
“Pride, man.”

We pushed our carts slowly down the wide aisles. A lady was hawking cheese on crackers in an uneducated monotone. Will adjusted his cap, then stepped up to take one of the paper muffin cups, all neatly lined up, each containing a little cracker crowned with goo.
“Brie. Want some?”
“No thanks,” I said, and patted my not-as-flat-as-I’d-like stomach.
“You’re looking good, Will. Been hitting the gym?”
“No, just watching what I eat.”
He smelled like he came from the gym.

We made our way toward the back. His cart had a jacket stuffed next to one of those giant boxes of cereal, that just seem kind of off. Like those knockoff Lego pieces.

“Hey Brett, how’s business?”
“Getting by. How about you?”
I saw the light bulbs I needed, and ditched my cart to duck down the aisle and grab them. This place is so disorganized. Cheap enough, but you felt like you were in a bread line here. Part of the reason I stopped shopping here was it irked me to pay for membership, like it was some sort of country club for people without money.

When I got back, Will had joined a group of people surrounding a black lady serving food from a little metal grill, like at the school cafeteria. She had plastic gloves on, and I never saw the point of those. I mean yeah, I don’t want your hand touching my food, but if you touch everything else with your gloved hand, it defeats the purpose.

There were already people behind Will, like pigeons peering to see what she was giving away. I got in line next to him.
“What’s she giving away, cars? Like Oprah?”
“Cheese steak,” he said. “The best sample. They don’t give these out all the time.”
“You know, your yard’s looking a little ragged.”
He didn’t answer.
The lady handed him a muffin cup with his little cheese steak. It reminded me of the cheap cafeteria food at school. She offered me one and I was about to say no, when Will cut in.
“Yeah, he wants one,” he said around a mouthful.
She pushed it into my hand, and we moved along. Before the line turned cannibal.

“You sure you don’t want that?”
I shook my head, and he took it.
“We’re not in the house anymore,” he said.

We navigated around the back, where the refrigerator cases are. We stopped at each sample station, each took one, and I let him have mine.
“How are the kids, Will?”
“They’re great, just great. They’re with Melinda.”
“Tell them Nate says hi.”
“Oh, sure.”

We’d come full circle, to the registers.
“Well, uh, I have to go back and get a few things,” he said.
“And Will, I’ll uh, let you know if anything opens up.”
“Thanks, Brett. I’d really appreciate that.”
“You look good, man, really good.”

I got in line, and watched him push the cart over to the restroom area, and change coats. He took off his hat, and put his glasses in his pocket. Then he put a coffee maker in his cart, one of the pod kinds, and slowly pushed it back toward the cheese lady.




© 2011 Tommy Salami

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zombies Calling

The zombie apocalypse was long foretold as a rather exciting bit of bother involving shotguns and chainsaws, but the reality of it is rather depressingly boring.

The Zees shuffle about their daily lives much as they did before, twiddling their thumbs, ignoring everything in their path. They bump into you with nary an ‘excuse me’ or a ‘sorry,’ mumbling to themselves sometimes, laughing like idiots, shoegazing shamblers in mental oblivion. There’s a bit of excitement when they shuffle into traffic, ragdoll physics in action. The fresh ones spray blood, the matured snap crackle and pop like breakfast cereal.

It was disconcerting at first. Undead, as opposed to unliving. Somewhere inbetween. I can see the attraction, because life isn’t much but a repetitive daily lever pull to get your fish biscuit, and hope the Scientist doesn’t shock you today.

Speaking of scientists, they carved a few up, of course. They talked of supersoldiers, or the end of physical labor. But Zees can’t follow even the simplest task. Pure lizard brain. Like a loop of adverts gone haywire in their heads. You can't even get the buggers to look up. They did manage to scan groceries, but the issue of hygiene came up.

The normals, as we call ourselves- don’t we always think we’re the normal ones? We thought about the shotguns and chainsaws, in the beginning. But they left us alone, so we lived and let live. No reason to go all Sir Paul McCartney, and let die. There’s so many of them, it would take months. Imagine the pure monotony of it.

