Saturday, September 5, 2009

Potato Salad

Standing in a line at a supermarket, lined up with her apples and yoghurt, the cyclist watches as a thin grey haired man struggles with an arm-load of groceries - a strange array of supplies, juggled toward the checkout line.

His package of potato salad for one, in its flimsy plastic container, liberates itself from his grip. It comes to rest face down, under the accusing bright fluorescent supermarket lights, on the cream lino floor. The woman in the beige floral blouse, with mouse brown hair and large gold fob-chain hanging around her pale neck, silently scoffs the checkout line fool. The Cleopatra-esque beauty with plump red lips frowns and looks away. The scruffy cyclist, with sweaty singlet and disheveled hair, smiles from underneath her helmet. "Don't you hate that?" She offers. He takes refuge in her small spoken offering, welcomed by its shelter from the ever-glowing supermarket lights and the other shoppers' glares.

He smells of stale cigarettes and beer. He has scrawny legs, pasty skin and a bleeding scab on his left shin. "Ah well. It'll be easier to get it open later." He replies, scooping up the cracked and haemhorraging container. He replaces the lid and smooths over the split in the plastic, coaxing the potato salad dressing back inside. He then places it and his other items in the queue, on the black checkout conveyor belt.

A clear plastic divider separates the cyclists groceries from his. On one side: fresh crisp green apples and low fat yoghurt, youth physical fitness, a loving family, a good job, clean comfortable interestingly be-trinketted home and a shiny new road bicycle... On the other: a cracked container of potato salad, a bottle of tomato sauce, a frozen meat pie, a smoker's cough, heart burn, a fading pale blue cotton shirt, a dimly lit room with stained and worn brown carpet, a small TV in front of a single arm chair, a photo of a daughter and grandson who are always too busy and a pair of well-worn black and white rubber thongs.

The beige-skirted-woman with the fob chain walks to her clean white car. She simultaneously deactivates the remove controlled alarm and opens the car boot. She sets down her groceries neatly, beside her white leather tennis sneakers and closes the boot. She thinks to herself that if she had have dropped that potato salad, she would have called a supermarket worker to clean up the mess and order him bring her a new salad. She then turns her thoughts toward her husband and his work suits - she'll have to pick them up from the dry cleaners. She never thinks of the thin grey man and his potato salad ever again.

The cyclist takes her fruit and dairy and will peddle through her life forever wondering how people end up with their lives and their paths. She will think of the potato salad man often.

The thin man with the scabby leg walks out of the supermarket with his cracked potato salad and heart burn. He walks next door to the pub and picks up a longneck bottle of VB, gift-wrapped in a brown paper bag.

On the short walk back to his one room flat, the black rubber strap on his black and white thong snaps. He falters on the rubber flapping underneath his foot, and in the dark, he is not seen by the Cleopatra-esque woman with the red passionate lips.

The chrome bumper of her brand new bright red (to match her lipstick) sports car smashes into the thin man's body. There is screeching of tyres and the thud of metal against the thin grey man. He comes to rest, face down, under the accusing bright sports car lights, on the black tar road. (Blood and glass and urine and beer and potato salad will need to be hosed away.)

His daughter and grandson are not too busy to make it to his funeral.

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