Death at Costco
Part One: The Sample Line
The first thing I thought was, "what the hell am I doing on the floor?" I figured I must have passed out, but I have to admit it was very confusing. One minute I'm elbowing my way through the throng at the sample line trying to get a tiny piece of sausage on a toothpick and the next thing I know I'm looking at people's shoe tops.
Going to Costco is not normally my idea of a good time, especially on the weekends when, I swear to God, families flock there as if divinely guided to Mecca. This must be their idea of some sort of cheap family vacation. But cheap it is definitely not. At the checkout counter I saw at least four or five overloaded carts come out to well over seven hundred dollars.
But Costco has its good things too, one of them being the samples. On weekends they really go bananas. There's booths offering a tiny taste of just about everything in every single aisle, causing a lot of traffic, but hey, a guy can fill up on these little bites of goodness. Advice: don't buy the product, whatever it is, it never tastes the same when you cook it at home. I don't know why but I think everything just tastes better when it's free.
So one minute I'm chewing on a tiny piece of hot dog on a stick and the next I'm on the ground waking up looking at Nike logos. I picked myself up immediately, embarrassed as hell. I dusted myself off and tried not to look anybody in the eye. Really, I was mortified. Falling down at Costco is highly discouraged. I'm surprised I wasn't trampled. These people don't like having any obstacles between themselves and their samples. These freebies are their God-given right as God-fearing Amuricans. God forbid that anybody should keep them from gobbling up what the good Lord, in his magnificent generosity, made just for them, even for a single blessed instant.
Anyway, I pick myself up quickly and, like a major moron, try to fluff it off as if it never happened. As you know, this is an impossible thing to do, yet I am sure it is quite the natural instinct and I bet nine out of ten people that commit embarrassing gaffes in public places will do the exact same thing. But everyone saw you fall, there's no getting around that. No amount of chuckling or dissimulation will erase the witnessing of the buffoonery itself. Yet we are obligated to try, such is our lot as prideful apes.
I open my mouth to toss off some clever, self-deprecating line, when I see a woman with the shape and size of an NFL linebacker looking, insanely enough, like Jethro on "The Beverly Hillbillies", coming straight at me with an expression that can only be described as, "Get the F out of my way!" But she said nothing, just continued roaring down on me, hands extended. Naturally, I screamed at her to stop, but it was as if she could neither see nor hear me. As the human refrigerator barreled down on me, I thought I would soak my pants. That would have been two indignities in a row, not a world record, but close and definitely to be avoided.
When she passed right through me, it actually tickled and I giggled like a Japanese schoolgirl. What a strange sensation! For a moment I was so titillated by the fluttering that coursed through my body, that it did not immediately sock me that she had actually passed through me.
Instead of the imminent, meat pounding thump that I had expected, followed of course by the breaking of my fragile, middle-aged ribcage as I was hurtled ten feet in the air by the charging white hillbilly woman, I had been whisked straight through as if I had been made up of nothing more than a few atmospheric atoms of gas.
I turned around and that's when i saw my own body lying there, reclining ungracefully on the filthy Costco floor, about three feet from the still crowded sample booth, where a throng of morbidly obese white hippos looked down curiously, yellow toothpicks in their grubby fat fingers. They were staring at me but only, I realized, because I was blocking the way to their chow line.
Part Two: The Naked Norwegian
As I saw myself laying there, a webbing of spittle flowing from my mouth to the certainly unsanitary concrete floor, I thought miserably that I had suffered the most ignominious of fates. I had hoped, nay, wished, for a more noble death, perhaps attempting to save someone from drowning or fighting off an armed intruder, something that would make my death somehow meaningful, and in addendum, perhaps add some depth and meaning to the thin portfolio that was my life.
I had done nothing special with my days here on planet Earth, I thought sadly. I tried to make excuses, that it was not totally my fault, that I had been a victim of circumstances. Had I been raised a child of means perhaps my entire story would have been different, I would have been somebody. Instead, although I fancied myself a good person, my unimpressive past would not merit much attention from the frenzied living.