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Hack hack stomp. Dig dig dig. And no fish biscuit.

Really, what would be the point? The only thing it would accomplish is making the world smell somehow fouler. None of the zombie movies ever mentioned the revolting fact, that the first task on the to-do list of the newly unliving is the Voiding of the Bowel. Moaning “brains” isn't even on the page. Commence Rotting, that’s somewhere down the line, but Ye Olde Pants-Shittery is A number One, right ahead of Walk Even More Bloody Slowly During Morning Rush.

If I were clever I’d make it Number Two, but who’d laugh?

At night it’s worse. You can’t go to a pub anymore, with a brain-dead fellow who’s shit himself bellying up next to you, ordering a pint that never comes. The barman’s not going to pour it, and the Zee wouldn’t notice anyway. They operate purely on muscle memory. Glassy eyes staring down, alight with sickly glow. Smelling sickly sweet.

Have you ever smelled sickly sweet? Pardon me for using that old trope. There’s nothing sweet about it, unless there’s a chocolate bar melting in the corpse’s pocket, is there? Whoever came up with that one? I’d hate to see what they put in their tea, if that smelled sweet to them.

Sometimes I watch from my window as they shuffle along. Monks holding candles. Thumbing away and texting my remaining friends who fingers haven’t rotted off. Watch a video of them stumbling off train platforms into the abyss. The first one got saved. A hero, they called him. Now the heroes are the ones who give them a little nudge. Nudge nudge wink. Say no more. Ha Ha Ha.

They say you don’t even notice, when it gets you. It just sort of happens. Your eyes stay down, one hand out, a blithering smile. It got the younger first, then the businessmen, now even codgers slip into the dead drool shuffle. You hear the exasperated loved ones droning on and on about it at the office. Really, we’ve all lost someone. No use whining out loud about it. Sob sob sob. Put a memorial on their Facebook page, and be done. Maybe they’ll “like” it. Click clack click.

For example Alice, she’s practically hysterical. Bitch bitch bitch. I’m just trying to get to the water cooler for my break, and have a bit of fun thumbing away at my phone game. It’s not my fault she didn’t look where she’s bloody going, is it? I don’t know why I’m headed there. I’m not even thirsty. But it’s break time. I’d heat my lunch if I were hungry. No fish biscuit. Dum dum dee.

Coffee, then. Down the elevator. Ooh, alone? That never happens. Splendid isolation. Tap tap buzz. Ha ha ha. Door opens. Starbucks left. Right left right. Walk don’t walk.

The taxi hits me knees first. Faceplant on the bonnet, phone shatters on curb. Arse over tic. Here comes the bus.

Snap crackle pop.



© 2011 Tommy Salami

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everything's Coming Up Roses

My roses win at the County Fair every year, even though I tell my secret to anyone who asks.  They say Myra, how do you get them to bloom so red and full? And I tell them it’s the blood. Some folk find it unsavory, but nothing has quite the nitrogen count as blood meal!

In the old days, we used rabbit blood. My husband Henry set in the vegetable patch and would blow their little brains out, and I’d drain the blood and make a stew. Those things are all bones. Hardly worth the trouble. The blood would fertilize the rose beds, it’s really the best thing for it. Now Henry’s gone, so no more rabbits. It’s just little old Myra, holding down the fort.

You know who else was famous for her roses? General Robert E. Lee’s mother. In fact, when the Yankees took his land, they buried Union soldiers in her garden, right up to the front door. Isn’t that just awful and childish? When you have a disagreement, you should at least keep your manners. What did his mama, or her roses ever do to anyone?

Yankees can be downright uncivil. Like the family who moved onto Maiden Lane, after old Miss Dufresne passed away last year. Has it been that long? She nearly made it to ninety, still driving every day. Almost backed over the Lassier child with her wagon! Bless her heart. Thankfully the Good Lord took her before she caused a tragedy.

The Yankees, or the Meltzers I should say, they came all the way down from New York. If you pardon my language, they’re Damn Yankees, since they’re the kind who stayed. After the storm, now that property values are low. And what did they do, they took out Miss Dufresne’s lovely live oak, and put in a basketball hoop. See what I mean? Now instead of shade and songbirds, we get to hear her Mr. Meltzer slam dunking, or whatever they call it, all through tea time.

