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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Thursday
Oct122006

Oh, The Stories Your Groceries Could Tell

1 Swansons frozen dinner.
6 cans of Fancy Feast cat food.
1 bag of Milano cookies.

I like to inspect your groceries while you wait in line at the check-out counter. I unabashedly examine your choices, products, brands. I look for the stories the various items tell about you. I can tell a lot about you by your purchase of fat free ice cream sandwiches, tofu, Twinkies or dog treats. I find out more about you than I'd ever learn chatting with you over drinks at a party. Your groceries are much more honest than your polite party chit-chat.

Last night as The Surge and I waited in line to pay for the ingredients for the steak tacos we planned to cook I took stock of the groceries of the woman in front of us. No wedding ring. A single gal woman in her mid to late forties. Frowzy brown hair falling around her lined face in no particular style. Not unkept, but not kept. A frumpy coat, black stretch pants, white tennis shoes. A light fuzz of dark hair decorated the small expanse of skin beneath her nose, above her lip.

I imagined her, trudging home through the rain with her groceries. She opens the door, shakes the rain from her coat before hanging it neatly in the closet then heads straight to the kitchen.
"Pssspssspsspss.. dinner time." She will sing like she does every night.
The cats will come running and she will scrape the Fancy Feast into their glass dish. Only then, after her babies have been fed will she turn her attention to the business of feeding herself. She will pop her Swansons fried chicken dinner into the microwave, pour herself a tall glass of Ginger Ale on the rocks, sink onto her floral patterned couch and turn on the news.

"Breaking news - a plane crashes into a Manhattan building." ruggedly handsome news anchor Bill Ritter intones gravely. She fancies the dashing anchor who she thinks is a cross between her favorite actor Cary Grant with a swagger of Spencer Tracy's all business demeanor. Bill's gravitas whilst delivering unsavory news items takes her back to evenings listening to Edward R. Murrow when she was a child coloring on the floor as her father watched the news. She loves real news men like Walter Cronkite and now Bill Ritter. Not these talking mannequin namby pamby anchor boys that litter the airwaves nowadays. Anderson Cooper? Hmmmph! His gray hair doesn't fool her. She doesn't like to miss the six o'clock news. She talks to Bill Ritter over her Swanson's dinner.
"How was your day Bill?"
"A small plane crashed into a 50 story Manhattan apartment building. So far four fatalities have been reported." Bill answers stoically.
"That bad, eh?" She sighs. More horrible news. What is the world coming to, she wonders. At first commercial break she hauls herself out of her chair and pours another glass of Ginger Ale. She chews each bite of her meal slowly. Methodically. Chasing every third swallow with a sip of Ginger Ale.

After dinner she has five Milano cookies. That's the way she likes to eat them for they are her only luxury in an otherwise drab evening. Well, she considers Bill a luxury too. She parcels out her cookies so she doesn't eat the whole bag in one sitting. Goodness but Milanos are expensive - something her mother never would have approved of. Mother would have made cookies from scratch and stored them in the deep freeze.

She savors each Milano cookie, nibble by nibble as she watches her favorite television programs. The cats climb around her, swinging like monkeys, eventually nestling on the arm of the couch and in her lap. She strokes them until they're purring like foreign engines.
"You're Mama's babies, aren't you? Yes."

The eleven o'clock news comes on. Turns out the fellow piloting the plane was a pitcher for the Yankees. Tragic, she clucks to herself. She says goodnight to her crush, the anchorman. And as he does every Monday through Friday he says good night to her and millions of others.

1 Swansons Frozen Dinner.
6 cans of Fancy Feast cat food.
1 package of Milano cookies.

That is the story these groceries tell me.