I was in Whole Foods, patiently waiting for the little old lady in front of me to pay for her order with change when The Incident happened. I’d like to say I had been expecting it, to make my life seem a little less ordinary, but of course nobody ever expects it to happen, or expects the person to live through it so they (I only use the dreaded singular “they” as I am too lazy to say “he or she”) can tell everyone they never expected it to happen.
But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, the Little Old Lady; let’s call her LOL. Whole Foods. Overpriced tortilla chips. To be more specific, really fucking delicious overpriced tortilla chips. It was a balmy Tuesday night in September, and I was starving. I usually have patience with the elderly, but LOL was playing mine like a really bad poker hand.
I’d had the worst day at work. Not atypical from any other day at JFK Middle School, but it seemed particularly irritating. Not only did I have to deal with the ordinary half-wits in the morning, but the afternoon gave me the marvelous pleasure of speaking with the breeders who so generously created those morons just to annoy me.
Ah, Parent-Teacher Conference Day, rife with stay at home mothers who think their kids are the next Albert Einstein, so any bad grade is the teacher’s fault, and blah-blah-blah. Which is fine, I couldn’t care less if you’re a delusional twat. But this one lady…
She was my last parent of the day—I was already annoyed because it was 4:59, and we were supposed to end at 5:00; unfortunately I had to see her because it was only 4:59. One minute makes all the difference in the world apparently, even though—to lovingly quote Jimmy Buffett: “It’s 5 o’clock Somewhere.” She sauntered in, looking like she’d just bathed with a plugged-in toaster. Without a word, she sat at a desk, tapping her freshly manicured nails against the pencil-scratched surface.
“Well?” she huffed. “Let’s get this over with. Just tell me how much you love my kid so I can go about my day. I’m late for pilates, you know.”
Of course she was. I crossed to the front of my desk and leaned against it, resting the sole of my shoe against its tawny wood. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name or your child’s.”
She assaulted the desk with her palm so hard I thought it would somehow grow teeth just to give her a spite-splinter. “Come on, you mean you don’t know who my child is? Just by looking at me? I’ve been told we look exactly alike.”
I ran through my female students in my mind, randomly blurting out names, hoping one was right so I could punt her out of my classroom. “Samantha? Julie? Adrienne?”
She looked irritated. “Way off. I don’t even have a daughter, for Chrissakes!”
“Soooo,” I replied, “people say you look like a boy?”
My question flew over her head. “What kind of teacher are you that you can’t even recognize your own students?”
“With all due respect, Ma’am, I have well over fifty students.”
“Well, when I taught, I had over a hundred students and could recognize them all.”
“From a police lineup?” I was getting annoyed. It was already 5:05. I just wanted to get the fuck out of there and watch my recording of General Hospital. My eyes landed across the room on the puke-green walls the school janitors had insisted on painting my room. They were littered with crude crayon drawings of my students’ favorite scientists. Isaac Newton seemed to be a popular choice, with Charles Darwin a close second. “Please, just tell me who your child is so we can both go.”
“Fine. It’s Christopher Simpson.”
I blinked at her. “Come again?”
She elongated the name as if I were an imbecile. “Chrisss-ta-pherrr Simppp-sonnn. Do I need to spell it for you too?”
“Could be helpful, but I’d like to get home sometime tonight.” I rubbed my face with the palm of my hand. “Look, lady, he’s not my student.”
She scratched the back of her neck. “Of course you do. He’s your top student, right?”
I gripped the edges of the desk so tightly I thought it would crumble beneath my fingers like a chocolate chip cookie. I felt my anger slowly begin to increase to Incredible Hulk levels. “You’re incorrect,” I stated through gritted teeth.
She stood and approached me, caressing my cheek. I noticed a tattoo of Bart Simpson on her left forearm, except whoever had done her tattoo was a scratcher, so it looked like a cross between Bart Simpson and Mickey Mouse. The face was distorted so the eyes were below the mouth; the nose was on his chin. “Well, then,” she tried to whisper seductively, but she just sounded constipated, “tell me what I can do to make Christopher your top student.”
I scooted away from her, almost knocking over a Bunsen burner. I glanced again at the clock. 5:15. I’d been enduring this Homer Simpson-esque woman for 16 minutes too long already. “I told you, he’s not my student.”
She blinked. “But aren’t you Mr. Humbert?”
“No…Mr. Humbert is down the hall. I’m Mr. Meyer.”
“Shit!” she screamed as she grabbed her Louis Vuitton purse, racing out the door.
So, yeah. I needed something to make me feel better. No better way than overpriced tortilla chips. Which brought me to Whole Foods.
As I was waiting for LOL to finish up her transaction, I stared at the candies next to the register, wishing like hell for a Twix bar. Fucking Whole Foods doesn’t have them because Twix bars don’t meet their high standards of quality or some shit. Of course they don’t have a healthy equivalent of a Twix bar which tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating something healthy because it comes from Whole Foods, despite it being about a thousand calories with the fat equivalent of fifty cows. I felt a tap on my shoulder. I flinched before turning. When I saw who it was, I suppressed a groan. It was my colleague Preston. Yes, he was as pretentious as his name implied.
