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Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005
What a week for the weird and repressed side of my brain.

My blessed wife started me off in fine form last Tuesday, when it became abundantly clear that if we didn’t make an immediate trip to the grocery store there would be no popcorn in the evenings nor coffee in the morn, which is what two 40-something’s chiefly subsist on these days, if you’re wanting to know. I think it has something to do with winter and light depravation or something.

Ally and I have very little imagination when it comes to procuring basic foodstuffs and cleaning products. Used to be, when we ran a small hotel filled with miniature versions of ourselves and their persistent overnight guests, we’d run over to the local merchandise warehouse and push flatbed carts full of stuff out the door, only to find it gone within a fortnight.

Now it’s hard to tell if any kids live there at all. I’m pretty sure they do, I hear the dryer running at odd hours and occasionally find random food trails in the kitchen. Ally tells me they work during the evenings and sleep during the day. But if vampires they be, I can’t see what advantage dry clothes might be to them. Or midnight raids on the refrigerator, for that matter.

So suffice to say we make unscheduled runs to the local supermarket, it’s our date night, and try hard not to spend money like we used to back in the day. Ally has even taken to making a list before we go, so that we remember not to buy 6 gallons of milk or 4 bags of chips. It’s like a reinforcing tool for us. We already know what to buy, it’s what not to pick up that’s worth the reminder. This week it was soup, for example. She leaned into the pantry closet and called out “We’ve already got three cans of soup, so don’t go blowing my food budget with any more soup. You barely eat it as it is.”

At any rate, we were doing our stroll through the market in the usual way, me pushing the cart and leaning into it as if employing a cheap walker, Ally wandering ahead and giving furtive glances at the list. It was late, we were tired, but the deed had to be done.

And we hit the soup aisle. Which happened to have a special on Vegetable Beef and Tomato.

I don’t eat a lot of soup, that much is true. But when I do those are the ones. I tossed a half dozen straight into the cart without a second thought.

“What are you doing,” she hissed (yes, hissed. Ally isn’t big on making public scenes in the soup aisle or anywhere else. The grocery store being the high holy ground that it is).

“Special on the soup,” I placidly replied. “Helluva deal. Probably saved us 20 cents right there.”

“Didn’t we agree? There’s soup at home. You’re not going to go crazy with our food budget just because soup happens to be on sale.”

“Crazy? On soup? Oh come now,” I said.

She was adamant. “Uh uh. Gotta stick to the budget. Back they go.”

Now like I said, it was late and a heated discussion over 6 cans of Campbell’s struck me as both unnecessary and merit less. So I stuck ‘em on the shelves and went back to my post, allowing the basket to cradle my weeks intake of beer within its metallic web of wheeled comfort.

I must have been somnambulant in my whole approach to the store, groceries in mass stacks seem to have a narcotic effect on me, but this rebuff started to repeat itself as we progressed. I’d take a look at a bag of cookies, slowly reach a bony hand for them and hear a warning “Ahhhh . . . “ from my wife complete with a raised finger and arched brows, and the hand would retract with the same sheepish speed. The oysters in the fish case looked tempting until I caught that angry shake of the head next to me and the cart would start its gloomy path once again.

Then came time for the pet feed. My wife loves our ancient and infirm dog. It’s entirely possible she feels more kinship with him than with me, and I’m always looking for ways to prove it and to have a little fun with her denial. It’s just me, looking to relieve the tedium of normal life you see.

She hefted a case of canned dog food and a huge bag of dried to the cart and moved off, leaving me to regard it with sleepy eyes. I let her get almost to the cat food before heaving it all back to the shelves.

“What now,” I heard. “What are you doing with the dog’s food?” and I heard a clicking of heels and that tone in her voice that she normally reserves for defending her children against mean teachers or the bully down the street.

“I’m trying to stick to the budget dear, just like you said. Dog’s got 5 cans of food at the house and half a sack of dry food. What’s the point of getting more?”

“Why you know he’s going to eat that up before we’re back here again. You know he will.”

“I gotcha. Sorta like that soup back there. Besides, what happens if he just up and decides to croak in the middle of the night, hmmmm? Who gets to finish off all that dog food then? Ain’t gonna be me, I tell ye.”

She had the look of someone not to be trifled with and shoved the dog food back in the cart. “You let me worry about that buster. Oooh, almost forgot the dog bones,” as she reached for the jumbo sized box.

“And that’s another thing. You got this unscripted budget thing going on here, why does the dog get a box of bones and I can’t have any cookies?”

She was moving off and muttering something about clean teeth and fresh doggie breath in a low voice, so I called out “Here! Here’s a nice doggie toothbrush right here, and you could get some twine over there in hardware if you wanted to floss him! Shouldn’t set ya back more than a coupla bucks!”

She wasn’t listening, she had her head in frozen foods looking for those peas I hate, and I got the impression she had her fingers in her ears as well.

“Wait a second we’re not through in pet supplies yet! How about this cunning leather leash thingy here? Or some yummy rawhide!”

I was yammering by now. There weren’t many people in the store but I dare say every one of them knew all about my dog, his bad breath and his passion for Alpo by the time we made it to the last aisle and the home stretch. My wife was walking faster all the way in an effort to get away from the portly guy addressing her back and wailing on about pet supplies. The only thing that momentarily stopped me was the beer section, where I nabbed a case in full stride and slung it under the cart in my patented move. I got a look from Ally but that was about all.

It’s just plain unfortunate that the only cashier had to be near canned foods.

Moments later, aisle six found me at one end and Ally at the other. I had a half basket full of Campbell’s Tomato and was rapidly jumping in place screaming, “Crazy on soup! Crazy on soup!”

I love shopping with my wife.

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