Darrin had to go to the grocery store. He always had to go to the grocery store, always had to buy the things for his family to eat. He himself didn’t eat much. Maw Maw didn’t eat much either, but it was Maw Maw that paid and Darrin that walked the aisles of so many packages, so many colors and smiling people.
“Buy the ones where the people are smiling,” Maw Maw would tell him. So he did. He generally did what Maw Maw told him, unless it was those times when she whispered to him after dinner–
“Now you go up to my room, there’s a pistol in the second drawer to the left under my scivvies. Please get that gun and shoot those people. Tell them I did it.”
This didn’t confuse him. “Those people” weren’t mean, but they weren’t really nice. They called him names sometimes. Darrin wondered if it was this or the chicken salad that made Maw Maw want to shoot them.
At the white and gray grocery store, it was only the packaging that smiled. The people shopping never did. They were mad. They moved fast. The women would give him mean looks. Especially if he looked at them too long. “Pervert,” they said. The men just huffed a lot. They wore white shorts and gold watches. He could tell they did not like him so much, but they mostly left him alone. Darrin would troll the store, “What are you stupid?“, he would say to himself, looking at his feet and nodding his head.
He was stupid. He knew it–but this could not be helped. This he could deal with, but he hated shopping. He hated the metal carts, and not being able to find anything, and he hated having to stand so still and rigid, square in the middle of it all–the swirling, crashing mass of people better dressed and smarter than he would ever be.
“Umm, excuse me. Excuse me,” it was a middle-aged woman with tan skin and hair for a business suit, “I need to get to those Jiffer Whips.” She looked at him, “Did you need help with something?”
Darrin stared at her and shook his head. She did not work there. He was looking for peanut butter, but the Nutty Spread did not have its usual label–the nice woman and her child that was hungry. He moved his cart backwards and bumped into a man with very heavy blue jeans. “Hey,” the man said. The woman took the Jiffer Whip. Hesitating, she huffed and pulled the top of her shirt up, but Darrin could still see a lot of her breasts. She walked away with loud shoes. Darrin went back to the peanut butter.
He liked buying the stuff for Maw Maw. The cotton balls, the lotion, the butterscotch candies. Mostly they never had smiling people, but Maw Maw said she did not mind, because she had so many pictures in her room of Papaw and he was smiling, and there were pictures of the family when they were all younger and smaller and they were smiling. She always said that it was a different world now, but that it was nothing to be sad about. She said it was different. That now they had to live together in a small house, but it used to be bigger houses and there were nicer things. “Everyone,” she said, “Is so upset, but you are happy.” She would pinch Darrin’s cheeks and they would be happy and watch the shows that Maw Maw liked on the TV, and Darrin liked them too.