(a short story by Timothy J. Verret)

Damn! I parked the car at the wrong entrance! Now I have to walk all the way over to the other side to go in!

He wasn’t always this lazy. It’s just that things were different now. There was more loss taking place. There was more hope losing out. There was just him sometimes and no one else. It was just that way often enough. He didn’t like that one bit.

His mask was on, even if others wore opened-up faces of dread and despair, and he did manage to get a shopping cart that rolled okay if you like bumpy rides. Something told him to look straight ahead as he pushed the cart forward. There was certainly no chance of him going backward (from the store, I mean), and not even a look to the left or the right was deemed acceptable and certainly it was not worthy. Just forward ho! “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to hell we go!”

Why am I even here? What did I need to get? Oh, yeah, a remote control.

His dog had chewed the last two. God, he loved that dog but enough with the chewing of the remote controls, furry friend! He wanted to know what was it exactly in a remote control that made it so darn tasty to that dog. I guess it was a chew toy for the dog, but why not chew off his own arm, he questioned, than that dang remote control? He could always grow back another arm, but a remote control cost money. And it’s not like he was addicted to TV or anything….the man, not the dog. He only watched a few things here and there, mostly DVDs and Blu-Rays of movies he loved so much that brought him all tears but no laughs. But, back to the remote control, this was about obedience, was it not? Yeah, right, like he was in any position to be telling the dog to be obedient when he lacked the same thing in spades.

Of course, they put the remote controls at the back of the store, so I can buy things along the way like I was in some sort of scavenger hunt with the store’s fortune to leave me penniless!

On his way to get the remote control, something strange happened. He met some masked faces that were hiding not just their mouths and noses from death. No, it had nothing to do with their mouths and noses but had everything to do with their eyes that were windows to great pain and great unease and great misfortune. Their eyes said to him, “I have simply given up hope.” These men and women wished they had made these same masks to cover their eyes so no one would see all the hurt and disappointment they were carrying that weighed more than their filled cart of groceries. He knew this because he was one of these men and women.

Just go get the remote control, go to the checkout, buy it, and get the hell out of here!

Oh, if only life were that simple! No, he had to meet these men and women all along the way. He had to say, “excuse me,” when faced with them for a buy that they were blocking, only to get nothing back from them, not even a wink and certainly not a smile as the mask did not afford that. He had to see people throw things in their cart as though they were dropping bombs on the city. He had to see people hunched over their carts as though they had walked a mile and certainly more than that in his shoes, forgetting their own. And he had a long way to go to the back of the store, and he just wasn’t sure he was going to make it there. He really was at war with the rest of them and he just wanted to surrender. He wanted to disappear.

Just get the remote control and get out of here! I know it seems like you are in a war with these sad and angry people, but you’re not! It just feels that way, and you know you gotta keep those feelings in check, right?

He looked over all the many remote controls available, deciding on the cheapest one because he figured that dog was going to chew this one, as well. And he got the 2 AA batteries, of course. He thought he was home-free until he realized he had to go all the way back to the front to check out, which meant more angry people and more “excuse me’s” with nothing back, more bombs dropped on the city, and in the end more of them but less of him. And all that happened, though not in that order. And he probably wouldn’t want to admit this right now with the urgency involved, but he did buy some food and stuff, too, though that was not part of his plan. And he checked out nicely and the cost of it all didn’t bother him one bit. That kind and loving government!

See, I told you that you would get out of here in one piece. Now, just put the bags in the car and light a cigarette and drive home to that dog you love so much who chews your remote controls. Remember: That dog is all you got in this craze-filled world!

He pushed the shopping cart to the car to unload but the whole time, he had his eyes to the skies.


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