Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ben loves it when I tell this one.

The parking lot is filled with 350zs, Ferraris, customized Hummers and Porsches. Everyone has a small basket and they are all jam-packed into the organic and health food aisles in their overpriced yoga-wear with jewelry dripping off their limbs and scowls on their faces. If money bought happiness, they wouldn't have to shop for their own groceries, now would they?

Daniel and I make up the bourgeoisie division, clearly. I push a cart around, humming absently along to the piped-in music that seems embarrassingly easy to listen to. I spot a famous face in the crowd and he locks eyes with me, waiting for me to out him but I feign ignorance and find the Rice Krispies, buying the generic ones to the right. Groceries are the single largest expense after the mortgage payment and I try to cut corners where I can. My household only seems to notice if I don't buy the brand name ketchup anyhow.

My hair is wild waves. Jeans, sneakers, t-shirt, hoodie. I probably have more liquid assets than half of these folks, who lease their lives on a name that used to be who they were before they became hollow, jaded, faded and blue.

Yet they still look down upon me with a practiced ennui. I laugh out loud. Several heads turn but I am already busy studying the reason this store really entertains me as well as it does. Otherwise I would drive out to the valley to the big Asian grocery store because everyone there is real, everyone is nice. And no one speaks English but they speak to me anyway and I love that.

The reason this store is so entertaining is because of the Creepy Butcher.

I will discover him first, hunched before the packaged breakfast meats. A little too close, lurching back and forth. What in the hell is he doing? we wonder out loud, disturbed to the point of mentally rearranging the menu for the week to be vegetable-based, or our day to stop at the other grocery store way on the other side of town where the people are only marginally less important. The butcher over there is a jolly old Ernest Borgnine lookalike who learned my name on the first trip to his counter and hasn't forgotten it since. The uncanny, hilarious fear tilts the world of domestic errands crazily and we begin to slip back toward the doors and down aisle six (paper products).

But then we realize we have a list and a time limit. I need to buy things, so I return to the back of the store and swallow my fear in a lump.

There he is.

Ancient and gaunt, with dyed-black thinning hair and skeletal limbs sticking out from underneath the sleeves of his spattered starched white coat, the butcher will sneak up until his breath hits your neck like a blade. He'll whisper an offer of help almost mournfully, hopefully. He will sleep tonight if only you deign to ask him a barrage of questions about the pork loin or even better, request a cut of beef.

Oh yes. Right away, Miss!

Request that cut so the blood can run in uneasy rivers down his table, pooling possessively around his wiped-clean shoes while he grins at death on the scale, soon to be neatly tied with thick waxed paper and string, delivered with palpable malice over the fingerprinted glass into your waiting hands.

Softly he tells you the other store is very inconvenient and the parking is terrible so here you are instead and isn't he glad you are here today.


Surrounded by filth and new wealth. Life is a dirty business, it's probably better if you view it through the fog of sale stickers and bruised peaches. You spend the rest of the day uneasily trying to remember if you said anything out loud about going to see Ernest the butcher instead and wondering if the creepy butcher somehow managed to reach in and snatch your brain, weighing it carefully, turning it over in his hands as the liquid runs between his fingers, choosing the best cuts and placing it in the window with a price flag for consideration for a summer barbecue.

You never know.