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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2216004-The-Last-One-On-The-Shelf
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Experience · #2216004
Or... The Perils of the Marketplace ~ A Writer's Cramp Entry
I had seen this kind of thing before, but it was usually when a hurricane was blowing in off the gulf. Even then, many people were fighting for gas to get out or loading pick-up trucks with plywood to save windows. No, this was different. During most natural disasters, generally the household aisle isn’t the first to be raided. I’m not exactly sure where or how it started, there are some theories, but everyone decided they needed to hoard the toilet paper. Once it was gone, they went for facial tissue. If they had done the math and compared Kleenex to Charmin, they would realize they’re paying thirty times as much to wipe their butts. So now, half of the country has a garage packed with ass and face wipe, along with hand sanitizer. If you happened to have stock in a company that makes those items, you’re now rich. But sell it soon, because once this is over, people won’t be buying any more until the middle of the decade.

The store in question is one that is in a serious hurricane zone, and they prepare for this kind of activity. The staff had roped off a checkout line that literally wrapped single file a third of the way around the enormous building. All of the registers were open, and staff directed traffic. Signs were already up rationing certain items, which was good for me. I was just there for a normal grocery shop and only left without eggs. Toilet paper wasn’t even on the list, because there was a full four-pack at home. With that and a garden hose, I’d be fine. Since the hoard had generally moved from paper products to bottled water, I got a gallon of milk. There was one box of butter left that looked like it had been the subject of a fierce battle and then left torn asunder. I packed the quarters back in the mangled box, and probably would have asked for a discount if the checkout clerk didn’t look like she was ready to come unglued. Then… I went for rice.

It was shocking to see the aisle with dry goods desecrated, but then it made sense. It was between paper products and water, and like locusts, they laid it to waste like a field of crops. I rolled my cart behind a man looking sadly at a couple of bags of even sadder lima beans. When another man turned into the aisle from the other end, both of them locked onto what appeared to be the last bag of rice. Like jousters, they both drove their carts hard to win the prize, and I watched when they met with a loud crash of steel. They both reached for it, got it about the same time, and for a moment I thought they would rip it apart. Instead, oddly, they both dropped it. I thought at that point there was going to be a fistfight, but being in the south, was also concerned with gunplay. With all the empty shelves, though, it would be easy to climb out of the way. No one drew a weapon, but they did start yelling.

“I got it first!” Said the larger of the two.
“My ass!” Replied the other.
“Go ahead and try and pick it up, then!”
“Right. Do I look that stupid?”

They locked eyes. But instead of a fight, cooler heads prevailed and they talked it out. Finally, they decided on a coin flip to decide matters. However, while they were howling and carrying on, I saw something that made my day. A young girl slipped through the empty shelves from the adjoining aisle, and quietly took the bag. When the coin hit the floor and the men looked down, the prize was gone. The last I saw was her racing her cart toward that long checkout line, and I nearly laughed myself sick. No pun intended…

(WC:656)
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