Things Afoot At The Piggly Wiggly
My name is Robert C. Gordon. I live in the
town of Brainerd, Wisconsin at 1153 Elmwood Drive. I am single, Caucasian, and I work at
the check-out stand at the local Piggly Wiggly, which is a grocery store.
This may all seem like useless information to someone
Ive never met but, in my experience, information that may seem useless can often be
more relevant than we think. For example: last Thursday I had just begun my shift at the
Piggly Wiggly and my head was full of codes and numbers. Bartlet pear: 4024. Large
navel oranges: 4012. Haas avocado: 4046. Russet Potatoes: 4072. Butternut Squash: 4759.
From somewhere in the depths of my mind came a faraway thought, like a whisper in the back
of my brain. It said: Margaret Feldman. Margaret Feldman.
I continued to enter produce codes (Bananas:
4011, White onions: 4663) while smiling politely at the customer. Then I heard it
again. It was growing louder.
I didnt know why I was thinking it or what it
meant. I rolled the name around on my tongue.
The woman customer in front of me took a jump back,
"How did you know my name?" she asked.
I hadnt even realized Id said anything.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"Margaret Feldman. Thats my name. Do I know
"I dont think so," I told her to the
best of my knowledge.
"Then how do you know my name?"
I wasnt sure how I did know her name.
I shook my head. "You must have
misunderstood," I explained. "I didnt say Feldman. I said,
would you like help to your car, maam?."
That was the best I could come up with.
Margaret gave me a funny look. "I was sure you
said my name."
I smiled and thanked her for shopping at Piggly
Then from deep in my brain: Margaret Feldman. Age:
65. Only daughter of Ruth and Howard Feldman; Long Island, New York. Two children: Mort
and Helen, aged 37 and 29. Allergic to shellfish and penicillin. Astrological sign:
Aquarius. Cup size: 32.
I burped. Must have been something I ate. The
curse of being a cash register person is having to stay on your feet for many hours at a
time. It can make you go a bit loony after a while.
I began to ring in the coffee and paper towels,
cigarettes and hand cream of the next customer.
"Hello sir, welcome to Piggly Wiggly." I
beamed, cheerfully. "Did you find everything all right today?"
"Yes, thank you," he replied.
"Will you be paying cash?"
David Schmidt. Marital status: divorced. Favorite
colour: orange. Last book read: Chicken Soup For The Fishermans Soul.
Profession: dentist. Uncircumcised.
I was getting some serious static from inside my
brain. It was like a radio between stations that all of a sudden started to intercept
rugby scores from Indonesia in the middle of the evening news.
"Credit card," smiled my customer, handing
over his American Express.
I took a good look at the name on the card.
"David M. Schmidt."
"Your total is $42.97. Heres your receipt.
Thank you very much Mr. Schmidt."
He smiled and left with his groceries.
Shoe size: 7
Something was going wrong. I needed to sit down. I
hung a sign on my register that said "Closed: Please Use Next Available
Register," with a picture of a little curly-tail piggy on it. I wiped my sweating
palms on the front of my apron and walked toward the break room. On the way I passed my
friend Roger. Roger Lewis. Weight: 175 pounds. Skin type: oily. Sexual
orientation: Hetero. Cross-dresser.
"Hey Bobby," he said with a look of
concern. "You feeling okay?"
Favorite dessert: peach cobbler. Mothers
maiden name: Irving. Religion: Protestant.
"Im not doing so good, Roger," I
Blood Pressure: 172/86. Body temperature:
"You dont look good."
One pet dog: Scruffy. Last meal: Cap n
Crunch. Frequency of intercourse: 1.7 times per week.
"Im gonna go sit down and have a
coffee, Rog," I said. "Ill talk to you later."
Number of cavities: 4
I hurried, faster and faster toward the refuge of
the break room.
"Hello," waved Jennifer, another fellow
Blood type: O
"Hi," I waved back.
Last education completed: Grade 10. Hair colour:
Revlon walnut brown number 4.
I broke into a run and pushed through the
break-room door. There was no one in sight. Finally, peace and quiet. I picked up a
doughnut from a box on the counter and stuffed it in my mouth.
Ingredients: sugar, white flour
I started to choke.
Maureen from the fish department walked in and gave me
a slap on the back.
"Ya gotta remember to chew, there, Bobby,"
she chuckled heartily.
