Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-Two

“Here,” breathed Wil, “must I tread again.” She surveyed the fluorescent land; her land. Little had changed during her absence. Commoners scurried around her, too awed by her presence to engage her attentions. There, rested the wheeled carriages. There, the rows of labeled shelving.

Without map or list to guide her, Wil frowned. ‘Twas a regal frown, naturally. One mustn’t sacrifice one’s face to strain, after all, no matter how confused one felt.

“Ah!” she exclaimed, remembering. A harried woman jumped in passing. The action passed beneath her ruler’s esteemed notice. Wil strode forward, accompanied by the soft squeak-thump of boot and flup-flop of coat and scarf. Employing a carriage, she pointed it and her in the direction of a ceiling-hung label: Soups/Instant Rice/Box Meals/Cake Mixes.

What an odd assortment to collect within a single location, she mused. She drew closer to the mirror-floored aisle in question. Odd or no, she felt certain this was the first she must visit. She began sounding out the names of the items before her.

“Rice-a-Ro-Ney?” “Hamburg’s Helper?” “Raw-men?”

A youth in red half-uniform paused mid-stack to stare. Wil blushed, knowing he ought not to forget his manners yet simultaneously practicing her own in not reprimanding the impudent boy. Instead, she lifted her chin and continued her perusal within her private thoughts.

Insta-Taters? Scallop-ed Noodles? Aha! Tu-na Helper! Wil snatched the box in haste, incurring another surprised reaction from her lone teenager audience. Turning her back upon the knave, she secured a second box in similar fashion. There! Now all she required was the necessary protein complement: tuna.

“But where am I to find a fishmonger within this enclosed market?” she mused.

“Did you say fish?” The half-redded worker spoke. Wil deigned to turn since his voice sounded near. It was; he was. Her slight movement brought her eye level with an unshaven chin and she jumped and dropped the boxes in her hands. Embarrassed, she scrambled to retrieve her lost treasures.

Once within her grasp, she deposited them safely in the wheeled carriage. She faced the disrespectful youth again. Any commoner could read the disdain writ upon her face -any, it seemed, except the boy before her. Not only had he continued to stand whilst she chased the boxes, he hadn’t offered a word nor eye-blink since his only sentence. Wil could therefore not be certain of his intellectual abilities nor the chance of his aid. She decided, however, that little risk lay in answering his simple query.

“Yes; I said ‘fish.'” She threw a tattered length of scarf over a shoulder. “I require the tu-na this ‘Tuna Helper’ demands.”

“Right,” he said. She watched his Adam’s apple fall and rise below his impassive face. “‘Suh next aisle over.” He went back to stocking the shelf.

Wil gaped after his sudden manner. Recovering, she answered, “Thank you, good sir.” She grasped the steerage of the wheeled carriage and headed where he had indicated. She felt the less correct term of “sir” a safer formality in address; though, how anyone could call such an unkempt and rude person anything besides “peasant” was beyond her.

 

Continued from Ninety-One.
Keep reading to Ninety-Three.

Do You Know Your Influences?

One of my favorite stories is a chapter in Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. A dubious character named Dr. Pickell hypnotizes a woman to help with her smoking addiction. He tells her the cigarette will turn into a worm in her mouth; then, as is his wont, adds a twisted behavior at the end of their hypnosis session.

“[Dr. Pickell] rubbed his beard and smiled. ‘Whenever your husband says the word “potato,” you will slap him across the face.’

‘When – Fred – says – ‘potato’ – I – will – slap – his – face.'”

A few paragraphs later, we learn the effects of Dr. Pickell’s meddling.

“It was an interesting thing about the word ‘potato.’ Whenever Fred said it, she slapped him. And he’d ask her why she slapped him, but she never remembered slapping him, so they’d get in a big fight, each calling the other crazy. Then they’d kiss and make up, which was nice because her breath didn’t stink.

“They never figured out it had anything to do with saying ‘potato.’…

“But deep down they both must have realized it somehow, because while they used to eat lots of potatoes, they gradually ate fewer and fewer, until they finally stopped eating them altogether.”

You would be surprised how often I think about this story in real life. Sachar is a master children’s author, crafting a deep story in a few, easily understood sentences.

Although I could go on for a bit longer about children’s authors, Louis Sachar, and pickles vs. potatoes; I bring this story up to discuss influences in our lives and whether we notice them or not.

Just think: when you walk into a store, what do you see? Someone has planned what you will see. Someone has looked at studies that say how much space a shopper needs upon entering before he may encounter something on sale. That someone knows that angled aisles are better but not as space-efficient (so they hang tags off the shelves), that we shoppers look for sales, and that we need enough space in an aisle to avoid the ‘butt-brushing effect.’

Advertising is a sneaky business, and one we often think of when considering this subject. As prevalent as purchasing bits of our mind is, however, that is not the influence that I am interested in discussing.

Instead, I want to think about less-evil, subtle influences we are ignorant of; things like choosing to act like our hero, striving to never wear red because you think it’s evil, and picking a genre of music after a coworker won’t stop listening to it.

In my life, I’ve seen examples of all of these behaviors. My brother is in medical school because one of his scout leaders was/is a successful doctor. One of my relatives will not wear red. And our family all got hooked on dubstep because my husband’s coworker played it nonstop.

For me, personally; I do not sew because my mother did not, I read and write because she did, and I abhor shopping and matching and new trends because she always tried to get me to wear (what I thought were) ugly combinations at the store. On sunny days I feel more capable and happy. If a friend makes a nice comment, I feel more confident. A jarring chord or fighting at home raises everyone’s anxiety levels.

When I think about it, the influences seem obvious. When I don’t, they don’t. Either way, I behave impulsively.

