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Grocery Store Horror Story: Skins vs. Masks

April 9, 2020

(image via wikimedia)

Even before the abbreviated horror struck, I liked my social distance.  I’ve always despised people getting too close for stuff like the inappropriate hug or the power touching.  In the old days when men shook hands, I always set out to crush the other guy, not out of dominance, but to discourage him from other shaking hands with me again.  After all, you never knew where the other guy’s hands had been.

Back then, I ate Doritos and drank coffee at the same time to ward off others who would get too close; if they caught a whiff of my bad breath, that was their fault for getting too close.  Social distancing has always been my thing.

Now I’ve lost my job because of the abbreviated horror.  Fortunately, I’m a cheapskate bastard who saved money, so we have a few months before we need to start worrying.  My wife used to gripe at me for being a cheapskate bastard (who do you think came up with the term “cheapskate bastard”?), but now she understands.  Now she’s glad.  Because of my cheapskate bastard qualities, she feels safe in a time of uncertainty.

Today I have to go to the grocery store.  My wife doesn’t want me to go because of the abbreviated horror.  We live in a major city, and people by the dozens have died.  As of this writing, actually, a dozen people have died in a city of close to a million.  But we are in hiding because soon we shall be like those other cities; at least that’s what the people say.  My wife wants me to order the groceries online for curbside service, but whenever we order, the store claims they are out of certain items.  I do not believe the store, and I want to see for myself.

I walk through the store entrance at 7:10, just minutes after the store has opened.  As I scan the storefront, I see more masks than there had been days ago.  Most of the masks are using squares and rectangles from shirts or scarves or bandanas to cover their mouths and noses, and their eyes appear tiny and filled with fear.

The masks cower from me, despite my social distancing.  I can feel the fear emanating from them, almost begging the abbreviated horror to strike them.  Fear makes them weak, I think, and I want to tell the masks that I do not want them near me either.  Stay on your yellow X, and I’ll stay on mine.

I keep my mouth shut, though.  I breathe through my nose.  I constantly wipe the shopping cart handlebar.  I don’t have to be a mask to be safe.

An elderly mask couple sees me from the opposite end of the canned goods aisle, and they slowly back away into the meats.  I don’t mind elderly masks.  They were supposed to have done their grocery shopping yesterday, but a lot of them have bad memories, so I don’t mind them at all.  If I were elderly, I’d be a mask too.

As I reach for pasta sauce, a mask darts next to me to grab a similar jar.  He’s a short guy with a professional rectangle strapped around his mouth and nose.  He accidentally brushes against me and then jumps back to his cart.

“Back off, mask,” I say, even though it’s too late.  That’s what I get for not paying attention to my surroundings.  Usually I keep my head on a swivel to watch out for violators, but I had just gotten lazy.

“I Mzz Zzurrzzy,” the mask says.

“It’s alright,” I say, knowing that if the situation had been reversed, the mask would have freaked out.

I don’t trust the masks.  I was always taught that face coverings are for people who are hiding something.  Too many people were quick to agree to wear the squares and rectangles after the government “suggested” it.  I wouldn’t mind so much if the masks kept to themselves, but they’re always the ones who violate the social distance.  We skins might be a little arrogant, but we’re not hiding anything.

Despite the pervasive fear (not from me), the rest of the grocery shopping is uneventful.  The paper product section is actually half-stocked, and I smile as I push my cart past because i don’t need anything from it.  Even better, the store has the items that curbside pickup had said were unavailable.  Never trust curbside.

I’m almost to the checkout line when an eyelash gets stuck in my eye.  You know the feeling.  It stings.  I try to blink it out, but it burrows into my right eyeball like a fire ant.  I double blink.  I triple blink, but the lash is like a razors point, stabbing, stabbing, stabbing, the cursed stabbing.  All I have to do is reach with my finger and pull the lid up.  That’s all I have to do.  but I don’t dare.

My blinking has caught the attention of the masks.  They stare, wondering why I am making faces at them.

At this point I don’t care.  The eyelash is ripping my eyeball apart.  I can’t even see.  If I continue walking, I’ll probably stumble and cause a disturbance, and some mask will stroke out from fear.  I turn away from everybody so that I can pull my my eyelid up.

“EEEzzz tuchzzzing zzzizzz zzzaezzz!” a mask screams.

“No, I’m not,” I turn, my face still squinched.

Several masks pop out from the aisles.  They’re pointing at me and yelling, “EEEzzz tuchzzzing zzzizzz zzzaezzz!”

A store manager slowly approaches, gray store shirt and matching gray mask.  “ZZZut zzzaarrr  zzzthayzzzz zzayzzzzthingzzzzz, zerrrzzzz?” he asks me.  Last week he hadn’t been wearing a mask, so he doesn’t understand them yet.  Anybody wearing a mask can speak mask, but not everybody wearing a mask understands them.

“They say I’m touching my face,” I say, still blinking.  “I have a renegade eyelash.”

The manager apologizes and says that I can’t touch my face inside the store.  By this time, tears are streaming down my cheeks, and I feel a tingling in my nose.  I need to sniffle.  I can’t allow a stream of mucus to dribble out of my nose.  I can’t let the masks think I’m infected.

The manager hands me a gray square.  Trusting that it’s clean, I rub my eye, and the stinging goes away.  The shrieking of the masks gets even more shrill, however, and the manager looks at me disappointedly.  I was supposed to have wrapped the square around my face.

I’m tempted to give the square back to the store manager, but it’s now dirty and I don’t want him to think I’m rude.  He was just trying to help me out, I think.  If I use the square but don’t wear it, I’ll look ungrateful.  Reluctantly, I wrap the square around my face.

A skin walking ten feet behind me stage whispers, “Pussy!”

It’s just this time, I tell myself.  At least the other masks have finally shut up.

As I stand in line and scan for social distance violators,  I feel tense.  I look into eyes of each mask who trudges by.  The skins seem to silently mock me as they stroll past, and I turn my gaze to the floor.  I finally understand the fear.  It’s not the abbreviated horror I’m scared of.  I just don’t want anybody I know seeing me wear this stupid square.

From → Dysfunctileaks

  1. Hilarious! Publish, publish!

    • Thanks! I might have to revise; yesterday I saw a skin acting up at the store. He got way too close to the manager while complaining about the store’s lack of hand sanitizer. Very disappointing behavior from a skin, the complaining AND the lack of distancing.

  2. yes publish somewhere… it is a great read!

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  1. Grocery Store Horror Story: Skins vs. Masks — Dysfunctional Literacy – Festival for HORROR

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