Muzak Serenade

I don’t usually shop at Homeland, but I’m right here and have been to two supermarkets already. Both times I forgot sour cream. Can’t make stroganoff without it.

Inside it’s quiet, like always. Big box stores have lured away all but the most loyal or lazy customers. To reward the few faithful, Homeland promises the “same great quality service since 1987.”

That includes the decor. Mottled brown and cream tile floor. Illustrated signs indicating the bakery and produce department. Golden oldies piped in over tinny speakers. Next up is Wang Chung’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” which hit #2 on the Billboard chart just before my first birthday.

I’ve time warped.

Maneuvering cart-free aisles is a breeze. No whiny kids begging for Froot Loops or soccer moms fiddling with smartphones. This is good.

I pass the organics section. Bulk bins filled with pulses, grains, dried fruit. Pine nuts are $17 a pound. Definitely not a vintage price. Who would pay that much to make pesto?

Dairy case is to my right. I ignore the cost, choose a sour cream according to fat content. “Light” cream is an oxymoron. Like “young adult.” Like me.

Checkers stand at two registers, a fortysomething woman and a teenage boy. The kid’s not one of my students, but I remember him from somewhere. Good looking, dry sense of humor. Where was he when I was in high school?

He looks dashing in a uniform that might have belonged to his grandfather. White collared shirt. Long apron. Maroon necktie. Which reminds me that tonight is prom night. How could I forget? My students have talked about nothing else for the last month.

I remember my prom. It was alright, I guess. We didn’t “rip it up” or “move down.” Not that we would have. I think everybody liked OutKast then. Except me. Senior year was my classic rock phase.

I offer my condolences. “So, you got stuck working prom night.”

“Who needs it?” The kid shrugs. “Later on, we’re gonna have our own prom right here.”

“Is that so?”

“Uh huh. Marlene’s gonna be my date.”

He nods toward customer service. The middle-aged lady is talking to a girl with green pigtails and black Converse. I wonder which one is Marlene.

“There’s gonna be dancing and everything?”

“Oh yeah. We’ve got a disco ball that drops down from the ceiling.”

His deadpan is flawless. I try to match it.

“Wow. And a D.J.?”

“You’re looking at him. I’m always in charge of the music here. Hook my iPod up to the sound system.”

“Awesome. Seriously, your mix is probably way better than whatever they’re playing at prom.”

A brief moment of camaraderie cracks the kid’s stoic mask. His face dissolves into a grin. Mine too.

“Oh, no doubt. ‘Everybody Wang Chung tonight!’ ”

We raise rocker hands raise triumphantly.

Then the song ends. We’re back to the future.

I’ll have to stop by Homeland again sometime. I want to be there when they drop that disco ball.

Aleithia Burgess holds degrees from Oklahoma State University and the University of Aberdeen and has worked in education and the nonprofit sector. Her writing has appeared in Expat Lit, which was an online literary magazine for writers abroad. She lives in Oklahoma.