He works from home, if you can call it work. For all the basketball he plays, he can’t be working much. Now, I know you’re thinking I’m a lady who lunches and has nothing better to do but grow award-winning roses, but I taught school in the Ninth Ward for nearly forty years, so I’ve done my share. Teaching the tough kids, with metal detectors on the door! I confiscated my share of straight razors and even snatched a little mother of pearl pistol from a boy’s belt once. Made the papers. Pistol-packin’ teacher mama! His parents didn’t see it that way, when I dragged him by his ear to the security office. That’s why I had to retire.

There’s such meanness in this world.

And the first thing the Yankees did when they moved in was get themselves a dog. They won’t stake him in the yard, no, he’s “free range,” like the chicken she keeps asking where to get. You want free range, put a coop out back. You can feel good about eating local, as they call it, and you can give me the blood for my roses.
But no, she keeps asking every week. Like something’s wrong with Mr. Cathaway’s market for not carrying it.
That dog of theirs kept rooting in my garden, digging up my bulbs. I told her I use fertilizer and chemicals, and it’s not safe. The street’s getting busier now, with all the new folks moving back, I said.
But “Darcy,” as they call their chocolate Lab, remained free range.
Would you believe she had the gall to look surprised when he didn’t trot home one evening, when she rang that tacky dinner bell she nailed to Miss Dufresne’s lovely porch?
First thing next morning, she was knocking at my door and shouting on my front step.

“Mrs. Carling? Hello? Anyone home?”
Henry’s truck was in the drive. She could’ve just waited a moment.
“Well good morning, Mrs. Meltzer! How are you this lovely morning?”
She wore her shameless jogging outfit and a pair of those Hollywood sunglasses, which she did not remove. “Have you seen Darcy anywhere?”
“Would you care for some chicory coffee? I just made a pot.”
“Was Darcy in your yard last night? He never came home.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not the neighborhood dogcatcher. Though there’s a pound over by the rendering plant. You might want to check there.”
“Did you turn him in? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I did no such thing.”
“Well if you see him, Brett’s home, can you ring the bell? Thanks.”
Then she jogged off without even a goodbye. See what I mean? Uncivil.

My memaw, she always told me, Myra, you have to kill ‘em with kindness. So I went next door, and interrupted Mr. Meltzer’s “work,” by ringing the bell.
“Come in,” he hollered.
He was on the couch in a track suit, like one of my students, not a grown man. His computer on his lap.
“Hey, Miss...”
“Mrs. Carling,” I said. “I would like to have you and Mrs. Meltzer for tea when she returns from her constitutional. You were never properly welcomed to the neighborhood, and I find that uncivil.”
He snickered. “Like the war?”
“Are you referring to the War of Northern Aggression? Bless your heart. You made a little joke there! Well yes, please come over for tea and biscuits. They’re organic. Not sure if the eggs were free range, though.”
“Seeya then,” he said. Didn’t look up from his computer once.

They came over for tea time, in their exercise clothes. Really!
“Good biscuits,” he said with his mouth full. Yer darn tootin’ they are, Yankee boy!
Even his wife had one, that skinny thing. Baking and roses, my specialties.
“So, did you ever find your pup?” I asked.
“No, he’s just plum disappeared,” she replied, with that mocking tone.
“Oh, I have a feeling he’ll turn up. All the birds come home to roost.” I sipped my tea.
“Can I have another biscuit?” he asked.
“Of course!” When he reached for one, I gave his finger a squeeze.
“You’re fattening up on Southern cooking, I see!”
“It’s so good.”
“Have another one, Miss Ann.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t. They’re great, but really, so fattening. Do you use lard or hydrogenated oil like Crisco?”
Her husband’s head thumped on the table, but she, oh she gave me a run for my money, I tell you. I had to hold her by the ear and use a straight razor from my desk.
And waste some of that lovely fertilizer!
Bless her heart.





© 2010 Tommy Salami

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