by Allen Taylor
I only wanted that sense of humanity that seemed intrinsic. I’ve wanted it since I crawled out from under the toadstool that served as my shelter those initial days of my life.
That’s why I roamed the aisles of the local supermarket looking for feelings.
“Excuse me, miss,” I stopped a lady with a store badge on her chest. She was an older lady, somewhat withered, bearing a nice smile for a woman with no teeth. “Can you point me to where you shelve your feelings?”
“Oh, why certainly young man.”
It’s always intrigued me that old ladies address young men as “young man” during normal conversation. But she proceeded to deliver on her promise.
“Two aisles over that way. Near the chili.”
I made haste to get to the chili aisle with my baby sister in tow. She’s not really a baby. At nineteen she is much more mature than I am. She, after all, has those feelings which I desire.
“I’d be surprised if they have them on that aisle,” Little Sis said. “I’ve never known a supermarket to carry feelings before.”
“We’ll see,” I said rounding the corner and looking for the chili. Sis found it first.
We looked and looked, but no sign of feelings. I finally reasoned that the old lady thought I’d said “beans” since there were about fifteen hundred varieties of beans on the shelf next to the chili and just as many brands. But no feelings.
“Pardon me,” I stopped a middle-aged man with a store badge on his chest. It was labeled “Manager” so I thought he must surely know if the store would have feelings. “I’d like to know if you stock feelings.”
“Sure do,” he smiled. “I stock them on my sleeve.” Then he jabbed Little Sis in the rib and cackled. She laughed. I must have not looked amused. The manager could tell. Of course, not having feelings, I was not unamused. Nor was I “not amused” in the way that one might be negatively amused if positive amusement were within the range of possibilities. And that fact of my reality must have shown on my deadpan face.
“Sorry,” he said. “I thought you were joking.”
“He’s not,” Sis said. “He really feels left out.”
“Oh.” The store manager suddenly donned a look of puzzlement, then it appeared a light came on. “Oh … Ooooh. Yes, yes, of course.”
At that, he scratched his forehead, then snapped his fingers.
“I have an idea,” he said as he took off for the front of the store. Little Sis and I followed.
Once he reached the front office he unlocked a door with a set of keys and went in leaving me and Little Sis standing outside. Almost immediately we heard him say over the intercom, “Attention, store personnel. We have an urgent need for feelings at the front of the store. Any employees willing to donate to the cause, please come forward.”
I was amazed – or would have been had I been able to feel amazement – that a line of store employees started forming next to us. The store manager returned from his little office holding a plastic bag. I watched as employees began placing little trinkets in the bag.
“Thank you,” said the manager, nodding. “There’s a slight annoyance. A perturbance. Very good Miss Salamander. Oh, and lucky you,” he winked, “a joyful moment.”
This went on for about ten minutes, the manager calling out different feelings as employee after employee dropped them into the bag. When it was over he turned to me and handed me the bag.
“Will there be anything else, sir?”
I reached into the bag and pulled out what looked like an amazement. I wrapped it around my neck and my face contorted to take on a look of unexpected amazement.
“No, I guess that should be it.”
“Thank you for shopping at Carry Mart,” the manager smiled. Then he walked away with a whistle as store employees dispersed and shuffled back to work.
Little Sis and I exchanged looks of carefully chosen expressions – I actually found a bewilderment buried deep in the bag – and left the store. When we got to her car I smiled, pulled a pride out of the bag and wrapped it around my neck, then tapped Little Sis’s hood with the tip of my finger.
“See,” I beamed. “I told you so.”
Allen Taylor is the publisher/owner of Garden Gnome Publications and editor of the Garden of Eden anthology, a digital-only anthology of speculative fiction set in the legendary garden. His fiction and poetry have appeared online and in print for more than 20 years.