This story comes my writer’s group. We given the story prompt: “Butter, cat food, beans, eggs, bacon, gin” and this is what I came up with. As you’ll see it’s not my usual fare at all but hopefully still quite enjoyable!
“Sorry,” says Mylo, withdrawing his arm from the cooler section. “You go ahead and take it.”
The girl blushes for a moment and pushes her pinkish-blonde hair back nervously. “No, you were there first. You should have it.”
It’s the last block of butter in the shop. With all this crazy snow, deliveries have started to slow down and the normally bright, well-stocked supermarket now looks like the eve of an apocalypse.
“You’ve got flour and greaseproof paper in your basket – you’re clearly making a cake,” continues Mylo, hoping this observation comes off as witty rather creepy. “You take the butter.”
“Okay thanks,” says the girl, cracking a grin worth a thousand blocks of butter. She takes the butter and departs, leaving Mylo to wonder how he’s going to make his own cake.
Even the shelves of the pet food aisle are looking bare. Panic buying. Claire reaches to the back of a shelf, the tips of her fingers barely touching one of the few remaining cans of cat food. She curses her short stature – why couldn’t she have inherited dad’s genes and been a good six foot high?
“Excuse me,” she says turning to another customer further down the aisle, preparing to do that most horrific of acts and ask a stranger for help. She loses track of the sentence though because it’s him again – the same guy from the fridge aisle. A pack of mouse feed is held in his hand; his eyes diverted, clearly trying to appear not to have noticed her and look like some sort of stalker. Ironically he still seems like he could indeed be stalking her but his blushing cheeks say he at least is slightly ashamed if he is. “Could you? The cat food – I can’t reach it.”
“Do you have a cat?” he asks as he retrieves the elusive tin of Felix. “That’s a silly question isn’t it. Why else would you be buying cat food. Sorry.”
“Don’t be,” replies Claire. “I actually don’t own a cat.”
“You don’t?” A glint of panic enters his eyes.
“No!” Claire fails to resist a giggle at his expense. “I’m just looking after my friend Lucy’s. She’s been away in Korea for a few months so I’m cat-sitting for her.”
“Ah right,” he answers, passing the cat food to her.
“What about you?”
“No I don’t own a cat.”
“That’s not what quite what I meant. What sort of a pet do you have?”
“Oh right – the mouse food. No I don’t own a mouse either. It’s for school. I’m a school teacher – this is for Mr Noodles. He’s the class hamster.”
They both laugh then stand awkwardly for a moment.
“Well… good bye then,” says Claire.
“Bye. Good luck with the cake. Not that I’m saying you need it!”
She was nice, thinks Mylo to himself as he ponders what to have for supper. Why can’t I talk to girls properly? I can talk with kids fine and their parents and guys down the pub. But why not girls? Especially the pretty ones. Beans on toast – that’s what I fancy. Beans on toast. I should have asked her out – hang on, I don’t even know her name. Can’t go asking a girl out if you don’t even know their name. Can you ask a girl out in the supermarket? Is that allowed? Here’s beans, that’ll do me nicely. Now what else do I need? I’ve still got to sort out that cake for mum’s birthday, can’t go buying her another shop-bought one again. Not that there’s any of those left. If I bump into that girl again then I’ll definitely try and find out her name.
What’s wrong with you Claire? The first guy you’ve met in months who a) Doesn’t try to grope you, b) Is easy on the eyes and c) Is actually single and available. Well, you’re just assuming that. There wasn’t any ring on his finger but that doesn’t mean anything. Why did you even notice that Claire – what is wrong with you? You don’t know this guy’s name but you have managed to note his marital status. Get a grip. Just go home, make the cake for Lucy’s coming home party, have a bath and then spend another night alone. You’re going to be alone forever Claire. Oh I need comfort food. A fry-up. That’ll cheer me up. Sausages – got some at home. Bacon – here we are. Fried mushrooms – oh I can go without mushrooms. What else? Eggs. Eggs! I’ll need eggs for the cake as well!
Claire gives a long sigh of relief. Sitting slap-bang in the centre of the egg shelves is one solitary, final packet. At least one thing is going right on this awful day. Claire goes to put the carton in her basket then thinks it best to double-check the contents. Opening the carton, Claire can’t believe her eyes – two of the pockets are empty and of the remaining four, three are cracked. A long, primal growl of anguish escapes from her lips and she flings the carton back onto the shelf.
A sudden feeling of unease seizes her then. She becomes aware that she is not alone on the aisle, that someone else was there to bear witness to her little outburst. It’s going to him isn’t it? The young, charitable school teacher.
“Hello again,” says Mylo from further down the aisle, giving a little wave.
“Hiiii,” replies Claire, longing for the ground beneath her to open up and swallow her away. “Sorry about that.”
“Are you after eggs?” says Mylo, approaching.
“Yup. None left though! Cake ruined.”
“Well… I was going to make a suggestion actually. This might sound weird, in fact it already does,” says Mylo, stumbling over his words. “But I’m going to suggest it anyway and then if you want, you can scream and call security and I’ll run away right?”
“This does definitely sound weird.”
“I know. But you need eggs right? To make a cake.” He lifts a carton of undamaged eggs from his own basket. “Well I need butter… to make a cake as well. It’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow. So how about we… make a cake together? Then we can half it?”
“Oh, I never thought you’d be making a cake as well!” says Claire. “I’m so sorry – here, you take the butter!”
“Or you could just have the eggs. I don’t mind honestly.” Mylo can feel his entire face burning with embarrassment. “Or if you wanted to make the cake together and… maybe have dinner together as well?”
“Dinner? Like a date? Are you asking me out?”
“Well no… I mean sort of… if you like? My name’s Mylo by the way.”
“I’m Claire. I’d like to have dinner and make a cake with you Mylo, that sounds really nice.”
“Great! Oh. Erm. I’ve only got beans though I’m afraid.”
“And I’ve got bacon! And sausages at home. How does a fry-up sound?”
“A fry-up sounds amazing.”
“Hey, what about something to drink? Should we get some wine or something?” says Mylo as they are making their collective way to the till.
“Yeah that’s a great idea,” agrees Claire and so they head towards the booze aisle.
As with almost every other aisle though, the booze section is near empty. There are no bottles of wine at all.
“Oh dear,” says Claire. “What else do you like to drink? I’m not really one for beer I’m afraid.”
The two of them continue along the aisle fruitlessly till finally reaching a lone, green bottle.
“Gin,” says Mylo.
“Gin,” echoes Claire. “Could we drink gin? Is that a first date drink?”
“We could just pretend that it’s wine?”
“I’ve got lemonade. We could mix the two and pretend we’ve got champagne?”
“Champagne eh?” smiles Mylo. “This date is sounding better and better.”
They both laugh, eyes glimmering in the artificial light. Then, hand in hand, with a basket balanced on either side, they head off for cake, beans and fake champagne.
Title image courtesy lamentables