Check Out

He didn’t really cut in front of me at the grocery check out. I was standing a few feet out motioning to my wife that this would be a better lane, and she should come with the cart. It was just weird how he had ducked in front of me when my back was half-turned. He was about my age with a gray beard more unkempt than mine. We both wore glasses and knit hats, his black and mine blue, and we both wore ratty old hoodies. His had oil and grease stains, mine had wood chips all up the front. There were only three things in his basket, milk, hot dogs, and bananas, so I didn’t really care if he went first, but I guess I made a face.

“Hey, man, sorry I got in front of you, but you know,” he said, gesturing towards his head and widening his eyes. “I was, like, in Vietnam, you know.”

“Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Really doesn’t matter, and I know what you mean. Coming in here my wife told me I was driving on the wrong side of the road, and this morning I had to return a video, and left it off at the wrong place, so I know.”

“Some people…”

“Yeah, some people. Tell you what, you can owe me a banana.”

He looked around theatrically, pulled a banana off his bunch and went to slide it into my pocket.

“No man, don’t do that,” I said putting it back on the counter with the rest. “What about the monkeys, don’t want them to go hungry.”

“Yeah, the monkeys, ha—good one.”

By then the cashier was getting impatient with this guy. She wanted him to take his change and move on, and my wife, who had been enjoying the show, had finished loading our stuff on the belt and wanted to get going too.

My new friend turned to my wife and said, “You better keep an eye on this guy! Haha, he needs help!”

“Oh, I will,” she said. “I’ve been keeping him out of trouble for a long time.”

During this time he had dropped his change on the floor, and dropped the rest of his money when he went to pick it up. I helped him, but he had ten dollars stuck under his shoe, and it took a minute for us to get that straightened out.

“Jeez, you better drive,” he said to my wife.

She laughed and promised that she would.

Doug Mathewson likes to stay home with his wife and their two cats and do as little real work as possible. His stories have appeared here and there, now and then, in publications around the world and perhaps beyond. More of his fiction can be found at www.little2say.org “True Stories From Imaginary Lives.”