by Paul Beckman
I walked into the grocery, grabbed a cart with all wheels working and went by the fruit and vegetables. I tried a red grape and then a green one and then I did the same with the organic which turned out to not look as good but to taste sweeter. I took a handful of the loose red organics from the bottom of the store bag and a plastic bag from the roll and left it on the kiddy seat to nibble on as I shopped. Some people think you have to buy the whole bag because that’s the way it’s packed. Uh Uh.
A lady was giving out samples of humus on crackers and I don’t particularly care for humus and outright dislike the crackers they were using so I said no thank you and pushed my cart down the canned vegetable aisle and at the end there was a man heating chicken sausage slices in an electric frying pan and also putting them on crackers and together into small flimsy paper cups. I wouldn’t eat chicken sausage unless the last two things on the planet to eat were spam and chicken sausage and the crackers were the same as the humus crackers.
I was getting hungry and stopped at the deli counter and asked for two slices of boiled ham and then went over to the bakery department and took a roll from the bin using the tissue paper like they ask you to do. I made myself a sandwich with the boiled ham and newly acquired onion roll and felt full but thirsty so I wheeled over to the juice aisle and took one of the small V-8s from the plastic gripper that holds six and washed down my sandwich.
A large man in a brown suit wearing a bright orange tie came over and asked what I was doing. Shopping, I said. He said he was the manager and watched me eating and drinking and I said, oh that, and he said, right that.
I was sampling, I told him. I didn’t care for the store samples and wanted to choose my own.
That’s not sampling, he said. That’s pilfering.
Isn’t pilfering just another word for sampling, I asked, and he said no, pilfering is another word for stealing.
I told him that we were just going to have to agree to disagree on this one and he said that’s not how things work and he gave me the option of paying for my samples or leaving the store and not coming back unless I wanted him to get the police involved.
I told him that both his attitude and choice of samples leave a lot to be desired and I would just go ahead and leave his store and take my business elsewhere.
Good, he said, and I said good back to him and walked out to my car thinking that the sandwich would’ve been better with a little mustard — preferably stone ground.
Paul Beckman’s latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019/2020 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories have appeared in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and The Lost Balloon. His published story web site is paulbeckmanstories.com.