Apr/May 2000  •   Fiction

One Day Sale

by Penny Freeland

My metabolist told me to quit smoking, drinking coffee, staying up late, bumping into walls, singing in elevators, applying for credit cards, shopping in the wrong stores, eating at Mcdonald's, looking busy, introducing people without knowing their first names, forgetting first names, drinking out of the water bottle, and relying on the dog for answers.

Well, what should I do, hold my breath? It's March outside, on time, apropos, complete with wind chill and a plaid scarf, solid coat. A garden variety approach: onset; phenomenon; lemonade; excelsior; Christ and the Green Knight, all at once; giant salad bowls and green pepper icons; fruit baskets in cellophane; Easter. And I have at least three proofs for the existence of God: trees that grow through pavement, Mozart, and chocolate ice-cream.

Well, I don't want to quote the dog, but this is important. He told me that the spring born ticks are microscopic nymphs that can get you while you're looking. So, pay attention.

There are three male cardinals that take to the tree across the street and I wonder, are they friends or relatives? A perfect example of something the dog would know.

We have it figured out. The supermarket, that is. We've decided it is real, and we treat it like the hunting grounds. We bash through with circulars, competing for ten cents off. Some of us are experts, can spot a coupon at ten paces, know the best checkers, have husbands that bag. The rest of us manage, as gatherers of plastic tomatoes and Styrofoam steaks, brown paper bags and register tapes. We return with our kill and one ritual ends.

The blue toilet water; the lemon scented disinfectant; the brown paper folded, one after another, identical; the black seats; the white sinks and liquid soaps, green; the textured windows letting in only light, the radiators radiating, the radiant rest room.

I say dead is gone, therefore, Nietzsche is dead.

You can't win.

Trees, trees in the park. Growing out of square cut outs in the asphalt. Trees, some with brick borders, some scarred with love, Bobby and Susie, forever. A nice try. Trees, trees and the dog.

Clouds are not really lonely. They are seldom alone in the sky. Sometimes they're spread thin, powdered sugar, frosted mini-wheats.

The winter bus at four o'clock has lights on, and it shimmers like an afternoon Kelley through the service stream of the L.I.E. And people wait at the bus stop. Winter green down coats hats reds mustards—anything to stand from the gray. They come from strange places, to my plain bus stop, from Hong Kong and Bombay, as way leads to way. I go home.

The stark Formica of fast food, reflecting my wrapper; the Coca-Cola company, amen; Ritz crackers and cream cheese; dry soup with chunks of real chicken; frozen pot pies with peas that don't quit. Give them ten minutes, they'll give you the works. And you know what that means.

The Fixin's bar.

The dog found a homeless man in the park, and the first chance he got, he brought him a bone.

It really is serious. Our bodies age while our minds learn the reality of death. But the dog thinks he's immortal.

I don't talk him out of it, either.

The refrigerator plus the stove, times the cabinets squared, plus the table, plus the sink, times the cabinets cubed, plus the vinyl floor, equals the kitchen.

I know how people hate them, but I need a retraction here. I have not mentioned Exxon, etcetera, General Motors, Rubbermaid, TV record offers, Beatrice, Bartles and James, or the Beatles, for no particular reason.

Sometimes when I visit my mother, the trip includes Bingo, replete with old ladies and lucky charms from trolls to St. Jude. And St. Jude hovers above the Bingo hall making sure you win, and I pray to Ma Bell, who has allegedly connected me to the caller, and lose. Sold to the lady in the orange stockings with the St. Theresa medal and a heavenly rose. While all this is happening, unseen gamma rays are crashing against the walls. House mites are nibbling bread crumbs and cheese Danish. A complex microcosm in a small town, in New Jersey.

Just looking at the trash cans makes me really, really sad.


This story previously appeared in Words on a Wire.