Secret shopper

January 15, 2010

Audrey drove into the Costco lot. I want to park in the first row, she thought. There will be a space by the cart return. She drove down the first row to the end. I want to park in the second row, and kept going. I intend to park in a convenient space next to a cart return somewhere in this lot. She found it about half a mile from the Costco entrance. Thank you.

Audrey was a latecomer to The Secret, the self-help phenomenon by Rhonda Byrne based on positive thinking. Audrey didn’t seek wealth or fame or esoteric conversion or a better lover. She liked her life. But maybe there’s more to it…

Photo by Pam Wells © 2010

She’d found a worn copy of the book at a garage sale last summer. A minute later she was holding a reddish-brown Bauer mixing bowl—one dollar!

“Are you sure about the price?” she had asked the pale young woman running the sale, knowing the bowl was a vintage piece probably worth fifty dollars.

The young woman had shrugged. “Fifty cents, and I’ll throw in the book.”

Inside Costco, Audrey put a package of farmed salmon into her cart, then threw it back; she’d wait for spring Chinook. Today was about stocking up on canned goods and bulk staples for natural disasters.

She stopped in front of the cat food, and it struck her that pets should have emergency stockpiles, too. Her throat tightened as she remembered Lucy, her little tabby who had died just two weeks before. Her mind leaped to her kitchen where Lucy had always come running at the sound of a can opener. Audrey had never given Lucy canned food, not once, and it didn’t matter what it was, diced tomatoes or pineapple in its own juice or cannellini beans. Whoever had owned Lucy as a kitten would be answerable in the Great Beyond for instilling her with can frenzy. And if there is a Great Beyond, I want to park in the first row.

Audrey rolled through the exit bay door, her receipt marked by the exit bay doorkeeper, and tromped through a light rain to her car. There she unloaded toilet paper, olive oil, pasta, canned vegetables, Deschutes Black Butte Porter and a twenty-pound bag of cat food. Just in case.

© 2010 Pam Wells


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2 thoughts on “Secret shopper

  1. Somehow when I read your writing, I’m instantly in the scene. Love the pictures – maybe that helps. This is great stuff, and I’d be inspired to set up my emergency supplies but I did that a long time ago. I’m paranoid. I loaded a backpack with freeze-dried food and water tablets so I could make off into the woods. I’ve got a tarp and cord for a tent, flashlight, space blankets, cheap rain gear, a sterno, and a book about edible plants – plus Lord knows what else. The backpack is very stretched out and weighs 50-75 pounds. I hope I put candles in there, but I don’t dare unzip it – items would shoot out like projectile vomit.

  2. Well, I’m instantly in the scene with what you just wrote. Just one question– are you lugging that backpack through the woods all by yourself, or are your husband, son and daughter running ahead of you yelling, “Come on, mom! Get a move on!”?

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