My silver cart was waiting its turn behind a nice sort of thick-makeupped, disturbingly chemical-black hairdo, who was briefing the clerk on the latest news from the Enquirer. Apparently, someone is cheating on a certain Jessica, and another Angelina hemidemigoddess revealed too much in a tell-all interview, having cuckolded her current paramour who, I take it, is now "Brad-the-mad."
These catechisms and mystagogies are familiar stuff by now, and help make the world go round
I moved my cart forward into the penultimate position. I looked down at the chicken: it was poultry a la BOGO, along with cage-free eggs ("but how do you really know?"), unsalted butter for an applesauce cake and a bit of soda (that's "pop" in Pittsburgh).
Interrupting my checklist – and quite sabotaging my effort (I had plumb forgotten the cookies for my starving youth class) – a red-faced sixty-ish short and round man was hard at work throwing bags of groceries into his cart.
This throwing business was done for rhetorical punch, italicizing his limited repertoire of invective:
"Don't you go begging" … crash went the half-and-half … "for your stupid food drive" … smack went the two-dozen super-glazed donuts … "whaddoo we need food pantries for" … crinkle-crash the cellophane bag of chocolate cherries … "when these people get" … bam goes the bacon and the Jack Daniels tin of pulled pork (a tasty dish, I might add) … "five hunnert dollars a month" … zing and clank, the O'Doul's (can't say much about that one, I fear) … "on their access card."
A card I am sure he meant was richly undeserved.
This Giant Eagle was perched in a poor zone. Most of the cars in the lot were elderly, held up with a lot of automotive botox fixatives. The pre-bailout GM was alive and … well, not well exactly, here.
The reaction to this sputtering denunciation of our new-fangled foodstamp program was grim, but polite. The faces lifted up and went quiet and sad, as if this were not the first time something like this was said.
I looked at the befuddled, but kindly, Methodist-looking gentleman who had attempted to hand out a flier. Under the name of the food pantry, there was a checklist of items, nothing new: canned goods; packaged foods; cleaning supplies; school items; no home-made stuff, thank you, but one can't be too cautious these days, I understand.
It was just a checklist for someone else that called down the wrath of this squat, red-faced pensioner, who was now doing his best to stomp off in a memorable rage, inarticulate though he turned out to be.
I was in my lawn-mowing clothes, hardly debonair, but I felt after this bourgeois peccadillo acutely ashamed. I think that this is a good experience for anyone, like me, who is not poor – to feel acutely ashamed in the presence of poverty, ennui, and dismal indebted desperation. It helps me remember that my abundance belongs to their need.
Here were about a hundred of Lazarus and his friends from last Sunday: and today, I think I heard the ravings of a rich naked man wandering in the tombs, rattling the chains of Jacob Marley.
"Here," I said to the Methodist-looking man, "give me one if those. God bless you." He emerged out of his traumatized daze. "That's okay," he said, "when that happens I just smile and say nothing."
The paper he handed me was a relief. "Rainbow Kitchen," it said: it was the same place my Church School kids are collecting for.
At least we were on the same page.
The mad man moved off into his familiar deader zones.