I spent the morning concocting homemade salsa for my famous fish tacos. After chopping up tomatoes, peppers and a portion of my left thumb, all that stood between me and an Iron Chef award was cheese.
Sighing, I threw on my lawn-mowing shoes from the garage steps and resigned myself to that special hell known as grocery shopping.
I climbed in the car and adjusted my rearview mirror. Holy Mother of God! What Stephen King monster had slithered its way into my minivan? With a second trembling glance, I discovered the image staring back was my own face, sans makeup and brushed hair.
I sniffed. What was that odor? I glanced down at my shoes. SHIT. Literally. Given my haste the last time I mowed, who could be bothered to pick up piles of dog poop?
But beauty and hygiene were too steep a price to pay, considering they entailed going all the way back into the house. I grabbed my son’s ball cap from the van floor and slipped on my shades. I’d venture out a la Lindsay Lohan, except sober and without a lucrative Playboy contract.
Besides, it was Sunday morning. Everyone but me in this tiny town was surely at church.
Everyone, it appeared, but my perfect neighbor: the one who ran a scrapbooking business from her home, juggled a handful of community volunteer gigs, and homeschooled her six children. Her perfect life left me dazed, when it didn’t induce vomiting.
Spying her coming, I bolted toward the next aisle. Then I wandered down the next two. Wait, seriously? Three full aisles of organic foods? At this rate, future generations will never know the ambrosia that is a can of beans and weenies.
Figuring I lost Perfect Neighbor, I wheeled down the canned goods aisle. Hmm. Beans and weenies—the perfect lunch! (Before my healthy dinner of grilled fish tacos. Because I am all about balance.)
As I grabbed two cans, I knocked one off the shelf. It fell with a thud and exploded. Tomato sauce, speckled with beans and a few synthetic weenie bits, oozed across the floor. My eyes darted up and down the aisle. Before I could escape, a store clerk rounded the corner.
He frowned down at the beans and weenies pooling at my feet.
I tsked-tsked. “I was just going to report that. Can you believe someone dropped it and just left it here?” I steered my cart away.
On my way toward the dairy section, I pondered my morning. So far, I’d failed to remember the Sabbath, bore false witness, and possibly coveted my neighbor’s life. I guessed it might not bode well for my intake interview with St. Peter.
My spirits quickly brightened as I passed an end-cap sale display. Oh my! Pudding cups! Ten four-packs for ten dollars! Who could resist such a steal? I filled my cart.
Studying the cheese selections, I attempted a cost-comparison. One package was priced per pound, while another brand was labeled with price per ounce. So. God had chosen to chastise me for today’s sins after all, through the most painful of all penances: math.
As I attempted to divide and multiply and recall any element of fourth-grade arithmetic, I heard someone call my name. I turned to see Perfect Neighbor, with three Perfect Children in tow.
“Oh. Hey. Hi.” I glanced at them, mother and daughters resplendent in dresses and matching shoes, their hair impeccably coiffed. I tugged at the bill of my gangsta ball cap.
“We’re just coming from church, and I remembered we needed milk for dinner,” she said, adjusting her silk scarf. “Dan drove separately with the boys to stop at the lumber store. He’s building an addition on our summer home on Lake Michigan.”
“That’s great. Yeah, I’m just making a quick trip for tonight’s dinner, too.”
I followed her glance to my cart with its sole contents: two cans of beans and weenies—and forty pudding cups.
Her eyebrows rose. Her eyes traveled from my poopy-brown tennis shoes, up to my sweatpants, and finally landed on my chest. I looked down to see tomato juice stains sprayed across my sweatshirt.
“Uh-huh,” she said. She crinkled her nose, sniffed the air and frowned, before smiling brightly. “Well, so great to see you!”
“Yep. You, too. Gotta go,” I said, whisking my cart away. “I can’t be late for church.”
I checked out, ran to the parking lot, and took refuge in my minivan. I glanced at my dashboard clock. Running to the store had cost me $13.78 and thirty-eight minutes of my morning—as well as a total loss of my pride.
In the midst of all the fun, I forgot the friggin’ cheese.
I ate pudding cups for dinner.
**Sherry Stanfa-Stanley is a writer, humorist, and squeamish adventurer. She is the author of the award-winning memoir, Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares. As is evident by this story and this photo, she really shouldn’t go out in public.