It’s all Tom’s fault.
He suggested I go back to my fiction writing which is partly the explanation for why this travel blog has gotten so far behind. In an effort to fill in some gaps, I thought I’d post this short story I wrote around the time Tom and I met.
It won a humorous short story contest back then, so if you want a chuckle, keep reading.
Otherwise stay tuned for our next traveling adventure – I am trying to get up to date!
Peace & Love, Joy
Beer & Tampons
“Just a half-gallon?” Frank asked, shifting the Astro Van into park.
“Sure. It’s just us. Oh, and Frankie,” Mary put her hand on his arm, “I need some Kotex, too.” She smiled at him. “Ok?”
Frank looked down at her swollen ankle then back up to her sweet expression. He sighed. He would have to be the hero. But what brand? How many? What size? Color? Scent? “Um, what kind?”
He continued to stare at her with a blank expression.
“You know – napkins. Pads. Not tampons.” Mary leaned back and propped her sprained ankle up on the console. Her face had a contented, angelic look, like she had every confidence in her husband’s ability to produce feminine hygiene products.
Determined to fulfill his mission, he mentally chanted his shopping list over and over like a mantra with every step that took him into the corner market. Milk and Kotex. Milk and Kotex. As if there was a chance he might forget an item on that long list.
Eyeing the checkout clerk as he walked in, he saw she was a plump, grey-haired woman with a friendly smile. Okay, he could deal with that. He wandered around the aisles aimlessly at first, scoping out the place to make sure there were no familiar faces. In a rural town like this, there was always the possibility of running into someone he knew. Satisfied the small store was empty enough, he walked confidently to the dairy section and grabbed a carton of milk. Then he faltered, looking around like a lost puppy. How was he supposed to know what section contained female products?
Straightening his shoulders, he told himself he could do this. Let’s see . . . toiletries, right? He searched the narrow aisles until he found shampoo. Yes! Hair spray, deodorant, razors. He was getting close. There!
Frank spun around at the voice. Oh! “Hey Leo.” He glanced at the 12-pack in Leo’s arms. “Enjoying your Sunday, huh man?”
“Naw, just headin’ home to watch the game.” Leo glanced at the carton of milk Frank was holding.
“Yeah, me too. I was just heading that way.” Frank nodded toward the end of the aisle where Leo had come from. “Take it easy, man.”
“You too, Margolis,” called Leo as he headed toward the registers.
Frank walked quickly to the back of the store, feeling his back getting clammy. He stared into the glass doors as if deciding which brand of beer went with this situation, then grabbed a six-pack of Bud Light before reluctantly heading back to the toiletries section. Ok, let’s see. He saw rows of blue boxes and scanned them quickly. Tampax Slim Fit, Tampax Super Absorbent, Tampax Gentle Glide. Geez! They were all tampons. There – Kotex! Shit. Those were tampons too. He looked over the shelves. Cotton balls. Massengill douche. Hemorrhoid medication. This had to be the right place.
“Hey ya’ Frank!”
Frank spun around, hoping the flushness he felt wasn’t showing on his face. “Hey there, Tim. How’s it goin’?”
“Just gettin’ some cold ones.”
Geez. Was this the only aisle that led to the beer section?
“Hey, some of us are headin’ over to Wheelan’s to watch the game.” Tim eyed Frank’s grocery selections. “Why don’t you stop by?”
“Yeah, I just might.” Frank followed Tim’s gaze over to the toiletries section. He stepped between Tim and the blue boxes and quickly grabbed a razor from the shelf, almost dropping the milk in the process. It just happened to be a pink razor. He held it up and shrugged. “Uh, Mary needed a few things.”
“Yeah, we’re slaves to our women, huh?” Tim slapped Frank on the shoulder. “So I’ll see you at Wheelan’s?”
“Yeah, man.” Frank waited until Tim was at the end of the aisle before putting the pink razor back. He gave up on the search among the blue boxes, satisfied that none of them were of the pad variety. Hell, did they even make those anymore? Maybe his wife was just behind the times. He decided to give it one last try and went down the aisle with paper plates and napkins. Just a shot, but it was dark. He proceeded through the check out and walked out to the van feeling like he’d failed at the hunt. He handed Mary the bag through the window, and waited while she looked inside.
