I’m at the supermarket for the first time in weeks. We’ve run out of milk and bread and bananas, and it just seemed easier to come in and get it all myself. Besides, it’s pretty easy to go shopping when the baby is sleeping and the girls are at school. I push my trolley slowly through the obnoxiously loud one-way security poles, and when the baby doesn’t stir I breathe a sigh of relief. Okay. I’m ready. This is going to be fine.
I wander through the produce section, unsure of what exactly I do and don’t have in the fridge. I should have checked before I left. I select a bag of carrots, a couple of broccoli, six apples. I take only what’s on special. I choose only the freshest looking specimens. I am methodical in my work and I enjoy it. This is the only thing I hate about online shopping. No stranger is going to take the time to hunt out the most appealing produce. They always get the bananas wrong too, no matter how specific I make the instructions in the comments section.
With my trolley half-full already, I decide to quickly swing by the bakery before I head to the meat department. My cheap, flat-soled shoes slap rhythmically across the dirty white floor. My baggy legged jeans swish and flap with every step. My trolley glides silently, smoothly, and the baby continues to sleep. It’s all good. I hope the cheese scones are on special. I don’t fancy preparing lunch today.
There’s an enormous slab of pizza bread balancing on top of the potatoes in my trolley and now I’m ready to hunt down some discounted meat. I pass refrigerators full of hams and salamis and frankfurters, and I step out into an open area peppered with non-food stuffs. I wonder who would actually stop to look through a random rack of trackpants and flannel shirts. They seem so out of place. I breeze past them, my destination is in sight, and as I approach the stacks of minced meat I remember…
I’m at work and I’m happy. It’s almost closing time and I bought myself a big box of Coronas on my break, and soon I’ll be back at my flat, in my room, drinking and smoking out the window and talking to people on the internet. Maybe I’ll head into town a bit later. I’ve got uni in the morning, but it doesn’t matter if I skip a class or two. Nothing matters. Work is almost over. All I have to do is clean up, and then I’m gone.
I can’t find the bloody broom anywhere. I’ve checked all the usual places, and it’s not here. Someone from another department must have taken it. I hate it when they do that! I can’t leave the floor unswept, there are lettuce leaves and little bits of cauliflower everywhere, and I know the manager will ring me in the morning if it’s still messy when he comes in. I sigh impatiently and put my hands on my hips. Fine. I’ll go and find another broom.
I walk out through the heavy plastic that hangs in the doorway and enter the produce department. I march through, quickly scanning every bin as I pass, making sure nothing is empty or messy. It all looks fine. It all looks good. The sweeping is definitely the last job of the night. My mood lifts immediately. My pace increases. I make it to the seafood section and I’m almost skipping. I can practically taste the beer on my tongue. I just need to find a broom. I just need to sweep. I just need to get it done.
I find a broom leaning against the wall in the dark area out the back reserved for the grocery department. Success. I snatch it up with my right hand, and I hold it up in the air, swinging it back and forth as I race back to my own section. I’m waving the broom and I’m sliding my feet, skating on my worn soles back to my messy floor. I whiz around the huge stack of Weetbix boxes that have been left next to the potatoes, and I’m surprised to see a customer. I look at him and the broom is above my head and he looks up with huge eyes and he’s scared. He’s scared because he’s doing something wrong. He’s scared because he’s just shoved a huge packet of chicken breasts down his pants. He's scared because I’ve caught him. I didn’t even mean to, I just wanted to get home to my beer, but here I am and he thinks I’m threatening him with a broom.
We stare at each other and it feels like forever and I don’t know what to say.
“Oh! Uh!” he says. I raise an eyebrow. I keep the broom held high. I wait. He pulls the chicken back out of his pants and chucks it down in the basket at his feet. Before his shirt flaps closed I see another two trays poking out from his waistband.
“And the rest of it,” I say. I sound confident, commanding. I feel brave, strong. I tighten my grip on the broom. I lift it a little higher above my head.
The shoplifter mutters something under his breath and he pulls out two more trays of chicken and tosses them into the basket. I stare at him and he ducks his head, pulls his hood up, turns and starts walking quickly towards the exit. I follow him with my broom. I’m striding right behind him. I’m grasping the broom and we’re marching in time and we’re our own little parade.
“Hey, this guy was trying to steal chicken!” I call to the supervisor, and everyone turns and looks and stares, and it’s awesome, it’s so fucking awesome! I’m shaming him out and everyone’s gawking and I feel like the hero of the day. I totally deserve those beers tonight.