There would be a small, inexpensive funeral (or even cheaper cremation more likely) to which a few friends and perhaps one or two of my kids would come to (maybe, if they have the money to fly cross country, that is). I had spent my adult life working nine to five for the local electric utility company, a nameless cog, a drone assigned to a tiny cubicle in a football field-sized room full of other anonymous cubicle dwellers.
And at 58 years of age, I was nearing a full retirement, the golden apple at the end of a long and nondescript career as a nothing. My 401k was as fat as the herd of cattle now feasting over my supine cadaver. My phantom self cringed at the thought that I would never get to enjoy even one of those miserly dollars which I had assiduously tucked away in such a Scrooge-like fashion.
I sighed inwardly, regretting the blown past, when out of the crowd of fat midwesterners there appeared a tall, comely, and quite completely buck-naked woman with flowing blond hair almost down to her waist. Some of the hair was braided and I could not help but notice her perfect breasts and how they pointed straight out, like Madonna but without the fake cones. She stepped up and looked me up and down. All I could muster was, "You're naked."
"So are you," she countered. I looked down and damn if she wasn't right. I had absolutely nothing on. I tried to cover myself with my hands, but total nudity is pretty hard to cover with just your palms. I looked around but I realized no one was looking at me but at my former body, still on the floor but now being attended to by some EMTs.
I wondered if my insurance would cover the ambulance and paramedics. Why not? I had never missed a payment. Then I realized that because I was dead that I would surely miss a payment or two. My credit cards, so carefully maintained over the years would surely never get paid now. Would my Audi be repossessed? Death can screw up your FICO score, I mused.
"You are severely retarded," she sneered, then handed me a wad full of cash. It glowed in my hand and I saw that instead of U.S. Presidents, the "money" had a holographic film playing on it of a guy in a long beard.
"That's God," she said offhandedly.
"Huh. Is that a fact? Well, I'll be. Uhhh, ....why am I....uh, you know...Nakey."
"Jesus, what an asshole. Clothes don't die, dumbass, just you. In fact, you don't even really have a body. What you see here..." she gestured with a disgusted look, "...this, this is just a projection. You've heard of people losing hands and they feel "ghost" sensations, as if they still had their hands? Well, this is sort of like that, only it's a real ghost. In fact, that's what we are, "ghosts".
"Come on, nobody really believes in ghosts, right?" yet even as I said it I knew that I was full of baloney. Here I was, denying what I myself now had become. The mere notion boggled my phantom mind. How could I not believe in myself?
"You are such a moron. Do you really think it matters whether or not you believe in ghosts?" she scoffed, tossing her golden mane over her Valkyrie shoulder. "Open your hands."
I opened my hands and looked down at them, noticing that they were not quite exactly transparent, but definitely on the translucent side, like green see-through plastic sheeting. I felt dizzy and tried to hurl but there was nothing in my stomach since I, in fact, did not have a stomach, or any other organs for that matter.
The viking wench gestured at the play money in my hands. "This is for you to use at the commissary. Don't lose it, for Christ's sake. I am not made of money, you know." She laughed at her own joke.
I counted five hundred bucks in what looked like Monopoly money. I stared at the hologram and realized that God looked a little like George Burns. I looked at another bill and God resembled Morgan Freeman. Underneath the face in flowing script it read: "In God We Trust... Most of the Time".
"What the hell?" I spurted.
"No, not Hell. Not yet, anyway. But if you keep swearing we could arrange a little visit there. I know a couple of the doormen and I'm sure they wouldn't mind dipping you into sulfur and fire for a little while.
I gaped, wide-mouthed at this acid-tongued nude beauty in front of me. I must have gaped too long because she put a hand over her vagina. "Mister, you got to stop staring at my monkey paw. It's making me blush and I haven't done that for several millenia. Off with you now, get out of here, and don't come back to this place ever again. Disgusting."
With that she turned and disappeared into the crowd, which seemed to have multiplied dramatically in the few minutes I had been speaking with the angel, or whatever she was. I clutched the money and made my way through the throng. Being made of nothing has its advantages in a crowded joint like this, I thought.
to be continued
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