“The Grape Eater”
It happened in aisle two.
The atmosphere of Shop Smart was bustling and all around there was movement. In one corner an overworked mother was pulling her son into the cart, while her son was pushing himself out of it. By the melons a tall girl was comparing one mango to the other, weighing each against her chest and no doubt looking for the best buy. To the left an elderly gentleman was clenching his fingers upward to the ceiling and shaking them back and forth complaining about clumps in the grated parmesan cheese. So, just another day… until I saw you.
Right there in aisle two.
I was minding my own business, as one does when grocery shopping. I had a small list: bananas, Oreos, and Mocha Swirl ice cream. All major food groups, and all scattered in their own habitats in the store. It was at the exact moment I had spotted the most yellow of the bananas when I saw you a few feet away, hovering over the red seedless grapes. At first my mind skated over. Grapes, sure they were good, but not on my limited list. Besides the drinkable version to me was more preferable for the cost, despite it being nay 12 in the afternoon… then it happened.
You. You in that maroon colored overcoat, in those black bell bottoms, in those disgusting gray tennis shoes which must have once been white reached into that bag of innocent produce and plucked. Plucked. I was so stunned all I could do was watch as you popped that innocent orb of juiciness and vacuumed sucked it into your mouth, leaving no trace of evidence behind…
The bunch fell straight out of my hand and landed with a crash onto its other brethren below on the stand. Looking around to the other patrons of Smart Shop’s finest I found no one else paying any mind. No one had seen. But I saw. I know what you did.
There must have been a look on my face. At that moment I had no control over any of my emotions. You though, Grape Eater, were spared my revulsion by swiftly pivoting away to deeper into the recesses of the store. The others weren’t.
“Are you okay?” Melon girl asked, holding two watermelons now in each of her palms. I didn’t know how to answer. Was I okay? Physically, yes. Mentally, maybe. Emotionally, no. No, I wasn’t. But I was in no mood to explain all of this to her. For some reason fate had willed this burden to fall into my hands and not hers. So I would spare her.
Giving a quick jerk of my head that was neither a nod nor shake, I grabbed my fallen bunch of bananas and scooted out of aisle two. Maybe I was just overreacting. I mean if the Grape Eater was planning on buying the bundle then it didn’t matter, really, whether one was gone or not. It wasn’t stealing. Just eating, preemptively. My synapses calmed at this thought. Any leftover abhorrence I pinned elsewhere. For example, Grape Eater, don’t you know you have to wash fruit first before putting it into your mouth?
But that was Grape Eater’s issue and not mine. Mine was on finding the Oreos. That was easy enough, my Double Stuf Oreos were waiting nestled in between all the other cookies of choice. I grabbed the pack and forced a smile. When I got home these would be well earned. I turned from the display and I stopped. At the end of the shelves was Grape Eater.
You were munching merrily and it was with trepidation that I looked into your basket. Behind the Chips Ahoy and jars of marinara sauce I saw the half eaten bag of grapes. You were trying to hide it, I know you were. Those cookies were placed so carefully to block any onlookers from looking deeper. The marinaras’ label were bright red and distracting to divert any other attention straight to its “Delicious!” marketing campaign. But I knew what to look for. I wasn’t fooled.
This time I followed you, walking right out of reach, as we entered the frozen food section. Grape Eater strolled casually by the peas, by the boxed pizzas and then paused at the ice cream. I swallowed. With grimy hands you reached in and pilfered a container out of the display. I felt my heart lurch when I saw the Mocha Swirl. There was no way.
You coasted by again as I bolted to the freezer and scanned the labels. Mint, Salted Caramel, Butter Pecan…. but no. No more Mocha Swirl. I looked again, and then again. The aisle was empty and you were gone by the time I let realization take hold. This was personal.
I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was going to do it. Punching the heels of my boots into the tile floor I strode out into the wilderness of the store. The mother and son watched me wearily and the elderly gentleman sidestepped out of my way, each had to just take one look at my face.
The Grape Eater was waiting. Right in front of the tower of Barilla Pasta, on sale for $1.29 a box. It was as if you knew what you did with that smug bloated smile on your face, and you were proud of it. You, Grape Eater, chucked that empty grape bag to the side with a quick, purposeful flick of your wrist, then finally, met my eyes. So you had seen me, just as I had seen you.
As I opened my mouth, it happened. Melon girl, appearing from around the corner, now with two apples in her hands and a menagerie of other fruit in a cart nearby never saw the empty bag. It slid from right under her foot and flinging her apples she in turn reached out… and knocked down the whole tower of pasta.
Grape Eater never stood a chance. The boxes came tumbling down in an avalanche of linguini, penne and farfalle. After, when the dust settled I seized my moment. While everyone was distracted by the spill and Grape Eater floundering on the floor, I grabbed my Mocha Swirl from the forgotten basket.
No one paid me any mind. And it was satisfying.