Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Thief

I saw you. You didn't think I did, but I don't wear enormous glasses for nothing. I suspect you think that you got away unnoticed. But if that was what you wanted then and what you might want in the future, might I suggest you wear something other than black socks with Birkenstocks and long, electric blue shorts lousy with high school gym class memories? Because that's why I saw you over by the healthy breads. You had two loaves in your hairy hands, one with flax seeds and one without. Some ladies were chatting away about which Muppets character to put on a child's cake for their 1st birthday party and aside from thinking how it really doesn't matter because when it comes to 1st birthday parties they are almost invariably for the parents and grandparents since the one year old child will have fun if you put them in an empty cardboard box with a ball of crumpled foil I also thought "why the hell is this man wearing that?" I grabbed the bread I wanted, and went off to find mint extract, a task that took so much effort and time that, had I not ended up behind you in the line to check out, I would not have seen what you did. I would have utterly forgotten you.

But our paths did cross again. You had a moderate amount of stuff in your cart and it is a hobby of mine to notice everything, particularly at supermarkets, so I took casual note of the items you placed on the dirty rubber belt as it inched forward, squeaking as though it were in pain. You had a strange array of health foods: soy cheese, fake chicken nuggets, kohlrabi bulbs, apricots, craft beer and kale chips. You had opted for the seedless bread, tsk. Aside from that and the soy cheese, it could have been my own cart. However, there was one item at the bottom of your cart that was half hidden under some old wrinkled circulars, those crumpled throwaways that I'm positive will be all that's left when the zombie apocalypse comes. It was a package of raw chicken. At first I thought it was odd that you'd be buying both real chicken and the fake stuff but maybe, unlike me, you shop for other people. Then I thought for a second that you had forgotten it was in your cart because there you were, whistling something indiscernible while the dotty cashier walked away in the middle of ringing you up to say hi to a friend at the back of the line in that Long Island accent that always breaks through my brain like a spoon through filmed over pudding. But you just stood there whistling and smiling, holding on to the cart with one hand like it was a small child you were paying no attention to but still keeping tabs on. And when the cashier came back, uttering apologies and clicking up your total with her glossy pink fingernails you said "oh that's no problem" so nicely that I wanted you to get away with it. I wanted you to be hard up for cash and feel the thrill of being able to make a chicken dinner with stolen chicken that in some strange, covert way you earned by being such a lackadaisical thief. Something kept me silent and I don't know what it was, making it either a complete lack of morality or a complete faith that you somehow needed to have that chicken but couldn't afford it or my total disregard for the fact that you easily dropped $40 on gourmet food items, of which the pack of chicken would have been the cheapest; I just can't know.

What I do know is that as I paid for my flaxseeded bread and my mint extract, I thought about whether or not to feel any guilt. I thought about whether or not me not saying anything meant I could be found culpable in a court of law or whether or not there was a statute in New York State law that pertained only to the larceny of poultry products. The ditzy cashier smiled at me and I looked away, unable to focus my thoughts on anything. By the time I exited the automatic glass doors of the supermarket I had half decided to assume you had simply forgotten the chicken was in your cart which would have made me, at worst, inconsiderate to not remind you and at best as absentminded as the cashier. And I could have gotten away with that thought. If it weren't for your presence two cars down from mine.

You drove an Infiniti. I saw you. You stood with the back door open, loading your granola groceries into the car and you paused at the chicken and I thought "now he'll notice his mistake". I just knew I'd see you take the chicken back into the store and sheepishly apologize and pay. But I saw you instead hold the chicken in your hands and chuckle. You chuckled.  It started to drizzle right then. You put the hot goods in right on the seat of your car next to an empty toddler's car seat and you lightly slammed the door shut and took your black socked foot and kicked your cart into a jalopy next to you. And then you drove out of the parking lot. No, you fled the scene in your fancy car with your hoity-toity foods and your stolen chicken.

I got in my car and sat staring at your tail lights. So much I don't know about your life or your reasons for doing what you did. I only know you that you are someone's dad, you have terrible taste in clothing, you will not experience the benefits of flax seeds in your bread and at one time, you stole a package of raw chicken, after paying for a box of fake chicken and I didn't say anything.

1 comment:

  1. that's hilarious and sad. it sounded like he was trying to shop like a vegetarian but maybe if you steal the chicken you're still a vegetarian? weird. that guy deserves to be immortalized in prose so good job.