"Maureen," I said. "Correct me if this
is wrong. Youre 53. Your mothers name is Sylvia, you have three cats
named Snowball, Buster and Ruby and you have a noticeable webbing between the first two
toes of your left foot. Youve slept with eight different men in your lifetime but
only had orgasms with three."
Maureen was stunned. She and I had never talked much
up to that point.
"I have to go, Maureen," I said, breaking
into a run.
On the way out, a woman nearly ran me down with her
Marion Hill. Grandmother of two. Recently
windowed. Collector of porcelain kangaroos and other kangaroo-related artifacts.
I sprinted to the parking lot where I narrowly
avoided the bumper of an on-coming car.
1976 Buick Skylark 2- door hatchback. Colour:
continental blue. Body assembled: Fairfax, Kansas. Rear chassis mounted by Kevin Williams,
former quarterback University of Kansas Gray Hawkers. All State, 1965.
I did a diving roll across the hood and landed
hard on the concrete. The driver got out of his car and shook his fist at me.
Jim Gordon. IQ: 112. Favorite television
show: M.A.S.H. College major: political science.
"Jesus, Jim, watch where youre
driving!" I yelled.
I dusted myself off and limped away as the vindictive
statistician in my brain continued to bombard me.
I took one last look at the store (Piggly Wiggly
Grocery Store: Founded 1916, Memphis, Tennessee by Clarence Saunder) and raced home.
I passed a man walking a dog. Lhasa Apso. Name:
Sparky. Age: 7 human years, 49 dog years.
An elementary school. Literacy rate of Grade 12
A soccer field. Number of blades of grass:
Why was I hearing these voices? What were they
trying to tell me besides absolutely everything about everyone and everything I came into
contact with? Those "improve your brain-power" cassettes Id gotten from
the library seemed like such a good idea at the time.
I sped down the sidewalk. Concrete poured July 27,
1924 by J &R Construction Ltd.
"Who cares!" I began to scream, jamming
my fingers in my ears. It didnt do any good. The voice wasnt traveling through
my eardrums, it was inside my thoughts. I was starting to draw stares as I made my way
down Elmwood Drive.
"Be careful!" I cautioned a pregnant woman.
"That baby will be born one month premature and its going to happen while
youre at the movies!"
I didnt tell her that the baby would grow up to
be a maladjusted homosexual, whom she would name Leon, or that Leon would go on to serve
two years in a federal correctional institute for mail fraud. I assumed this may have
wrecked the surprise.
I ran up my driveway, still yelling "Who
cares!" as the unwanted insights in my head become more and more detailed.
"Who cares about what?" asked my mom.
Lenore Gordon. Née: Smith. Ring size: 3. Favorite
coital position: missionary.
"Nothing mom," I muttered, while
alternately moaning and cursing the unwanted information about my parents sex life.
I ran to my room and closed the door as the voice rambled on about the colour of the rug
and the pictures on the wall. I dove under the covers of my bed and closed my eyes. If I
couldnt look at anything, I reasoned, the voice would run out of things to spout
statistics about. I stared at the dark inside of my eyelids and listened to my heart
pound. 120 beats per minute. Cardiac output: 20 litres per minute.
I leapt out of bed and began frantically rummaging
through my closet. I found my old Walkman and a heavy-metal cassette. If I couldnt
make the voice stop, maybe I could drown it out. I put the headphones over my ears and
turned the tape up full blast but through the wailing guitar solos I could still hear it: Iron
Maidens Powerslave album. Released: September 3, 1984. Vocals: Bruce Dickinson
. I threw the Walkman aside. Sony Walkman. Manufactured: Tokyo, Japan; June,
17, 1994. Inspected by #41.
I tried my best to eat dinner with my folks but I
couldnt drown out the information that my fathers fifth grade year-end math
score was 68% and that the teacher of that class once fondled him as he cleaned the
blackboard. I also learned that my mothers first boyfriend was named Julian and that
he drove a Bugatti. According to the voice, my younger brothers left kidney was
inflamed and would become useless later in life, although his right kidney would serve to
pick up the slack.
I could barely touch moms meatloaf with the
knowledge that it contained the combined remains of cows nicknamed Jimmy, Sport and
Webster and that one of the crunchy bits Id chewed was part of Websters tooth.
