Mindless Over Matter

Hilly had a hunger. It wasn't uncommon after toking a few doobies. Maurice was along for the ride. He didn't smoke. A chilled liter of 80 Proof Absolut was his ammunition. And he was loaded. The supermarket's white glare against the black morning hours was unaffecting to the buzzed couple. Polarized sunglasses adorned their eyes.

Maurice pulled the first bent-wheeled shopping cart from a stack that seemingly stretched from the front of the adjoining Hallmark store to Jupiter. The cart was strewn with torn, wet promotional flyers, unused plastic produce bags, a partially gnawed Rome apple and a half-eaten Black & White cookie. The white was missing. Stop N Shop's dual purpose was grocery store and buffet.

Maurice didn't mind the trash, but the free food intrigued him. He scooped up the black cookie and chomped on it as he attempted to wheel the wagon forward. Unfortunately, the malformed basket moved two feet sideways for every foot forward. Annoyed, he leaned his entire one hundred and twenty pounds into the cart. The wagon, delighting in the competition, resisted and his body rammed into the pushbar. "Godammit!" he screeched, knowing that if he lifted his magenta Eddie Bauer knit shirt his chest would look like a page out of an AAA Triptik. Hilly laughed her stupid drug-high titter. It terminated when she staggered giddily backwards into the store reducing an eight-foot high pyramid of Mallomar packages into a pile of Mallo-rubble. Maurice was laughing so hard he would have bent over had he not suffered Triptikitis..

"Very funny," the indignant Hilly whined, picking herself up off a half dozen squashed cookie boxes. "And you're so suave, you moron."

"Hey, at least I didn't make a fool of myself on the American Idol tryouts'" he retorted reminding her of her attempt to advance past the talent search television show's first cut. Unfortunately, Hilly had two considerable obstacles. Her 'someone's strangling a parrot' voice and her memory. Screeching The Star Spangled Banner, she unashamedly belted out "the skylights were gleaming" followed by her interpretive "used broad pipes and bright cars". Subsequent to her early dismissal, she demonstrated her dramatic flair by heaving numerous expletives at the judges. As security restrained her, the cameras took a well-deserved break.

- - -

The 24-hour Stop N Shop
One Fifty-five A.M.

Snubbing produce, dairy, meat and poultry, the academically challenged couple made a beeline to the snacks and beverage aisle. "Gotta get some pretzels," saliva-smacking Maurice chanted mantra-like. "I have a jones for something crunchy. Hey, what the hell? Sourdough pretzels. Honey roasted pretzels. Mustard pretzels. Pretzel nuggets. Pretzel pieces. Where the frig are the pretzel pretzels?"

"Over here, my dear," Hilly cooingly Mae Wested. "Under this sign which I believe says "Pretzels".

"You're a laugh riot, Hilly. You and your Mallo-ass," Maurice chuckled enjoying his wit. He grabbed a store brand bag of pretzel rods. He enjoyed their flavor, but even more liked to suck on them like a cigar. Hilly thought that was gay.

"Grab a bag of chips and some salsa, baby," Hilly dictated. "I got a an empty stomach and a hankering for some saaaaaalsaaaaaaa."

They left that aisle, the cart half-full of various snacks, two six packs of Diet Pepsi and some Bud Lite. "To the cookies! Onward my gleaming chrome steed!" Maurice howled, almost running the handicapped cart over an elderly woman immersed in reading the warning label of a bottle of Metamucil. "Oh my!" the Mrs. Havisham-looking senior citizen cried. "Be careful, young man!"

"Sorry, you old bag," Maurice uttered, he thought, under his breath.

"Why, you piece of white trash shit-for-brains," flew out of Havisham's kindly countenance.

"Whoa, momma, you got some mouth. Calm down baby."

Before the irregular spinster had a chance to heave her valise-like pocketbook, Hilly grabbed Maurice's arm and dragged him and his cart around the corner. "C'mon, Maurice. She's not your type."

Their eyes lit up as they spotted the sign reading cakes, cookies, baking supplies. Viewing the row of dessert items as a connoisseur of the arts would view a line of Rembrandts, Maurice exclaimed, "Come to Papa," as he reached for a cellophane bag of Double Stuff Oreos. "Why would anyone want to bake, when you can buy these?" he asked Hilly.

"Dunno," she responded one box of Fig Newtons in each hand, " I mean, who could bake a Scooter Pie, anyway? Aren't those recipes kinda secreted?"

"Secreted? Baby, you're like the Norm Crosby of baked goods," Maurice taunted. "Hey, how 'bout I buy you a box or two of these," he continued picking up the now too familiar yellow labeled box of Mallomars.

"Bite me, bastard," Hilly wasn't smiling. "Let's finish up here. I'm gonna pass out if I don't have my munchies soon."

They threw a couple of Pepperidge Farm variety packs, some Pecan Sandies and a half dozen Animal Cracker boxes into the cart and headed towards the cash registers.

- - -

The 24-hour Stop N Shop
Two twenty-two A.M.

