Wrigley Field (fiction)

She wandered the aisles, aimlessly, but with an air of intent one would be forced to describe as wanton.  He had long ago learned how it worked.  She walked all the way down one aisle, looking at things haphazardly, glancingly even, then turned on her heel at the end of the aisle, going back the way she came, now closely inspecting the items she’d just moments ago seemed not to notice.  If nothing caught her fancy, they’d proceed to the next aisle, him trailing behind with the cart like some willess comet tail.  Now she’d put something in the cart, ask him what he thought of fuchsia, or if her feet were too big for her legs.

This was housewares.  In an outlet store, not one of those brightly-lit big box stores with the deep discounts, but some junky outlier time had almost forgot.  She was holding up an espresso maker in a tiny white box, with the photograph of the stainless steel appliance on the front, looking polished and perfect.

“Do you think we should have an espresso maker?” she said.

He looked at the ceiling, formed his mouth into a doubtful V.

“I mean, do you think you would like to have an espresso maker?” she rephrased.

“I barely drink coffee.  Tea. If there were a kind of tea espresso.”

“Well.  There isn’t.”

She looked at him for a few moments.  He reread the store’s name on the handle of the cart.  She put the box back on the shelf.

He had become aware over the years of the different sounds feet made on different kinds of floor tiles.  The more upscale the store, the more muffled the footfalls, all the way up to the posh, unaffordable stores with carpet.  The lower rent places, like this place, echoed, as if everyone, even the cowed house-husbands, were rushed business women wearing heels in an antiquated hallowed hall.  Never certain why this discrepancy should matter, he fixated on it anyway—fixated on it more with each passing shopping trip.  It seemed somehow more important to him than the merchandise they bought, or which store name was on the cart handle, or the questions she asked.  The echoes loomed large, like the shadows of ancient monoliths, or a fever the day after the start of a cough.

“Do you think the kids would use this?” She was holding up a red rectangular box that held coffee and tea service for six.

“This again?” he said.

“What do you mean, This again?

He harrumphed.  Moved the cart a little side-to-side, as if it were a slalom skier, skiing in place.  “I mean, what kids?”

“Oh you,” she said, and put the coffee and tea service in the cart.

They walked single file to the end of the aisle, and then she turned on her heel and went back down the aisle again—a rare third trip down one aisle.

She stopped to pick up a large, orange, scented candle with three wicks.  Brought it to her nose.  Turned it around in her hand to get a feel for the heft.  She cleared her throat.  “What is it about you and the kids?”

He pretended not to hear.

“I mean, you acting like they’re not real.” she said.

“I suppose there are worse problems than you having delusions, but I do wish you wouldn’t talk about them in stores.”  He slalomed the cart again.

“You’ve always been such a silly bird.”  She put the candle in the cart.

They came out of the aisle, turned left.  Now they were out of housewares and into clothes.  Their feet clacked on the tiles.  She fidgeted with her purse for a piece of gum.  “I think this is just the cutest little top.”

“Is that a camisole?” he asked.

“No, silly.  This isn’t anything like a camisole.”

“Oh.”

“Would you know a camisole if you saw one?”

“I suppose not.”

“I’m going to try this on.”

“Certainly.”

“You’ll be right here?”

“I’ll be right here.”

“Back in a jiffy.”

He wandered through the clothes racks, the cart ahead of him, click-clacks all around him.  He stopped to ponder a lime green scarf.  He thought it looked like artificial turf, which made him think of Wrigley Field.  Then he doubted himself, unsure if Wrigley was turf or natural grass.  And of all the places in the world, all the monuments, secret coves, legendary pubs and government offices and isolated spots of grass near Verdun or, say, Stratford-upon-Avon, where Wrigley Field would rank in some great unmade list of human places, taking all of individual existence into account.

He realized he had steered the cart to the front of the store, by the registers.  He looked around him.  He left the cart stand alone, walked around the registers, and out the whooshing sliding front doors into a light drizzling rain.  Halfway across the parking lot he realized the lime green scarf was in his hand.  He dropped it to the ground and fished in his pocket for the car keys.  The lock clicked open.  He turned the ignition, sat looking straight ahead, pondering where to go.  After a moment he put the car in gear and drove.

2 Responses to “Wrigley Field (fiction)”

  1. Excellent. Well woven. I love, love, love the ending.

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