There’s only one person at the deli counter, no need to tear off a number. The woman being served wants twelve little boys, which you may know as cocktail frankfurters, or cheerios. I know, cheerios, what a joke. Supposedly made from lips and arse. She must be having a kids’ party. Kids love processed pig sphincters. And kids get what they want these days. It’s the least we can do since we know deep inside that we spawned these little unfortunates into the most crazy fucked up human world ever to have existed. Cheerio – makes sense now, when you think of it.
Now she wants a dozen chicken wings. All bone and sinew with a light dusting of hormone-induced meat, perfect for children entering this brave new world. Happy birthday, Hermione. She is deciding if she will get the wings in a marinade or plain. The boy-come-young-man serving is wearing knee high white gum boots, which you may know as wellingtons, or erroneously as galoshes. He looks at me from under a white disposable hairnet and smiles to apologise for the woman’s tardiness, but not to worry, you will be next.
The woman chooses soy and honey, cheaper than plain anyway – the supermarket can explain if you bother to ask. Now she wants olives. Of course, parents will be coming. You can’t leave children by themselves at someone else’s house these days. You would be charged with negligence. Spies from the Attachment Parenting Society would report you to the police with new powers granted by the new conservative party who landslided into government right under our new progressive noses.
A man has come along and grabbed a number. He looks up at the red digital Now Serving display – 058 – and then at his ticket. I see the look of satisfactory correlation on his face. The slight limbic pang of losing my spot is counterbalanced by my knowledge that the boy serving knows my face and my position. I should be fine. Though, never certain, I consider grabbing a number just in case.
While distracting myself by looking through curved glass at the array of culturally appropriated refrigerated delicacies illuminated by dozens of fluorescent tubes, more consumers come and take numbers. Shit.
As though on call, a co-worker, sans white gum boots, arrives from out the back through scratched translucent door flaps. She knows the gig.
The man with the number curves himself over the glass and whispers his order – just a little bit over 120 grams of not-so-secret champagne ham, as it turns out.
Another worker, this time from the seafood department, appears.
My only saviour, the boy in the white gum boots, the only one who knows I am next, finishes up with the kid’s party woman, looks at his watch, swipes the hairnet off his head and exits through those scratched translucent door flaps that I am unable to name.
Sean Crawley writes short stories, songs, non-fiction and the odd angry letter. He has been published online and in anthologies. Sean has worked in education, mental health, and once owned a video shop in a dying town. His desk is currently located somewhere on the east coast of Australia.
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