When the day is grey and ordinary, do you huddle up and wonder why everything’s dark and depressing? After hearing a favorite song from your youth, do you find yourself fondly (and ignorantly) reminiscing? Or, are you self-aware enough to buck the trends and have a happy-ever-after without any pickles princes?

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Check out what I wrote this week. These posts may affect your day:
Wednesday, March 6: Wrote “It Takes Pains to Be Beautiful but I’m No Masochist,” a discussion of whether beauty is skin-deep and how much some people need to help that.
Also, “A Ghost of a Pinned Chance,” in response to Peregrine Arc‘s writing prompt.

Thursday, March 7: “The Cure for Depression: Get Outside,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
And, typed up a free-verse poem, “Seasonal Perspectives.”

Friday, March 8: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Michael Fishman!
I was prolific this week! Wrote “The Seedy Underbelly of Writing.” Be careful out there, people.

Saturday, March 9: Announced the 17th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is Under-the-Table Deals. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, March 10: “I’d Like to Mouse Wheel a Motion,” my entry for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week.

Monday, March 11: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Five.” Pants Hands-down, one of the funniest in the series so far
Tuesday, March 12:  An inspirational quote by @Girlbebrave.

Wednesday, March 13: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Selfish Selflessness,” “The @#*&% Diet,” and quoted Erma Bombeck.

 

Photo Credit:
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Green and Yellow Fruit Basket

Igor stared at the remains of his shopping trip. His enormous hunch rose and fell in a worried sigh.

He knew he’d gotten what he was sent for. He remembered selecting the shiniest peeler from the grocery shelf and heading to Checkout.

While standing in line behind an old lady with a dog in her purse and in front of a young boy who kept poking his hunch, Igor had noticed the fruit cups.

His stomach had rumbled.

Why not? it had asked. Herr doktor will never know. He’d added them to his peeler, hurriedly paid, and left. Just to be certain, he’d tossed the receipt behind a few scraggly bushes outside the door.

And now, as he stared at the gaping hole his leaking containers had made in the paper bag, he realized a receipt might be a thing to hang onto.

“Ah, Igor,” a deep voice said from the doorway. “Excellent. A minute more and the specimen would be useless.” Dr. Frankenstein held out a hand. “Give me the peeler and let’s get him started.”

Created for Fractured Faith Blog’s Flash Fiction Challenge.

Food on Your Family

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There is a recall out for chopped Romaine lettuce.

Normally, I am unaffected by produce recalls because my lettuce was purchased thirty days ago and I am still telling myself that I’ll eat it. I can cut around all the brown spots, right? We’d hosted a family party Sunday, however, so I bought that huge package of Romaine hearts from Costco the day before.

As each heart was ripped out and discarded, I had the mental image of pulling cash from my wallet and throwing green bills away.

Which leads me to a common question I hear: how much does it cost to feed a family?

I have four boys. They’re young, and have always had modest appetites. My husband, who has never passed 150 lbs in his life, says he feels full after soup. Still, our food costs are going to be more than a young couple working full time or a small family of three.

Plus, kids grow. They eat more when they grow.

I lived with my younger brother when he was a teenager. I’m safely estimating that I’ll have that TIMES FOUR in a few, short years.

One perk to having children is that people will occasionally offer me free food. As in, Chelsea, I’m moving and am just throwing away all the food in my fridge. Do you want to come over and see if you can use any? Or, I’m going on a restrictive diet and left some pantry items on your porch. Give away what you don’t use.

It almost makes up for how much I spend otherwise. Actually -no, no it doesn’t.

Whenever I think I’ve got it bad, however, I think of larger families. We’ve hosted my husband’s sister’s family of eight children a handful of times. Don’t worry -we’ve returned the favor. But adding six people to ten is easier: just kill two chickens instead of the one and throw a bit more flour into the roll dough.

I may go into Costco to buy bread and come out with a new set of tires, but my weekly trips and expenses for food are about equal to my sister-in-law’s daily ones.

One of my favorite films to watch growing up was Yours, Mine, and Ours, with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. Although it has many pertinent scenes, every time our relatives come stay I replay the grocery store part in my mind. In the film, the poor cashier enters the products manually. Tub after tub of oatmeal follows bags and bags of Wonder bread, AND they have two more shopping carts to go after all that. The cashier totals it all up; they spent $126.63 (the equivalent of $920.87, using online inflation calculators).

The North family really could have used a Costco.

We took our ten house guests to the world’s largest Costco last time they were here. My husband was at work, so we may have resembled members of a certain lifestyle involving two wives. Each adult manned a shopping cart and helped herd the dozen children roaming around us.

It was somewhat exciting to purchase 36 hot dogs, multiple loaves of bread, 5 lbs of cheese, and enormous bags of chips -and know that we would eat it all within the week. We filled the carts with food and diapers, plus children in time-out.

I felt overwhelmed projecting how much regular grocery bills must cost. And, as with any large organization (recalls aside), their family has waste. have waste, and feel that I do fairly well planning out meals and reusing leftovers.

I find myself mentally calculating what the cheapest take-out meals are (Chinese food, pizza, or chicken “on the bird” from Costco), least-expensive home meals are (bean soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, pancakes), or how often we can visit relatives at mealtimes.

I mean, when the boys do hit puberty, I’m going to be in trouble. Donations? GoFundMe, maybe? Actually, taking a full-time job might be the best option.

I wonder if Costco is hiring.

 

Grey Thursday

Suess

So, when all of the food
Had been swallowed and chewed,
The guests left the dishes and host
With their brood.

And, forcing employees
To all do the same,
They shopped and they grabbed
And they spent without shame.

 

Please, stay home on the holidays. Popular greed is robbing store workers of time with family.