New Zealand



November 13, 2020

Pop music fills the brightly lit store, blinding Carol and causing a shattering sequeal to be let out through her lips. Her tasteless Nike sneakers aggressively scuff the lino floor, and she grumbles at a small child in front of her. The rosy-cheeked boy, around six or seven years old smiles up at Carol’s face. Her wrinkles are accentuated by the harsh lights, turning her ugly. He mistakenly steps forward; some children have yet to develop the highly essential sixth sense for Carol Mackintosh. 
“You! You!” she snaps at the boy. The poor kid’s mouth stretches out to his ears. He says sweetly, “Hello ma’am!” 
“Do you happen to know where 50 Shades Darker is, small boy.” He musters a blank stare, the boy cluelessly shrugs saying no. Carol shakes her head, extends her slouch and mutters to herself. “The stupidity of children these days,” and she sticks her finger down her throat pretending to gag. Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin screams into her ears on a walkman connected to Beats Studio headphones, simultaneously blasting out her sentience.  Her black, gothic and suitably voluptuous dress tips the staff recommendations stand as she parades the store. Piles of books, bolts and carefully written book reviews mark her path, she continues.
As Carol nears the service desk, the teenage saleswoman intuitively backs away. Carol settles her full chest onto the desk, she obnoxiously pretends to snore. Her powdery face imprints its deep age lines onto the poor girl’s mousepad creating crevices like a valley. The new victim cautiously shuffles toward Carol noticing the eruption taking place before her eyes; the deep rumble of her mocking snores and the smell of stale ham which follows each exhale. The worker found the amount of mess her customer was making disturbing. Especially within only a few minutes; there was a sea of dribble and a mountain of makeup on just the mousepad. 
“How can I help you?” she timidly mumbles. Carol stares at her nametag with her head still on the mousepad. 
“Aimee. That’s cute. Grab Fifty Shades Darker for me, will you?
“I’ll have a look, but there aren’t many left. It’s a popular book.”
“Aimee, really, your incompetence does not interest me. Please get it.” Carol orders decisively. Aimee spends the next few minutes trying to find the book. She stumbles away, weighed down with terror as if Carol’s words were weights embedded in the soles of her shoes. Aimee, fortunately, locates a stray copy between a few non-fiction books and gives it to Carol at the desk. 
“This is the last copy ma’am. Is this all you want?” Aimee asks. 
Carol found herself tapping on the service desk, trembling, staring at a thin book titled 'How to Help Yourself in Times of Grief'. Aimee, becoming worried for both parties, was keeping her distance. Carol, noticing the eyes on her, took to averting her gaze to an iPhone charger, pretending to read the information. Carol looked embarrassed, and lost some sparkle in her eye, but she shook her head and slipped back into herself. She held up the book, twisting its spine, pulling the cover, scrutinizing the blurb. She progressed her examination by throwing it on the ground, kicking it, stomping on it. She places the newly tattered book on the counter concluding her exhibition. 
“Aimee. I told you your incompetence was of no interest to me. I told you what I wanted,” Carol deeply inhaled, “A godforsaken. Hardcover. Fifty Shades Darker,” Carol spoke with an unlikely clarity and classiness. Aimee found this disturbing. 
“You didn’t ask for-.” “-nevermind, you can leave your phone number if you wan-” The exhausted girl offered. Carol, already halfway out of the store, proudly presents her two middle fingers.


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