Monday, June 4, 2007

The Grocery Store

I don’t read tabloids. I am not into celebrity gossip and I don’t believe in the Loch Ness monster or Miracle diets, but now and again, I’ll pick up a copy of the Weekly World News. Standing there at the grocery store waiting interminably for some high school dropout to methodically work their way through the evidently arduous and time consuming process of picking up items and passing them briefly over a scanner, I am occasionally sucked in by some ridiculous and inflammatory headline. Batboy marries Sasquatch, Pope meets with space aliens, diet coke tastes like real coke and other absurdities bring enough of a smile to my face to make it worth the three dollars and ten minutes it takes to scan through the wretched pseudo journalism. So when I saw the cover proclaiming that the end was again nigh, I sighed with the kind of tired amusement I reserve for the harmless and stupid and picked up a copy to leaf through. The bemused smile quickly fell from my face as soon as I reached the center story. Normally, the stories are poorly written, barely edited, and the photographs owe more to Photoshop than they do to Kodak. This story was different. First of all, the photograph didn’t look manipulated, shit it didn’t even look very good, but it did look real, and because of that, it was deeply unsettling. Further, the story was written well, very well. Whoever had taken the time to write this article did so with what appeared to be a genuine utility with the language, something that could not be said for anything else that this particular piece of literary flotsam had ever produced. This story wasn’t about little green men and women with two hundred pound tabbies, this article was an obviously researched and documented piece about a small town in Arkansas just outside of Little Rock. More specifically, this was a story of a town called Hudson where fourteen people were killed and partially eaten in their homes in the middle of the day for no apparent reason by two preeteen girls wearing Justin Timberlake shirts. According to the story, the police had to fire on the girls a total of thirty nine times before they went down and stayed down. These girls were so intent on their feast, that when the gunshots first started ringing out, one of them refused to leave the body of an elderly gentleman upon which she was she was dining. According to the story, she didn’t stop eating until one of the officers shot her square in the center of her snarling forehead. The photos showed the aftermath, typical crime photo stuff mostly, but what chilled me the most, was one of the officers holding his arm and being loaded into a stretcher in a waiting ambulance. The funeral for the half eaten victims was set for the following day. It was with a heavy heart that I saw the date on the story. It was three days ago.

I knew what was happening, what my friends and I always joked about happening. This was the beginning. The zombies were here.I also realized that the world didn’t know yet, that the article I read was buried in a nonsense rag, and that everyone around me right now believed they were perfectly safe. I looked down at my self, cheap khaki pants and a cheap cotton shirt, work shoes and about twenty five bucks in my wallet. I could see the paunch of my not insubstantial belly hanging out over my pants. I hoped I would be able to protect myself, my family, my friends. I was worried. I didn’t know if I could run a mile, I wasn’t really sure how far out of shape I’d let my self get, but I suspected it was pretty damn far.I pushed my grocery cart out of the aisle just as it was my turn to pay. I took a long last look at the cart full of tasty little indulgences and heavy pre packaged foods. None of these would do now. I grabbed a new cart from the front of the store and started walking, then almost running down the aisles. I filled my cart with bottles of water, cans of beans, batteries, and ramen noodles. Lots of ramen noodles. I figured they were easy to keep and light weight if we had to leave home. I grabbed things of the shelf in ridiculous numbers. Money didn’t matter anymore, I had a lot of credit and I was gonna use every bit of it I needed to in order to survive. I grabbed every box of matches they had. I thought better then of the cans of beans, too heavy, but didn’t bother to put them back. I filled my cart with bags of beans and rice and panting furiously I ran to checkout, where I waited in line, my insides boiling at the stupidity of this goddamn queue when there was so much to do. I didn’t look at the cashier as he rang up my odd little collection of emergency rations and dozens of packages of batteries. How could I look at a man who didn’t know he was going to die? How could I look and not tell him? Worse, how could I tell him so he’d believe me? There was no way. I knew this and so I looked at my ridiculous shiny work shoes and the round shape of my belly as it stuck defiantly out over my belt. How long, I wonder, will that last?


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