Excerpt #1 – MegaShop Stakeout

“The MegaShop Stakeout”

This is from pages 157-161

Pacing up one aisle and down the next, I scanned the crowd laboriously for quite some time. Once I’d wandered through my whole section with no results, I opted instead to pick a location and hover. Perusing the fresh fruits and vegetables section, I feigned fascination in their selection of cucumbers, strawberries and broccoli. I’d pick up an item and do all sorts of freshness quality testing, or at least what I’d hoped would be construed as such. For any given item, I’d smell, thump or shake it, only to return it to, or in the general vicinity of, its original location. Though I did garner some peculiar glances while shaking broccoli near my ear and smelling sealed bags of salad, I think I managed to fool the majority of the shoppers.

I repeated these tasks for about an hour before attracting the attention of the produce manager, an overweight man with an enormous nose and puffy pink cheeks. Though I knew someone was hovering near me, I didn’t actually take notice until his nose’s elongated shadow fell over the oranges I simulated interest in. I spun around, orange in hand, as he said, “Can I help you with anything, sir?”

I looked the man up and down before responding. “No thanks. Just checking the freshness of these oranges. I’ve got it covered. Thanks, though.” I dismissed him with a backhanded wave, then tapped the orange with my knuckle and held it to my ear like a seashell.

My quality testing caused his brow to furrow. “You don’t thump oranges, sir. That’s for melons.”

“Yeah, well, this is how they do it in Australia. You telling me the Aussies are wrong here?”

“If what you say is true, then yes. Thumping an orange won’t tell you if it’s fresh.”

Though this amused me, I made a point of displaying a curmudgeonly countenance. “Okay then, why don’t you inform me, oh guru of groceries, how I’m supposed to tell if this orange is any good.”

Snatching it from my grasp, he held it equidistant between us. “You look at it, for one. There’s no bruising, except where you’ve been hitting it. Otherwise, it’s uniform in color. Also,” he added while holding it under his nose, “if it smells nice and juicy, it is a good orange.”

I seized it back from him, resting it under my own nose. “Well, I clearly don’t have your formidable tools, but I’ll give it a go.” The man’s eyes narrowed enough to confirm he got my huge honker joke. “I dunno, man. It smells bruised to me.”

“It doesn’t smell bruised! What does that even mean?”

“It means I’m not buying it.” Putting it back on the pile, I picked up another one, put it next to my ear and began shaking it. “Now this one, yes. This one sounds ripe.”

Clearly becoming agitated, the manager spouted, “Sounds ripe?! What are you talking about? You don’t shake oranges, either.”

I shook my head in mock disgust. “Oh, you poor, uneducated man. How ever did you get this job?”

Just as his face flushed an unhealthy shade of crimson, a loud crash emanated from a few aisles away. Off in the distance, I could clearly detect Austin’s voice, then a woman shouting an obscenity-laced tirade in a shrill, piercing tone. I flipped the orange in the air, causing ol’ big nose to lunge at it in a panic. “Well, this has been enlightening, for you, but I’ve gotta go.” Without awaiting a response, I dashed away from the agitated produce manager.

When I arrived at the commotion, I found Austin sprawled on the tiled floor, yelling up at a short, obese ogre of a woman. I quickly yanked him to his feet. “What’s going on here, buddy? This isn’t the woman, y’know.”

Oh, the glare he gave me could’ve melted ice… or steel, for that matter. “Good Lord, I hope not! I’d have to stop being your friend. No, this troll slammed into me, and now she’s screaming at me as if it’s my fault.”

She jabbed her meaty index finger at him. “You ran into me, you idiot! You came sprinting around the corner and plowed right into me. Good thing I’m sturdy, otherwise you would’ve knocked me over.”

“Oh, sturdy is not the word I’d use. I’d say you’re more…”

Raising my hand and putting it directly in front of my friend’s face, I quickly cut him off. No good could possibly come from the end of that sentence. “Dude, shush. Ma’am, sorry for the trouble. Are you okay?” Looking into her cart, I couldn’t help but add, “Did he damage your lifetime supply of Ding-Dongs?”

Her eyes threw daggers at me for a moment, but instead of replying, she pulled her cart away and began pushing it in the opposite direction. “You’re just lucky I’m a lady.”

“I’d say the lady you devoured wasn’t so lucky,” Austin retorted, “ya fat old…”

In a surprisingly quick motion, the woman spun around and hit Austin in the head with her massive purse. The blow propelled him into me, clunking our heads together in a Three Stooges kind of maneuver. While we bounced off the shelf and tumbled to the ground, she snorted and resumed shoving her cart away. A sizeable crowd had formed and several of them chuckled at our embarrassing scene. Austin touched the side of his head, and once he was convinced he hadn’t sustained any external injury, said loudly, “Okay folks, nothing to see here. Move along.”

I added, “The next show’s at three. Tip your waitress.” Then, I rubbed the side of my head. “Ow. Man, what was that all about?”

“Dude, I think I found your little thief when I plowed into that heifer. She might still be here, if we hurry. C’mon!” He pulled himself to his feet, helped me up, and we both dashed down the bread aisle. “Okay, I saw her here, with a cart. I think she was headed that way.” He pointed in the opposite direction.

We sprinted through several aisles until we came upon a short, auburn haired woman with her back to us, checking out a can of Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder soup. Dashing up to her, I dropped my hand heavily on her shoulder. “Aha! I caught you!”

Some woman I had never seen before turned around and whacked me in the shoulder with the can of soup. After dropping the now-dented can, she released a blood-curdling scream. My buddy and I bolted away from her at lightning speed.

It didn’t take long after that incident before the management caught up to us and politely informed us that we were hereby banned from all MegaShop grocery stores in the future. While they escorted us from the premises, I felt the need to have the last word. “Yeah, well, I’d never shop here again anyway. Your oranges are too bruisey! And don’t get me started on the state of your broccoli!”

(C) 2015 by Randy D Pearson
All rights reserved