"That'll be a hundred and nine ninety-five," the pimply, gum chewing cashier with the 'Hi, I'm Donald' nametag said matter-of-factly. Hilly looked up from The Star she was skimming with half-interest. The clerk's request overshadowed the article about J-Lo's bunion problem.


"Your total comes to a hundred and..."

Maurice was no less incredulous than Hilly, "Are you friggin' kidding? How does a bunch of pretzels and a few boxes of Animal Crackers add up to that much?"

"Here, you're welcome to check the register tape," responded the nasal monotone cashier's voice.

"No." Hilly said defiantly. "I ain't paying no stinkin' hundred bucks for a bunch of salt and sugar no matter how famished I am."

"Well, why don't you just remove a few items then. Do you really need two bags of Milano cookies?" posed the clerk while picking up one of the bags and removing it from the conveyor belt.

"That's none of your damn business! And put those damn packages down! Those are our damn cookies!" Hilly was on the verge of tears.

Then it happened.

- - -

The 24-hour Stop N Shop
Two forty-nine A.M.

Hilly was shaking uncontrollably. Between coming down from her high and the cash register anxiety, something within her snapped. No one was going to refuse her the Animal Crackers. She had been eating them since she was a tyke. No. No one was messing with her sweets. She reached into her purse.

"Whoa, baby! Is that a friggin' gun?!" Maurice dropped the Kit Kat he was trying to shoplift during the fray.

"No, it's a kielbasa," the facetious rejoinder to her partner, "now start bagging!"

"What? You're holding up the Stop N Shop for a couple of bags of munchies? Are you outta your mind? And where'd you get that gun?"

"Don't you make a move, Donald," Hilly said, teeth clenched, revolver pointing at the now very pale-faced Stop N Shop employee. "Mo, go get the car and bring it to the front of the store."

"Baby, are you nuts? You're going to shoot up the joint for a hundred and nine bucks? At least if we're going to do this, we could have picked up some ribs and a deli platter."

"Excuse me," Donald fearfully intervened, "ummm, it's one hundred and nine dollars and ninety-five cents."

"Shaddup!" Hilly shrieked, then motioned Maurice over to huddle. "Now, listen baby-boy. I'm not leaving here without our provisions. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I'm freakin' starved out of my gourd. And one other thing. Your nephew Louie. This is his water pistol. So get the damn car quick, 'cause I'm bluffing my ass over here!"

"Oh." Maurice remarked without inflection. Then he ran out of the store like Ben Johnson on steroids.

Hilly turned back to the clerk. "Now, if you will most kindly bag, please."

The clerk nodded affirmatively. Under Hilly's scrutiny, he even double bagged so as not to further infuriate her.

- - -

The 24-hour Stop N Shop
Three oh six A.M.

Hilly's heart was pounding. She had never performed a crime, not unless taking her neighbor's Sunday New York Times from their doorstep was criminal. After she had read Sunday Styles and the magazine section she always returned it anyway. But something had moved her to this desperation. She was too scared to back down and her adrenalin was flowing. Thoughts of running to the car, Maurice waiting there for her and peeling away to the sounds of tires screeching instilled in her a new and different high. But it wouldn't be.

Hilly felt a smack on the back of her head. She lurched forward, her body slamming into the cashier's counter. Her arms continued to extend while the rest of her body had come to rest. As her arm snapped the gun dislodged from her hand flying mid-air until it smashed into the ceramic planter display then crash-landed on to the floor. As it did, the plastic splintered leaving a puddle of bullets leaking from its cartridge.

- - -

The 24-hour Stop N Shop
Four thirty-one A.M.

Two village policeman ushered the handcuffed Hilly towards the squad car. Maurice had photographed perfectly by the store's surveillance cameras. He would be apprehended easily.

Moynihan, a rather red-nosed detective was the investigator. She was his final interview.

"So tell me, Ms....... Feldstein?"

"Yes officer, Moira Feldstein."

"All right Moira," Moynihan repeated, a smile curling up in the corners of his mouth, "tell me again about your act of heroism."

"Oh, it was really nothing. You see, I was next in line and I needed to get home quick. You know, I have this medical problem," the Havisham-looking senior citizen said, "so I did what came natural. I hit her in the head from behind."

Moynihan was dumbfounded that such a feeble looking woman could have foiled the robbery. "You must have some strong fists to accomplish that." he remarked, "Do you work out or something?"

Moira Feldstein chuckled, "Fists? Oh no, I hit her with that." She pointed to the floor.

Moynihan stepped around the old woman to get a view of what her spindly finger was pointing to. There, lying on the floor was the heroine's weapon. A double sized yellow box. His face broke into a grin.


About the author:

Gary Levine writes short fiction and often stares at his computer, his arms at his side. His binge writing often culminates in blackouts or hysteria. He lists his influences as O. Henry, Wallace Stevens, Michelle Pfeiffer, and the original Three Stooges. Honorable mention to all of the cast members of Bonanza, with the exception of Pernell Roberts. He lives with wife Amy and dog Luke, neither of whom admit to his existence. Over the past year he has had two short stories acceptedfor the upcoming 2004 Long Island Writers Guild Anthology and a flash fiction published in the anthology, The Fairest of Them All.