This morning at 8:15am, after dropping off Phartacus and Slappy at school, I found myself trudging into Wal-Mart with a grocery list consisting of worms, syrup, wine, and a paper mache' skull. Disappointingly, none of these items had anything to do with one another. The worms were for Fluffy, a small snapping turtle that is overwintering in a 10-gallon tank on Phartacus' dresser. The syrup was for the Eggos that I plan to feed my children for breakfast this week while The Mister is out of town at a meeting and sending me disgruntled texts about how it's being run by someone who apparently sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. (His latest text reads, "I meana meana you about as sharps as a bag a hammuhs boy a bag a hammuhs.") I doubt I need to explain what the wine is for, but the skull is because Wal-Mart is selling them for $4, and who doesn't need a $4 skull made by starving oppressed Chinese peasants? Luckily that sort of thinking is A-OK in Splendaville...
In any case, 8:15 in the morning is an excellent time to visit Wal-Mart, if one must. The aisles are mercifully clear of dawdling lane-hoggers and toddlers in the midst of learning a lesson about how long their parents can ignore their screaming. The trouble starts when all 11 shoppers converge on the one open checkout lane manned by the employee deemed least capable of handling a crowd. But the rest is gravy.
I scored one of the noisy shopping carts that I adore, even though it was hardly necessary at this hour. I'm serious about the noisy shopping cart; it's an absolute must for successful Wal-Mart navigation, though I'm not sure I should be revealing this secret. When I was younger I would cringe if I got a rattly cart and fruitlessly try to push it without causing a racket. Now I look for the rusty misshapen one that's been hit by a few duallys in the parking lot and has a gob of gum stuck to one tire, the other tire spinning freely in its axle,whose thumpity-thump-thumping becomes increasingly alarming as it gains speed. If I can get up enough steam with one of these, I have a fighting chance at parting the Redneck Sea.
As I clunked and thumped back toward the worm refrigerator in the hunting department, (Get your mossy oak insulated bibs right here!) I spied a mom I know, and rattled quickly behind the nearest aisle. There are some things you just cannot face at 8:19 in the morning, and after seeing this mom at Phartacus' final soccer game last night, she was one of them. Her son was on the other Splendaville U10 team and, at their first match a couple of weeks back -- as her son's team scored goal after goal while Phartacus' team waited politely for their turn -- she made sure to come over and tell me that their team was undefeated and had been hand-picked by their coach. I highly doubted anyone had hand-picked her son, who spent more time digging his shorts out of his behind than chasing the ball, but I managed to cram my fist in my mouth and walk away.
Luckily, Braggy Bridget was too engrossed in ceramic pumpkins and cornucopias to pay any mind to the ruckus in the next aisle, and must have remained so during the single-lane checkout exodus. And now the worms are living out the remainder of their doomed lives on the middle shelf of my refrigerator in a leaky styrofoam container that I'm told must remain upended for easy worm retrieval. You would think this might be an appetite suppressant, but I can assure you I remain undeterred.