Last Minute Shopping

The fluorescent lights twitched across the faded gray rug between the shelves of generic cold medicine. The stale smell of the store’s heater prodded at Jason’s nose. Flipping his blonde dreads back, he stopped by the cough drops and scanned the aisle-description signs. This one said “Toys,” but only ingestible healing products surrounded him. Why did every Rite Aid have a different layout, and why could he never find anything in any of them?

After pacing up and down three more aisles, he realized the toys had been moved to a special holiday section. The one that generally had bags of candy and stuffed animals, so he never paid attention to it. He took out his phone to check the time — it was 8:40. He was already ten minutes late.

Much of the plastic shelving lay empty, scattered blister packs lounging in various positions. Some areas, the ones above the larger yellow price tags denoting the sale items, had been empty so long they had accumulated a thin layer of dust. Shit. It’s not like he had assumed that whatever he got here would be awesome. No one had ever been satisfied with drugstore toys. Still, he figured there’d be more than this.

His right hand buzzed like a joke handshake — he had forgotten to put his phone back in his pocket. He knew it was his sister without even looking. Shit shit.

Thumbing down on the screen, he scanned the shrapnel that remained. “Yeah? You’re right, I’m not. I will be, but not…I gotta take care of a couple things. No, that’s already…I got all that.”

As she relished the chance to outline all the people waiting for him to get to the party, he used his other hand to pile up whatever he could use. There was a Two-Face action figure that didn’t seem related to any particular representation of the Batman universe he had ever seen. Near that he found a couple packs of generic American Hero action figures (cop, firefighter, solider, all with maybe two points of articulation). Good enough to cover the two nephews. Pink packages with pictures of glittery puppies holding whatever would cover the little girl. And for the baby, in the back behind a pair of fake plastic handcuffs he found one smudged ocean-green stuffed animal with pursed lips that opened into an O when squeezed. There’s a chance it was supposed to play a song, but it just whimpered instead.

“Right. Right. Look, I gotta go.” He hung up before she could button the guilt trip. Hugging the stack of toys to his frayed peacoat, he made his way to the counter. Calculating, he figured he’d make it there by quarter past. There’d be unrest, to say the least; but at least he wouldn’t be empty-handed.

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