I excused myself and went to the washroom. The voice
was busy telling me how many pounds of feces, on average, our family excreted into that
toilet on a given day. I grabbed a handful of moms Valiums, tossed them down my
throat, splashed cold water across my face and lurched back to the bedroom. Under the
covers, I closed my eyes and drifted into a deep sleep with facts about the production of
Valium and the factory where it was made, rolling around in my brain.
The next day at Piggly Wiggly I felt like death. I had
begun the day by eating part of an English muffin produced in a factory that would later
be shut down for having nearly twice the governments expectable level of rat
droppings present in their muffin batter.
I listlessly rang up purchases of apples full of Alar
and grapes full of DDT, while mumbling "have a nice day." I tried hard not to
tell a man that he was developing testicular cancer. I hastily scribbled a little note on
his receipt that said "check your scrotum for lumps," under which I drew a
little happy face.
When the pregnant woman Id seen the other day
walked up to my till I didnt even notice her.
"Its you!" she screamed.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"You told me my baby would be born at the movies
yesterday and he was, just like you said."
I grinned. "How is Leon?"
The woman was shocked. "Psychic! This man is
I told her to please keep it down but a crowd was
growing around me.
I noticed that Maureen from the fish department was
back and was staring at me in awe.
"Its true," she said. "He knew
about my webbed toe!"
The next thing I knew people were throwing money at me
asking if they would win the lottery or if their spouse would cheat on them. I tried hard
to focus my energy and give them the answers they wanted.
"Will my son pass his military entrance
exam?" asked a man.
"I dont know," I shrugged "but
his name is Morris and he has 217 freckles on his body. Right now hes drinking a
glass of milk."
"Amazing," the man gasped.
"And see that lady over there?" I asked,
pointing to the door. "Her name is Doris and shes here to buy a litre of
buttermilk and a package of bridge mixture. Aisle 7 and aisle 18, Doris!"
The shoppers were all impressed but soon became
irritable because while I knew exactly what they had for breakfast, I couldnt
predict good health or good fortune. Eventually I had to excuse myself. I told my
supervisor I was sick and that I needed to lie down. I also said he should get the rash on
his heel checked by a dermatologist but that it likely wasnt serious. As I discarded
my apron and walked through the automatic doors to the parking lot, the throng of people
followed me. I told them the wingspan of a blue jay overhead and not to eat the berries
that grew on the tree where it perched. I told them that it would rain in seven minutes
and the name of the weather system that would cause it but I could offer no insight as to
whether God existed or whether life had any meaning.
Finally, Id had enough.
"People!" I yelled. "I need rest to
hone my psychic abilities. I'll be at the grocery store tomorrow, where I will be happy to
tell you all I can during my coffee break. Until then I need sleep. Thank you for your
The voice in my head was gibbering faster and faster.
I could barely make out the words. It sounded as if there was some sort of auction taking
place in my brain but that nothing of interest was for sale. Completely depressed I walked
to the basement, loaded my daddys service revolver, cocked the hammer and placed it
against my head. It was a Smith and Wesson single-action pistol with a muzzle velocity of
760 feet per second. I began to weep.
"Make it stop!" I yelled. "Please God,
make it stop!"
I wanted so badly to end it all but I couldnt do
it. It wasnt so much for myself but for my future wife, Janet, and our three kids
Sophie, Leonard and Tina. Sophie was to become a dental hygienist while Leonard would sell
tires. Tina would go to art school and come to excel at making animals out of macramé. I
couldnt let them down. I couldnt even bear to masturbate any more for fear
that I would learn the names of their two million dead brothers and sisters. I put the gun
down. I had to, for the children.
On the third day, for the sake of my family, I
committed myself to a sanitarium. Through meditation and breathing exercises, heavy
tranquilizers and classes in intermediate basket weaving and pottery, Ive managed to
quiet the voice to a whisper.
Ive had to modify the philosophy of our
meditations, which was originally "find your inner voice," but aside from that
everything is going fine.
My boss at Piggly Wiggly assured me that my job will
be waiting for me when I am well again and that his doctor had provided him with an aloe
vera-based cream to combat his rash. I was thrilled on both counts.
Im learning to live life one day at a time and
to eliminate stress wherever possible. Life is short and we must savor every day. I have
only 21,974 days left and I intend to live each one to the fullest before I die peacefully
in my bed of natural causes. It will happen March 7, 2058 at 11:35 pm. I will be 76 years
old and I will try to act surprised.