He nodded at the chips on the belt. “Tortilla chips, I see-uh,” he spoke through his nose, which wheezed at the end of every sentence. “Don’t much care for those myself-uh. Much prefer cheese sticks-uh.”
I picked up a pack of gum and pretended to be perusing the ingredients, when all I was really doing was figuring out a way a pack of gum could double as a blunt-force object. “Yeah, Preston, that’s interesting,” I mumbled out of the corner of my mouth in a tone which conveyed absolutely no interest. I stole another glance at LOL, who progressed from pennies to dimes.
Preston had been droning on about cheese sticks (“Not the mozzarella kind at the fancy Italian restaurants-uh. No, I’m talking about the kind with the cheese that makes your fingers orange-uh.”) when it happened. One minute LOL was down to the home stretch, the next the cashier—whose name tag informed us his name was Tobi—was keeled over on top of his scanner, spewing out blood. My legs collapsed from under me as Preston projectile-vomited across the aisle, miraculously missing me but coating LOL’s hair with chunks of potatoes and cheese sticks (the mozzarella kind—so Preston was both pretentious and a bold-faced liar). Unfazed, she continued her task of counting change as Tobi spasmed near her decrepit fingers.
I turned around to ask Preston if he was okay, but the question seemed rather moot as he was passed out on the floor in a puddle of his own vomit. Wimp. I opened my mouth to ask Tobi the same, but then realized it would probably seem rude of me as Tobi was currently somewhere in between “totally not okay” and “most likely dead.” Then I spotted him.
The top of his head peeked out above Tobi’s bent back. Hair as blue as Homer Simpson’s signature pants. I noticed the knife sticking out of Tobi’s back, staring at me like a vampire’s stake. I was suddenly reminded I was backed up on the current season of True Blood; I knew what I was going to do with those tortilla chips. My recliner, sexy vampires, and tortilla chips—what could be better? My mouth opened and closed several times, emulating a goldfish that had jumped out of its bowl. I grabbed LOL’s arm. Stupid, I know, as she was only two quarters away from completing her order, but I have a penchant for valor. I never did receive a Boy Scout badge for assisting the elderly—but better late than never, right? I attempted to escort her to the safety of the customer service desk when I noticed the knife peeking out of the waistband of her pants.
“Oh, sh—” I began to scream before she took the knife, slashing my hand. I cursed, not from the pain of the wound, but the pain of remembering I had left my Minion band-aids sitting on my bathroom sink. What I wouldn’t give for those little guys Bob or Kevin to kiss my boo-boo and make it better.
“You—you bitch!” I managed to scream, not at LOL but the woman next register over, whose Taylor Swift ringtone blared throughout the store, making me want to take LOL’s knife and carve a skull and crossbones into my cochlea. As I tried desperately to clear my head of T-Swift’s whiny voice, LOL tried to slash my other hand. I was certain of two things:
- Never trust the elderly. Ever again.
2. This bitch was most definitely trying to kill me.
From the floor, I noted Preston beginning to regain consciousness. I stifled a snicker as I thought about how thrilled he would be when he found out he had just bathed in the contents of his stomach. Snapping out of my reverie, I kneed LOL in the gut, causing her wig (!) to fly across the store, landing on one of the café tables and resembling the eggplant sandwich I had passed in the prepared foods case earlier.
“Ma, run!” Homer-Simpson-Pants-Hair shouted, but it was too late. I had left LOL incapacitated while the police barged through the door. In the midst of all the hullabaloo, Preston had snuck up behind Sonny Boy, tackling him to the ground as poor Tobi’s body collapsed like a Jenga tower.
As the coroner came and zipped Tobi up in a body bag, I sipped the cup of tea one of the officers gave me. I asked him just what the hell was going on.
“We’ve been looking for these two for weeks,” he told me as he puffed on his cigar, sprinkling ashes all over my new brown wingtips. “Apparently, Tobi owed them some money for betting the Giants would win their first three games. They obviously aren’t the most patient people in the world. To make matters worse, he tried to pay them in change! I mean, who does that? It’s like asking to be murdered.” The officer shook his head and walked away.
I took one final lip-smacking sip of oolong, chewing on the lasting bits of Sugar in the Raw, when Preston limped up to me. He placed a hand on my shoulder, and instead of smashing his fingers with a mallet a la Itchy and Scratchy, Bart Simpson’s favorite cat and mouse team, like I’d always fantasized, I let it linger there. I figured Preston had been through enough, with the vomit and all.
“Well-uh,” he spoke up, breaking the uncomfortable silence, “if that wasn’t a surprising end to our day, I don’t know what is-uh.”
I ground my teeth together, wishing I never had to hear Preston speak again. I’d take a T-Swift ringtone over his voice any day.
As I got in my car and put on my blinker to turn left out of the parking lot, every curse word which existed came out of my mouth as I realized I never purchased my really fucking delicious overpriced tortilla chips.
But Sookie Stackhouse was waiting for me on my DVR, making everything okay.
Well, almost. The Walgreens right across the street from my apartment building had the same brand of tortilla chips. Not only were they half the price, they were buy one get one free.