Broccoli Crown in the Checkout Lane
The man in the salmon corduroys hits redial on his iPhone for the fourth time. He circles the closing gap between me and the woman with the two kids in her cart. He grips a giant broccoli crown while tapping its stalk against his leg. A thick head of dark curly hair umbrellas the man’s lanky physique. I wonder if he casts a broccoli-shaped shadow.
He pivots at the bottom of his orbit nipping the cart of children; a baby sits atop the handlebar carrier and a toddler stands in the basket. It crashes into the wall of cereal shelving and startles the baby’s heavy lids into bug-eyed surprise. A box of Müeslix wobbles into a fall between toddler’s outstretched arms. The oblivious headphone-wearing mother stands across the aisle with her back turned to the mini chaos. The toddler pulls at the top flap of the cereal box and cackles through beet-flushed cheeks. The baby’s whimpers ratchet into a cry.
The man’s eyes lock on mine in his approach.
“Come on!” he mumbles to himself through chapped lips puckered as tight as the drawstring of a Hefty trash bag. “Answer the phone, Susan! You don’t forget to get your nails done, but you forgot the fucking broccoli?”
He tosses the spinning broccoli over his head, then catches it by the stalk. He steps close to the shelf and reads a box of protein bars.
“Fucking finally, Susan!!!” he whisper yells and pirouettes into the frozen half-squat stance of a man about to take a shit in front of the Cheerios; as if suddenly realizing the checkout line was not in his living room. His head tucks into a tight shoulder, muffling his voice.
“I’ve called and texted for the last fifteen minutes.” His shoulders drop in exasperation and he moves the phone to the front of his face like a walkie talkie. “I’ve been calling! And texting! For fif-teen minutes!”
He motions the broccoli baton as he speaks. “What am I doing? Well, I’m just standing in the grocery store like a jackass because I didn’t know if you wanted your broccoli in pre-cut florets or the bunch?”
“Of course I know, you can just cut it up, but do you remember the last time I brought the wrong thing home from the grocery store? Do you, Susan? That’s right, you threw a whole fucking lasagna at me. So god forbid I bring the wrong broccoli to the fucking Michael Jordan of lasagna throwing. For the last time, pre-cut florets or bunch?”
He listens to her response and grinds his toe into the floor as if humanely killing a roach.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS BROCCOLINI, Susan?”