Milk, Bread, and Eggs by Ric Myworld
Story of the Month contest entry
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.|
Well, it wasn’t my choice of how to spend half the day, but I headed to the grocery for essentials: milk, bread, and eggs.
The temperature already 87 blazing-hot degrees, and the stifling humidity at 80 before 10:30 in the morning, had me drenched in sweat.
So, muggy . . . I could hardly catch my breath from the instant I stepped outside. And wouldn’t you know it, Bill Miller, my neighbor across the street, motioned me over to add gas and re-start his lawnmower.
Then, the lazy bastard smiled and nodded his approval as he watched, guilting me into mowing the rest of his front lawn. I knew damn well he wanted something; otherwise, he wouldn’t have spoken. He never does. The old sourpuss.
“Hello, Ric, thanks for finishing off the yard. You know, I’m hardly able these days.” Bill’s way of goading me to volunteer for next week’s cutting. Softhearted sucker that I am.
Out of things to say, Bill hesitated . . . and then, continued with his phony pleasantry. “How’re things going with you, Ric?” I almost laughed in his face—because he doesn’t like me, any more than I do him—and couldn’t have cared less how things were going with me.
“Oh, I’m fine, Bill. And how’s the misses?” Me knowing damn well she hadn’t changed. Still meaner by the day, the snooty, gossiping queen of troublemakers.
“Yea, Ric, Mildred said you brought a babe over two nights this week?” Nosey-assed neighbors! Can’t mind their own business and, never miss a trick . . . probably not my best choice of words.
“Yes, Bill, I had company. But I didn’t bring her over. She brought herself. She’s a massage therapist who I normally visit at her office. But she’s started doing home visits, which I like better.” Now, just wait, the old English professor will suggest that I correct my who with whom.
“Oh, Ric, isn’t that illegal?” Illegal, what the hell—?
“Illegal? Why on earth would it be illegal to get a massage in the comfort of my own home by a professional, Bill?”
“Well, Ric, I’ve heard that most of those girls are prostitutes, or at least that’s what Mildred says.”
“Bill, I can assure you that my masseuse is anything but a prostitute. She is a highly talented professional who conducts herself in the most appropriate manner. This is how ridiculous rumors get started, by people spouting off about things they know nothing about.”
Knowing better than to say another word about busybody Mildred and her blabbermouth tendencies. I turned, threw up my hand, then walked away quickly, gagging on my good wishes, “Have a great day, Bill.”
I jumped in my car and flipped the air on maximum. Bill motioned at me again, but I cocked my head, pretended not to see him, and drove off. Figuring if he wanted anything important, I’d find his butt parked on the front porch with beer in hand when I got home.
At the grocery, I found a decent parking place just outside the handicap slots. The boys gathering up stray carts, were griping and sauntering along, joking about old people. I failed to recognize the humor.
Cars coming both ways, they stopped to let me pass as I walked toward the electronic doors. I signaled thanks to both, and they returned the hospitable gestures.
On the way in, the greeter waved and welcomed me to the store. Good ol’ Lois, never without a beaming smile that should warm the good nature within all who enter. One of those sincere people who could make a bull parading to face a sword-wielding matador, with heart-piercing intentions, feel welcome.
Not in the mood for small talk, but how could I have refused to chat with such a lovely and delightful lady.
“Hello, Lois. How are you, dear? Be glad you’re in here where it’s cool. It’s an oven outside.” At a loss for words, people often reference the weather. Men sometimes ask, “How’s it hanging,” but in truth, they’re hoping not very far. And with nothing in common, I sure can’t ask Lois if she’s getting any.
“That’s what everyone is saying, Ric. Then, this evening, the severe storms that spawned tornadoes all over the West are supposed to roll in and wallop us after six o’clock.”
“Yes, heard the forecast on the news. I just thought I’d pick up a few necessities and beat the bad weather. How’s the family, Lois?”
“The family is good, Ric. My daughter Martha is preparing for a big marathon in a few weeks, so she’s been out running about six miles a day, every other day.”
“In this heat . . . sounds like torture. I’m not a runner. If you ever see me running, look out, and find a safe hiding place. The police won’t be far behind, or you should call the paramedics. I’ll be about to get shot or have a heart attack.”
“Oh, Ric, you’re so silly, and you always make me laugh.”
“Aw, thank you, Lois. I just like nice people and you are right up near the top of my list. Enjoy the rest of your day, sweetheart . . . stay cool, don’t work too hard.”
“Okay, Ric, be careful. And take care of that new girlfriend I’ve been hearing about.”
I stopped in my tracks. “What? Girlfriend? Lois, honey . . . I don’t have any girlfriends and haven’t for years. I don't want those I can have. And the ones I want, don't want me. So, I'm not interested.”
“Well, that isn’t the chitchat around town. I keep hearing about some shapely brunette, all tanned and big breasted who has been visiting you about every evening or night.”
“Lois, you can’t listen to all those meddling gossipers whose tongues wag all the time. If they don’t have something to stir the pot or twist out of proportion, they won’t hesitate to dream up a tale on the fly or tell a barefaced lie.”
“Well, I apologize, Ric, if I’ve upset you. I’m just repeating what I’ve been told.”
“You can take it from me, Lois. I’m happily single and not looking. I don’t have stayovers. And I’ll never be the type interested in Tender’s hookup-dates with strangers.”
I smiled, threw up my hand and hurried off, ready to dislodge myself from the absurd accusations.
I had only gone shopping for a few things, but by the time I reached checkout and scanned my items, I had spent $127.43. I loaded up the cart and headed for the car.
No sooner than out the door, I got stopped by sisters Mona and Summer.
Mona spoke first, “Hey, Ric, where have you been hiding.”
“Haven’t been hiding, Mona, just staying home and avoiding the crowds spreading the virus.” I laughed like I was trying to be humorous, but in truth, I’d been doing just that for almost two years.
Summer smiled, her little mischievous grin, cuter than a speckled pup under a little red wagon, or peeking from underneath the sheets, letting me know her mind was wondering, or reminiscing.
Then, she said, “We’ve missed seeing you around, Ric. I’ve kept asking if anyone’s seen you, but so far, you’ve been reported as missing or out of action. But having known you for so long, I guaranteed them that wasn’t the case.” She got the giggles, her hee-haws sounding more like a donkey sitting on a feather.
“It was nice to see you girls.” Attempting a fast getaway. “I’ll be back out soon and I’m sure we’ll cross paths. That is, if the rest of these idiots finally start getting their shots so we can put this pandemic behind us. I’ve had my shots for five months, and we are still below 50 percent. Hard to imagine.”
Mona spoke up, “Yes, Summer and I have been talking about how we need to get vaccinated. We should have done it a long time ago. We’ve just been afraid of what effects the shot might have on us.”
Well, I’d done it again. Open mouth, insert foot. But all I could do was laugh and shake my head.
They were afraid of the effects the shots might have. When the damn virus had already killed 600,000 people in America alone and, caused a 37% increase in our statewide suicides. Smart girls. And a damn good reason for me to stay home. To avoid Covid-19 and bumping uglies to get stupid all over me.
Luckily, Bill and Mildred weren’t out front as I turned down my street. So, I whipped into the drive and pulled around back to get out of sight.
I packed the groceries in through the basement, three-times the work, and grudgingly climbed the stairs.
On my last agonizing trip, I staggered wobbly-legged into the kitchen, clutching the last bags, gasping for breath.
I unloaded and started putting things away. Then, realized three-things missing from my shopping list . . . milk, bread, and eggs.
The very reasons I had gone to the store in the first place.
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