Jul 1, 2009

Take Three . . . and call me in the morning.

I'm on the Bus, not under it! Leslie asked me to participate in Take Three, a little writing exercise wherein you are given three sentences and must use them in a short story of 1,000 words. It's worth noting that it is a true experience from just the other day, and I arrived home on said day to find my 1,000 word assignment. I couldn't believe the convergence!

The random three sentences are in boldface:

I hate nature… and WalMart. Maybe not necessarily in that order, but both seem predisposed to favor the better survival instincts that I have so far managed to avoid. Today I experienced both nemeses in rapid succession as I hurried through the checkout line while the sounds of very near and numerous lightning strikes were thundering through the building. They were so close you could almost feel the hair standing up on your skin and that's never good. But, it's north Florida and we all know that you just have to tough it out. Nobody really carries umbrellas since they are a tell-tale sign that You're Not From Around Here, Are Ya, Lighting Rod?

Survival is key in the jungles of WalMart. Like some prehistoric computer game, one must carefully avoid certain demographics of people and place if one is to achieve the highest skill level reward: actually finding what's needed, on sale, and getting through the checkout lane first in line -- before the rain hits, not buying anything you didn't plan to. Yeah, I'm hard-core for this today. I am maneuvering for the hat trick, racing with the approaching storm because I know I am going to have to drive right into it to get home.

WalMart seems to attract grandparents who are raising their grandkids, and on any given day you have Nana, harried and weary, busting chops and riding herd on children who have no physical or cultural resemblance to her. Ungrateful and confused whelps that are by turns neglected and indulged by their working parents when they get home. These are just the sorts of game-ending Death Stars of the Golden Check Out Lane that you don't want to find yourself standing behind in line.

But I was happily smug and inattentive, proud of my WalMart run so far. I'd avoided the siren call of so many shiny things made by happy, grateful children in some mud-caked backwoods country, I'd kept to my plan, I stayed away from the cheap snacks aisle, I was home free with only the worry of the raucous thunder disturbing my winning edge.

A checkout lane with only one granny and her kidlet, and they're almost done. I position myself, lay out the items on the conveyor for maximum efficiency, have my debit card unholstered and my pin number at the ready, like an itchy trigger finger. It's all perfect. And then Nana starts asking questions of kidlet: “Where did you get that? Is that yours? Stop bouncing that. Did you bring that from home?”

My debit card begins to pivot downward in my now slackening grip, like some sad flower of hope wilted before fully opened. My breath has abated down to the instinctual quiet of watchfulness, since there is a razor-thin opening of time wherein one must decide to flee to another lane with all of its unknowns or stick out the growing uncertainty of success in your present circumstances. What to do?

The cashier is staring off into the distance, not even attempting interference or offering help. Good for her. Kidlet is now getting in Nana's grill; he's all of 10 years old but channeling his inner gangsta and bewildering a typical white woman who only expects respect for her person and others' property. And then kidlet attempts to play above his skill level and an insouiciant, "Chill, Nana, it's none of your business," phrase actually escapes his stupid brain pan and tumbles out of his mouth.

And that’s when Nana went commando. She called up the generations of grandmothers before her, and like some towering Fate came thundering down upon the ears of that dullard child with invectives and inarticulate, animal-like predications of his future and his chances of attaining one. Her arthritic hands snatched up the offending toy like a pebble out of the master’s hand and slammed it down on the conveyor belt. “How much is that?” she demanded. The unhurried cashier looked it up and charged her accordingly. They retrieved their several bags from the carousel and headed out, Nana still nattering away and kidlet slouching behind her, loathe to even touch the cherished orb of his temptations: a super ball. Just as well. Nana pitched the hated thing into the nearest trash can on the way out.

I finally exhaled,. I’m back on track, thankful that the Death Star command wasn’t given: “I need a manager on Register 11!”

The electricity in the air was getting thicker. I was worried, looking at the black sky, little birds being whirled around. The lighting was coming three flashes a second, clouds were boiling and all of a sudden, horns were honking. I looked up to see the formation of a funnel cloud a few miles from the parking lot. I scurried to the car, popped the trunk, tossed in my hard-won prizes and shivered as lightning kept dancing crazily nearby. No time to count seconds between flashes, it was a unified assault. “Sweet Jesus, don’t let me die at WalMart,” I pray.

Into the car, south onto the Interstate where the winds and water create a white-out effect. Moments like this make me very, very nervous. The weather station reports two tornadoes, one almost on top of me, and a waterspout following the north-flowing St. Johns River on its way out to sea. Reports are that the front hasn‘t moved.. “One of us is going to move,” I think to myself and press on past idiots in moving cars with their flashers on. Illegal and stupid!! Other moving cars have no idea if you are stopped in the middle lane or just advertising your nervousness. I mock and curse them, damn Yankees.

Twenty minutes later and the traffic is moving sub-speed, tip-toeing past a pick-up truck that went into the woods, either by hydroplaning or winds, who can say? Prayers offered up by fellow-travelers are assailing the brassy ether above us as we move south, toward sunlight.

I beat nature. . . And WalMart!

16 comments:

diamond dave said...

Surprised you didn't just hunker down in Walmart and wait for the storm to pass, since storms usually don't last for very long in Florida. Then again, you wouldn't have had such a cool story to write.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Dave, did you see the part where I pray that I don't die in WalMart?

Motivated.

PeggyU said...

That was awesome!

I can't say I've had any particular feelings one way or the other about Wal-Mart, until I read this.

Now I'm more of a "hate Wal-Mart" person. I understand why they did it; I still think it's detestable.

Omnibus Driver said...

This is fantastic, Joan! I love doing these things, because you never know how someone else is going to interpret the same set of words.

Masterful way to kick things off!

PeggyU said...

you never know how someone else is going to interpret the same set of words.

Which other bloggers did a story using these sentences as well?

Omnibus Driver said...

Peggy --

You can go here and keep watching, because the other three for this week aren't due until Friday.

Joanie always was an over-achiever...

mushroom said...

This could be a mega-hit country song.

PeggyU said...

Thanks!

Sam said...

Home Fucking Run...

hoosierboy said...

you are a frickin' genius

GUYK said...

BAWAHAHAHAHAHAHA I think we oughta get together and sell T-Shirts sayin' "I SURVIVED WALLY WORLD ONE MORE TIME!"

JihadGene said...

Reading that was a HOOT! Good job!!!

Anonymous said...

... outstanding, ma'am!...

Eric

Elisson said...

Brilliant!

Good fiction makes you feel like you're there. This did that.

Nancy said...

PHEW!

I didn't dare read your entry until after I'd posted mine, lest I be too intimidated to attempt the challenge.

Marvelous!

Joan of Argghh! said...

Pffft!! Nancy, your story was way more entertaining and descriptive. Mucho fun, too!