The man stands in the self-checkout grocery line, his two half-gallons of Breyer’s ice cream cradled in his arms. His demeanor is a bit abashed, as if he knows, being slightly overweight, that other shoppers could think that the ice cream is for him only, when in fact it is for his children waiting at home for their late-night sugary treat.
His too-long dark hair falls in unkempt curls across his forehead, and his untrimmed mustache tickles his wife’s mouth when he leans in to kiss her. The untucked red plaid shirt camouflages his middle-aged belly, while his jeans sag so much one might think for a moment he is emulating the rapper look, but he wears his pants like this purely for comfort. It’s an unpleasant feeling wearing jeans belted around his waist. Plus, this looks better.
Finally, it is his turn, and he carefully scans each half-gallon, checking the price on the screen before placing each in a plastic bag. He uses his middle finger to punch the screen, the usual pointer finger unresponsive since his days in the army, which he prefers not to think or talk about. The army took away more than enough; he needn’t give that time of his life any more brain power.
The payment thing beeps, and he pulls out his debit card and puts it away, returns his imitation leather wallet to his back pocket. Before leaving his spot, he double-bags the ice cream, and exits the area, keeping his eyes averted from any overly-friendly employees who are required to tell him to ‘have a nice day’ or ‘have a nice evening’ with those fake smiles that make him angry.
If you’re going to tell someone to have a nice day, you should mean it. Otherwise, you’re a liar. He has always placed a high priority on truthfulness, and if he hasn’t always lived up to that, well, it’s not really anyone’s business, is it? His life is his business, not the nosy bags watching him check out, not that busybody old lady in the trailer next door. Besides, if you have something to say, come out and say it. Don’t talk about somebody if you’re not willing to say it their face.
The lights in the parking lot illuminate his way, which is a good thing, because he’s forgotten where he parked his vehicle and it’s another good thing that the lot is so sparsely filled at this hour at night, because he finds his brown two-door without much trouble.
He hasn’t bothered locking it, because who would bother breaking into a rust bucket like this? The locks don’t work anyway. The interior smells of his wife’s cigarettes, and he stares at the pine-scented freshener she’d hung from the rear view mirror a day or two ago. Fat lot of good it does.
Setting the grocery sack carefully on the passenger seat, he inserts the key and turns it, holding his breath, hoping this temperamental car will for once start right up, because there’s ice cream, he didn’t bring a cooler, but it’s not that warm tonight and he shouldn’t need it anyway, but still, it’s a concern.
Luck is with him; the engine turns over with a sputter. This lifts his spirits a bit, and to celebrate, he leans over to open the glove box, his fingers closing over the spoon he’d stashed in there the last time he made an ice cream run.
Nestling one of the half-gallon ice cream containers in his lap (Fudge Ripple, with nuts), he pries off the lid and tosses it behind him where it joins several others. He makes a mental note to clean the trash out before his wife takes the kids to school in the morning. It will take fifteen minutes to get home, twenty if he drives the speed limit. Just enough time to finish this ice cream and then impress his wife with his will power when he declines a bowl with her and the kids.