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Thursday, March 3, 2011


    Six fifty, Friday night, ten slow minutes before the Harbor Market would close its doors to customers. The usual scene was taking place about the registers, cashiers slumping over their computers, staring at the clock, or compulsively cleaning everything about them in order to pass time. A woman approached the check out line and everyone simultaneously straightened up, as if a puppeteer in the office above their heads had pulled invisible strings. A single fluorescent light flickered above their heads and then suddenly went out. For a moment everyone's attention was focused on the sudden dimness about the store, but then they all went back to their perfectly rehearsed roles.
            "Hi, how are you today, ma'am?" The girl behind the conveyor belt said while scanning uniform items of food through the system.
            "Good thanks." The lady replied quietly, as she appeared to be mesmerized by watching her milk, eggs and bread go through the scanner. In a moment the transaction was completed, the receipt printed, and the customary "goodbyes" and "thank you"s said. As soon as the customer rolled through the swinging automated door the cashiers slumped down again and went back to watching the clock.
            Sixty fifty four, friday night, six minutes until the cashiers could escape from their paper bag prison cells. Just as the the anticipation of leaving swept through the front end, the enter door swung open. At first no one appeared, but then a creaking noise fell upon the employee's ears, and they each in turn openly cringed. Soon the noise was accompanied by a rusted, metallic shopping cart, and then by its driver. No one turned to notice the old, yellowed, man walking through the door. They were all too intent on the fact that in three minutes and forty two, forty one, seconds they would be gone. But then as the newcomer came into full view of the torpid cashiers, they realized that their near dreams of relief were just falling farther away as the clock ticked. The man continued his sluggish path down the miscellaneous food aisle. His white skin clashed against the harsh silver of his shopping cart, which clashed against the patches of rust found all the aluminum bars. The artificial lights exposed blue veins through his lucid hands. Slowly the hands reached for something on the rack and they found a single twenty five cent apple pie, which they removed and placed into the decomposing basket of the cart. He gradually turned the cart around in the aisle, nearly knocking over the entirety of the bean section. Then, as the cashiers kept one eye on him and the other still on the clock, he came to a register. There was no friendly greeting from the girl this time as she swiftly rang up the lone cardboard box containing the man's next meal. She waited impatiently as he fumbled in his pockets for the money. She did not note his rugged appearance, she merely kept her distance from the yellowed body before her. He finally came up with a single quarter which she grabbed from between his decrepit nails and soft pale skin. He got no receipt or paper bag, but instead just picked up his pie and put it right back into the cart. His soft white hair glistened translucently under the stares of the lighting and the employees as he wheeled away. Then the next moment he was gone.
            Seven seven, Friday night, seven minutes past the pre-approved departure time of the workers. They grumbled as they all clocked out and made their ways out to the parking lot. None of them noticed the lone old man sitting in the bench under the sole street light next to his , his cottage cheese hands wrapped around the pie as he slowly took the first bite.

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