Written by David Novell –
Orangie stuffed the shopping list into his back pocket, not particularly thrilled with the idea of doing the grocery shopping for his household, which of course was not much of a household, consisting of only him and his dad nowadays.
But still, it wasn’t all that much fun having just a few bucks to get a bunch of necessities, meanwhile being surrounded by towering shelves stacked with candy bars, cokes, marshmallows, graham crackers, Froot Loops, Rice Crispies (which Orangie hated but desperately wanted to be able to buy for the free toy car inside), and other endless but inaccessible arrays of glorious temptations to torture him.
And his dad had insisted that he shop at the Supermarket for the cheaper prices, so he wouldn’t even get to see Phil, who was one of the few adults who treated Orangie like a real person.
As he entered through the automatic swinging doors of the gargantuan store, Orangie felt compelled to admire the highly polished vinyl floor, white twelve-inch squares accented with occasional deep blue ones.
First on the list was a package of bacon, so he swung way over to the right side of the store to the meat department, where he could also get the ground chuck. Orangie had come to the conclusion before arriving at the store that he wouldn’t be needing a shopping cart: only eleven items on the list that read “bacon, grnd chuck, ½ gal milk, froz. oj, hot dogs, buns (two kinds), pork n beans, lettuce, mustard, and Ruffles.”
But after adding to his collection of meats, the milk, orange juice, and hot dogs (he knew he would have to get the 12 oz. bargain brand instead of the super delicious Oscar Mayer or Armour Star brands) Orangie began to have second thoughts about not needing a cart. As he had been shuffling the various items around in his arms, he’d started clawing at the package of bacon so the slightly slippery plastic wrap wouldn’t escape him.
As he made his way back toward the front of the store where the carts were, Orangie realized that the integrity of the bacon package had already been compromised. He could feel the slimy pig fat on his fingers as he clutched desperately at the wrap, and he knew he was in trouble. His brain and body started to panic: “What’ll I do now?” “I can’t take the bacon home in this condition!”
Sensing unavoidable doom, Orangie’s heart raced as he thought of sneaking the package he had started out with back into the meat department, or asking one of the store workers if he could do it so he wouldn’t have to be sneaky, what the guy might say, and how he could explain the situation.
Orangie hated being sneaky. One time he had swiped a little plastic toy car from the dime store on a dare from his friend Butch’s older brother Richard, and he got so scared that he thought his heart was going to blow up and then his family would be disgraced forever and they wouldn’t even have a regular funeral for him, but some kind of public condemnation to teach all the other kids a lesson about stealing.
So it was with a quavering voice and trembling hands that Orangie approached the worker, a man that seemed around thirty-five feet tall who was stocking a high shelf with cans of tomato sauce.
“Excuse me, can I put this bacon back and get a new one? The package is torn on this one.”
“Well, let’s see! Was it like that when you got it?” asked the man none too kindly, whose nametag on his blue apron said “Carl.”
Now what was Orangie supposed to do? If he told the truth, which was always (almost) the best thing to do, he would almost certainly be unable to get all the things on the list with the money his dad had given him. He didn’t want to lie, being pretty sure he wasn’t very good at it so that even if he tried Carl would be able to tell and would probably have him thrown in “Juvie” or worse, maybe locked in the walk-in freezer first, until the owner of the supermarket and the minister from the Methodist church (where he went to Sunday school and church every week to pray for his poor crazy mother) and his dad could arrive to feel sorry for him and be ashamed of him for a long time, maybe until “hell freezes over,” an expression he liked but was unable to enjoy at the moment.
“Yes sir,” Orangie heard himself say.
“Well, I guess so, if it was that way when you got it,” replied Carl suspiciously.
“Okay, thanks!” Orangie said with deep relief.
“I’ll take that one, kid.”
Orangie gladly gave Carl the damaged goods and headed quickly away from him; Carl seemed only about six feet tall now.
As he headed back towards the meat section again, pushing a cart now, Orangie thought how Carl was probably perfectly happy to get a pound of bacon that he could re-wrap and take home for his own breakfast the next day or two.
“That’ll be $11.42, young man!” said the lady at the checkout stand.
Orangie was thinking about how lucky he had been to escape from the bacon predicament as he handed her the twelve dollars his dad had given him that morning, which now seemed like a year and a half ago.
To follow all of Orangie’s adventures over the coming weeks, click here.
David Novell was born and raised in and around Fresno, and has lived in North Fork since 1978. David is a local building contractor and has been part of the musical group “Sugar Pine,” entertaining around the area and at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for over 35 years.
“Like any kid growing up in the little San Joaquin Valley towns of Centerville, Sanger, Reedley, Selma, Kingsburg, Exeter, Dinuba, and all the rest, I was privileged to have many innocent ‘adventures.’ Overgrown back yards, vacant lots, and deserted storage sheds were magical places where anything was possible.
“To follow, in this and subsequent issues of Sierra News Online, are some stories loosely based on my experiences as a young boy. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.” ~ David Novell