Grocery Store Blues

Diane Payne

Norma stands there, not exactly caressing the mango, more smelling the mango while giving it a little squeeze here and there. “Hard to know which mango to buy,” Norma says to the young woman reaching across her to grab a bag of apples. “Wish I was that quick with making decisions.” The young woman looks at Norma with annoyance, then opens her coat to point at her tee shirt. “That wasn’t necessary,” Norma mumbles as the young woman races away. “Who wears a tee shirt that says that?” she asks the man filling a bag with broccoli crowns. He opens his coat and points to same shirt. “Oh,” she laughs. “I thought it said shit,” she whispers. He looks at his phone, and before walking away says, “Maybe I’ll cross out the letter p. Be more accurate.”

Norma notices that most the shoppers are not only dressed in jogging clothes, but are staring at their phones. Unable to get around a few shoppers filling their carts with the cans of soup on sale, she points to her junk mail envelope and says to no one in general, because, in general, no one is listening, “Call me old-fashioned. I like to write my grocery list on paper. Can’t always read my writing though.” Ha ha ha goes unnoticed.

She notices a couple shoppers wearing bright green tee shirts declaring: Same-day Grocery Delivery. Instacart. She taps the tee shirt person closest to her and asks him if he’s shopping for someone else. He rolls his eyes, then says, “Yeah, or I wouldn’t be wearing this stupid shirt.” Off he races to get in line.

“Imagine that,” she says to a woman with a young child in the cart. “People pay them to do their shopping. I like picking out my own groceries.”

“If I had the money, I’d hire someone to do my shopping. Getting him dressed to go to the grocery store takes up an hour of my day.”

“But it’s an hour your son will remember fondly. He gets to see people and learn about shopping from his mom. I keep thinking I’ll meet a man while I’m picking out carrots, you know, a single man to date. Isn’t that funny? At my age!”

She looks at Norma and decides she’s older than her unmarried mother. “Maybe I should suggest that to my mom. She hasn’t been on a date in years. She’s more of a wine woman than a carrot woman so maybe she should spend more time looking at the wine than drinking it at home all alone. Good tip. I gotta run.”

“Your baby will like that, you running down the aisle. Thanks for stopping to talk with me. Isn’t that what grocery shopping is all about? Chatting with neighbors?”

“Yeah, right,” she says before taking Norma’s advice and actually running down the aisle, son laughing in the cart. Norma shoves her grocery list into her pocket and runs behind them until she picks up enough speed to step on the cart and cruise down the aisle. She pulls funny faces and the baby laughs. “This is what shopping is all about,” she says to no one in general because, in general, they’re still too busy looking at their phones.

Notre Dame Review, Obra/Artiface, Reservoir, Southern Fugitives, Spry Literary Review, Watershed Review, Superstition Review, Windmill Review, Tishman Review, Whiskey Island, Quarterly, Fourth RiverLunch Ticket, Split Lip Review,The Offing, Elke: A little Journal, PunctuateOutpost 19, McNeese Review, The Meadow, Burnt Pine, Story South,and Five to One


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