Who Forgets To Buy Gravy For Turkey Dinner?


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The conveyor belt rolls the can of gravy to the cashier.
“Hello, how are you doing?” she asks.
“Alright, just some last minute groceries.” I scan the store for the right follow up. “How about you,” I say as I lean forward to read her name tag, “Holly.”
Of all the names to have this time of the year.
“I’m alright as well.”
The system beeps as the can is surveyed over the red light. The monitor above the register reads $4.87.
“Four eighty-seven? Is the Queen’s turkey in this can? It said a dollar thirty-one on the shelf.”
She grunts and answers with artificial politeness, “I’m sorry, I’ll go check.”
She paces to the back of the store as I await like a Roman sculpture with attitude. All I can think of is, why did I say anything? On the way here, I thought it would be a relief to catch a break from the traditional debate between my paternal Protestants and my maternal Catholics. It’s clear: shopping is worse. And, now, I’ve stalled myself for a petty $3.56. It isn’t even my money.
Holly returns, wearing a sardonic smile.
“I’m sorry, sir. That deal is only applicable for every three cans you buy,” she rejoices.
“Who the hell buys that much gravy?”
“You don’t have to be rude! I don’t make the prices; I just scan and bag.”
It isn’t worth arguing, so I capitulate and say, “It’s fine, I’ll take it.”
“How do you wish to pay?”
“Cash, please.”
I dive my hand into my fanny pack and splash through loose change. I pull out a loonie that’s been scarred by the claw of my sister’s cat. He probably thought it was chocolate. After all, she did get him from Newfoundland.
“Take your time. We only close in ten minutes.” Holly murmurs.
I glare at her, then over my shoulder to be shocked by the exodus I was leading to the register. I get another loonie from the bag and partner it with its spouse. Soon after, I produce offspring for the newly-weds: three quarters and a dime.
My hand sifts through the coins and my luck starts to wane. At this point, my arm is a claw machine. Every time I grasp for a prize, my hand presents me with pennies. Pennies in the centre, pennies hiding in the corner, pennies parachuting from my backhand. Why the fuck did oma give me pennies? Why’s the gravy here so expensive?
“Do you accept pennies still?”
Holly folds her arms. “No.” She gnaws at her cheek.
“Okay, let’s try credit.”
Holly passes the card reader. My wallet hasn’t been found at the airport since I arrived. So, please God (the Protestant one or the Catholic one), show me that oma enabled the Interac on her MasterCard. I hold the card above the monitor as it commands me to insert or tap.
“Noooooooo,” I howl. I have no choice. It’s like a game of Family Feud. The category is: what four digits have the most personal resonance to be used as my oma’s password.
I punch in 1-0-1-2. Her birthday is October 12. Rejected! I inhale the phlegm that accrues in my sinuses. It woke the baby. Okay, let’s try 1-9-4-4, her birth year. Rejected! Holly lifts an eyebrow. I shift my eyes to the side and stare at the police officer. I think I’ve become a suspect for identity theft. I punch in 2-1-1-2, her favourite Rush album. Rejected!
“Are you having problems, sir?” Holly inquires.
“Yeah, um, this is my grandmother’s card. She didn’t tell me the code.”
“I see. Well, you’ve held up the line for a while. I’m sure they won’t mind if you hold it up a little longer. Call her for the code ‘cause you can’t leave with the gravy partially paid for.”
I lost my phone at the airport as well.
“It’s not that much. Can’t you let it go this one time? ‘Tis the season!”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
“Please.” I pinch the bridge of my nose. “For Christ’s sake, this hasn’t happened to me before and it’s not like I have tonight’s dinner in there! It’s a can of...”
Holly exhales over my final sentence and exclaims, “I’m not authorized to do what you’re asking, sir. If it’s that big of a concern, I can call my manager.”
I can’t believe how high this has spiraled. It’s looking like I’m going to miss this year’s Times Square Ball Drop on television. The mustachioed manager walks toward us like a father about to mediate his children’s argument. He looks like a toy soldier which is perfect timing because “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is playing over the intercom. But, honestly, I’m so fed up and Holly’s condescending scowl is louder than bombs. Dear God (Protestant or Catholic), please let her head explode.
“What’s the problem, sir?” the manager asks.
Holly explains, “This man wants to buy this can of gravy, but...”
“Listen!” I snap, “My family forgot to buy a can of gravy and I was elected to purchase it before dinner. That’s all. I came here thinking it would be an easy trip, simple task. What happens? My fucking fanny pack is littered with pennies and lint. This fucking credit card doesn’t have tap. I have no clue what four numbers my oma could possibly use to protect her bank account. And I’m short a little change...”
I should probably calm down.
“...I’m ready to drive my fucking Corola home and just spend time with the people I hardly see since I’ve been in college. This is the only time my oma can leave the hospital and I’d like to eat dinner by her side before the fucking cancer finishes eating her! So, please, is there anyway you can spare the two-fucking-dollars I owe so I can leave!”
I turn to the masses behind me and beg, “Maybe you guys wouldn’t mind sparing some change?”
No one volunteers. The police officer isn’t in line anymore. There must’ve been a suicide call nearby. ‘Tis the season.
I turn back to the manager. Holly’s empathy begins to irritate her eyes.
“It’s fine, I’ll help you,” Holly utters. She reaches into her pocket, takes out a toonie, and wishes, “Merry Christmas.”
The register opens and she wipes the coins off the counter. The embarrassment made my knees shake. After all, they are sacrificing time from their families to listen to my complaints. The manager marches back toward the mess tent stationed at the back of the store and Holly hands me the gravy can. My eyes lock to the laces of my shoes.
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Next time, consider the fact that not everyone’s as fortunate as you to visit their family during the holidays.”
I lift my head. I want to follow up and ask her “what’s wrong.” She had heard my complaints and she isn’t a damn therapist. I suppose she deserves the same. It’s my turn to listen. She’s likely listened all day. I could give her that chance. I could help her relieve the built up hatred from the day’s ignorant, bitter customers. Me included.
Eh, there’s no time for that, so instead I say, “Listen, since you helped pay for this. Why don’t you be the one to give it to my family.” She turns to stone. “I’ll wait for you to finish work.”
“Um, okay. You sure?”
“Yeah, we could use another team member for charades.”
“Alright.”
I exit the line up and realize the infant behind me has stopped crying.
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