She gave him a look. “Is there some language I don’t know about, Frank, where Kotex means beer?” Her tone suggested amusement, but her eyes weren’t laughing.
“I looked, Babe. All they make are, uh, tampons now, I guess.” It pained him to say the actual word. Frank looked down at his feet. “And I didn’t know what – um – size you are.”
“My size?” Mary started laughing. “Jesus, Frank.” She shook her head, then asked, “Did you look over by the diapers?”
“Diapers?” As in baby? He would never have considered looking there. Wasn’t that a contradiction or something?
“Just go back in and look by the diapers and Depends. If you can’t find them, just ask someone, Frankie.”
Frank gave a slight nod as he turned away. Yeah, right. Like that would happen. He shuffled back into the store and saw a guy he sorta knew buying cigs. They nodded in recognition and Frank hung around the front of the store flipping through a Popular Mechanics magazine, waiting for smoking man to leave. Then he quickly scouted out the baby products aisle.
Sure enough. Right there. But again, the choices. What the hell was the difference between panty liners and panty shields? And how the hell should he know if Mary had light days or super maxi days? He bet there weren’t this many choices in baby diapers. He checked it out. Sure enough, it looked like diapers only came in one absorbency.
“Is there somethin’ you and Mary have to announce, Frankie honey?”
Frank recognized the southern accent instantly and turned around flustered. “Hey Gloria. How’ve you been?” They did the cheek kiss thing that Gloria always did. He saw that she looked great. And smelled even better. He sheepishly put his hands in his pockets.
“Well, Sugar?” Gloria asked with raised eyebrows, looking past him to the diapers.
“Oh no! No. I’m just here for Mary. She had an accident. She’s out in the van if you want to say hello.” Like that would happen. Those two hadn’t spoken for years. Ever since – Hell, Frank never did figure out what caused the falling out between the best friends. Whenever he would ask Mary to explain it to him, she gave him that exasperated look that meant if he loved her he should know.
Gloria put a hand on his arm. “So, does Mary’s accident involve Depends?” Her voice was deathly serious, but her eyes showed the mischievousness she was famous for as she held out a package of adult diapers to him.
“Uh, no. No,” he stammered, taking the Depends from her and putting them back on the shelf. “She sprained her ankle.”
“Oh. I see.” Gloria scanned the shelves, as if looking for anything that had to do with sprained ankles.
It was clear that she wasn’t going to leave without a full explanation of what he was doing in the store. “I just came in to pick up some, uh, supplies for her.” He quickly turned and grabbed the first pink box he could reach.
Gloria put a hand on his shoulder and laughed, then took the package from his hands. “Let me help you, Sugar. I doubt Mary wants these.”
She returned the pink box to the shelf and Frank saw that he had grabbed Carefree Thong. He couldn’t pull his gaze away. They made ‘em for thongs? Gloria’s lilting laughter brought him back to the moment, along with a red face. “I don’t know what the hell to get,” he admitted.
“Here, Frankie, honey, you take her these.” She put a box in his hand that said Ultra-Thin Super-Long with Wings. That seemed to cover all the bases. Gloria pulled his neck to her, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and whispered, “You tell your Mary that Gloria said hi, okay Sugar?”
She left him standing there with his pink box, waltzing tantalizingly to the back of the store.
He couldn’t get to the checkout fast enough. The grand-motherly woman who was checking before had been replaced by a pimply-faced guy with a pierced tongue. Frank got a good look at the silver stud in the tongue as the young man yelled out “Hey, Joey! How much are these Ultra Thins with Wings?”
The paunchy kid with the buzz cut lumbered down the baby aisle and yelled back, “Is that the Super Long or the Curved Classic?”
Just then Pete and Jose walked in. “Hey Margolis! How’s it hangin’?”
“We’re headed over to Wheelan’s. You comin’?”