Adventures in Aisle Seven With The New Eleven
Arthur looked back down as quickly as he glimpsed his image on the BoxMart security television system. He didn’t need more than a peripheral reminder that he had grown lumpy, saggy and stooped. All he wanted was to go in, get a few microwave burritos for lunch, and get back on the road. He wasn’t at the store to be seen.
To get to the pantry, Arthur had to get beyond the children’s clothes section, filled with brightly woven textiles in tight little shapes he would never be able to fit into again. He passed underneath a gigantic poster of a pair of teenage girls smiling with their arms around each other, their heads tilted to the side, their ankles lifted effortlessly into the air in a pose of play. Arthur braced his throbbing lower back with his left hand and slowly moved on.
He had just passed a cooler filled with energy drinks when he was struck by a shorter man lurching out of the racks of greeting cards. Both of them fell to the hard, tiled floor, but Arthur took most of the blow, with the other man falling on top of him, a sharp elbow jabbing into Arthur’s gut right below the rib cage.
“Pardon my clumsiness,” said the old man, as Arthur pulled him to his feet. “New places make me dizzy.” He wore a collection of trendy clothes that were put together in the most unfashionable manner possible. A blue striped knit hat covered the top of the man’s long, white hair, an extra long neon orange scarf trailed down from either side of his neck nearly to his ankles, a dark green fleece vest covered a black t-shirt with some kind of Japanese-looking cartoon character on it, above a pair of long purple swim trunks with orange flames leaping up the thighs from the bottom hem, which covered half of the man’s kneecaps. On his feet, the man wore bright red sneakers over black dress socks.
The man was still stooping to nearly half the height he could have been. “Are you all right?” asked Arthur, trying to understand the sight before him.
“Never better, but there’s no time to chat.” He gestured as if to shake Arthur’s hand, but instead, he slipped a small piece of glossy, slick paper into Arthur’s hand. Torn from a larger sheet of paper, it featured a bar code and the words “50 percent off”.
“Use it in Aisle Seven,” the old man said, craning his neck to look behind Arthur. “Hurry, before it becomes null and void.”
Arthur turned to follow the man’s gaze as he asked, “What’s it for?” When he turned back, however, the odd little man was gone.