The Cost of Dinner

by Hazel May

At the meat counter

to gather ingredients

for our family dinner,

I ask the butcher:

“How big is your sausage?”

And he looks at me like

we have just had a tabloid

affair in the back room where

he keeps his equipment,

while my three small children

hang from the grocery cart and

press their noses

against the meat case,

staring at Ribeyes.

 

In the wine section

a middle-aged man

leans in close:

“Pardon the odd request,

but will you look at my eye?

I’m wearing a new mascara,

and I think I have a lash

lodged in my lid.”

I lie  —

“I left my contacts at home

and can barely tell my children apart,”

squinting and calling them

by different names

to keep up the farce.

“But you should really see a doctor.”

Then, rushing to the reds,

I spy my favorite bottle

and pluck it from the shelf so fast

the whole lot might have fallen over

like a drunk kickline of the

Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

 

In the Temple of Organics,

I scan the faux-baking section

for gluten-free cake mix

for my sister, a staunch Celiac

by choice.

I catch myself studying

the other shelves,

like some odd foodie historian:

Kombucha, Ancient Grains,

Himalayan Sea Salts.

I am suddenly transported

to an exotic locale

for a minute,

until my three-year-old swipes

the sacred salts straight off the shelf,

launching the jar into a spray of

glass shards and tiny pink rocks,

bringing my impromptu vacation

to a shattering end.

 

On aisle seven

I need toothpaste

because we’ve been sharing

the same tube

for two weeks.

On the way, my six-year-old,

a beginning reader,

spots a shiny black box.

Sounding out the letters

“T-r-o-j-a-n” she says:

“Momma, what’s that?”

I panic  —

but, remembering the dog food

we forgot on aisle six, I think fast:

“It’s a pet toy, honey,

for playtime.”

I flee the scene

like someone has yelled

“Fire!”

leaving the toothpaste behind.

 

The bread aisle

by my calculations

is the most narrow aisle

in the entire supermarket.

It’s the bad standing-room-only

concert you always want to leave.

All I need are rolls.

I spot a large woman

spread across that section —

my section,

the one I need

for just a minute

to get my twelve

Brown ‘n Serve dinner rolls.

“Ma’am, excuse me, can I…?”

Before I can finish, she turns,

shoots me a look, stays put:

“Get in line, honey bun,

it’s the bread aisle.”

 

Finally in the checkout line,

the woman ahead of me

is holding a tree of brussel sprouts

the size of my two-year-old.

As the cashier searches for its

long-ass numerical code,

This woman turns to me,

looks at my children,

now eating chips,

then looks at me,

with “that” look:

BAD MOTHER.

And then tells me about greens

in one’s diet

and how good for my children

they would be,

to which I want to respond:

“Fuck off,

with your huge,

genetically-modified dick

of a brussel sprout.

But I don’t,

not in front of the kids.

 

As the exit doors slide open,

I haul my load

toward our minivan.

Hell hath no fury

like a mother

who has grocery shopped

for three hours

with three kids

and come out

with only

milk,

cereal,

wine, and

sausage.

Pushing forward

through the thick

summer night,

it is then,

that I remember the sausage —

THE SAUSAGE!

I forgot the goddamn

sausage.