Everyday Trip To Grocery Store Ends In Heroism
This time the hero is me
We are in heroic times at The Real Sarah Miller. In my last essay, it was my friend’s son who was the hero. This week the hero was me. This is a post for everyone. GIVE A GIFT OF THE REAL SARAH MILLER on sale, $49!
It was late afternoon in the Sierra Foothills last Sunday and the snow was starting to come down. We were, as always, unprepared. We had a pound of coffee beans, two bags of carrots, three eggs, a loaf of bread, blueberry jam (a gift, still with its ribbon) and a plastic jar of sauerkraut. We also had some rice, tuna, and sugar. We were not going to die but we needed some things if the next 24-36 hours were going to be at all pleasant, and while I wished we’d thought of it sooner, our house is a short walk from a supermarket so I wasn’t worried. As I set out with two canvas bags to get a few items, the most important of which was half and half and the second most important of which was food in general, I was thinking to myself — even as the snow fell thicker and faster and I kept putting on and removing my glasses (I’m mildly nearsighted) trying to figure out whether wearing them gave me better visiblity (lots of snow to see through) or worse (lenses kept getting covered with snow) — how nice it would be to easily procure these items, return home and settle in.
I thought this until the moment I walked confidently up to the supermarket’s automatic door and it declined to admit me.
Like a child about to take its mother’s breast, only to find it hastily tucked back into her blouse, I felt this was all very wrong. I peered inside. It was all lit up, and inhabited. Maybe the door was broken. But I quickly observed that all the people I hoped were shoppers were employees, and some of their masks were half off, indicating imminent work stoppage. One gave me the hand-across-the-throat sign for '“We’re Closed.”
Surely the organic market around the corner was open. It was not.
It was beginning to dawn on me that this storm was a big deal.
I had a “missed the boat” feeling. I had a feeling of “You’re an idiot.”
The roads were almost empty, and anyone not in a four-wheel drive was starting to have a bad time of it. I could walk into town, but that scant half-mile seemed far at this point. My other option was the gas station/minimart at the bottom of the small hill we live on, but I had a bad history with their dairy section, and I didn’t want to go all the way there to come home with rancid half and half. I guessed I should probably just go home. But that seemed so untriumphant.
Meanwhile, the sidewalk where I stood declining to make a decision was disappearing before my eyes. Nothing seemed like a good idea. I finally decided on the minimart.
I wish I could make my description of reaching the minimart more dramatic. A canopy of cedars hangs over the road to the minimart so at this early hour of the storm it remained weirdly snow-free, a dark tube between two wonderlands. I crossed the quiet freeway and looked down to see it filling up, becoming a field.
The clerk wasn’t wearing a mask, they never are there, I put mine on as I entered. We smiled at each other (me with my eyes only). He asked if I walked there. I said that I did. He said wow.
The half and half had an expiration date of January 8th, this seemed promising. I bought a pint of it, a quart of milk which also seemed to be non-toxic, a block of crappy cheese, a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a can of baked beans. We would have tuna melts! We would have baked beans mashed into toast. T. would have his favorite cereal, the coffee would have its other necessary component.
When I got home, T. leapt up from the couch. I told him the the supermarket was closed. He couldn’t believe it. That place was never closed! I told the tale of my non-perilous perilous journey. “You arrived with your shield, not on it,” he said, inviting me to sit down and relax, permanently, as I had gone above and beyond.
We watched Atlanta for hours as the snow fell. The lights kept flickering. The power went out for a few seconds then came back on. At around three a.m. we were woken by a series of flashes and a low vrooming sound, like a spaceship landing. The power was out.
I woke up in the morning. The power was still out, and from the amount of snow outside, and the number of fallen trees and branches you could see from just outside our window, seemed like it could be off for quite sometime.
Oh fuck, I said. We never ground the coffee. God dammit, I said.
There is a mortar and pestle in the basement, T. said.
I said you can’t grind coffee with a mortar and pestle. He said you could. It just took a long time.
Now he would get his chance to be a hero.
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