He remembered to get coffee on the way home. He’d gotten up that morning to find the can almost empty. Perked it up anyway. You could see through it. So he swung into the lot, tired, wishing food wasn’t such a bother. It was either a search for something halfway decent in a local restaurant, if he wanted to spend the money, or something most certainly less than decent if he banged around some pans and made it himself. he realized he was tired of eating out of cans but this didn’t seem likely to change. Unless he learned how to cook. Unlikely to change, in other words.
I could get married, he thought. He slammed the door and pocketed the keys and walked across the asphalt. It’s all the rage these days. Find the right girl, go out for a year, pop the question with a rock in a box, set a date, and there you go. Suppers as far as the eye could see. A clever plan. Find the right girl, though. The first step is the tough one.
He took a basket, went to the aisle where they kept the coffee. This was a different store than the one he usually visited, and he considered changing his trade. Bright, modern, wide aisles. Probably had carts whose wheels mostly agreed in the general direction you wanted to go. There was music playing above, almost out of earshot, as if didn’t want to bother you, but it was there if you were interested. Some orchestral version of a song from a few years ago, jaunty, impersonal, as though they’d played it to ten people with different tastes and removed everything anyone found annoying. It was familiar, but he couldn’t place it. He stopped and listened. Close. Nope.
He took the Hills Brothers. He always liked the picture of the guy on the can, walking along, drinking coffee, cup hel up to his face, his head back. That man was serious about drinking his coffee. He didn’t mind Maxwell House and was sure it was good to the last drop, but he wasn’t familiar with coffee whose last drops just turned on you, hard. The last drop was usually cold. Didn’t Teddy Roosevelt come up with that slogan? He’d read that in an ad magazine. You’d think they’d make a point of that. Not much controversy about TR; it’s not like Hoover said it. Butter-nut - that’s what his mom drank, and her coffee was always thin brew. Couldn’t blame the Butter-nut, but he did; that’s just how those things went.
Can of stew, can of corned beef hash. Head over to frozen. He picked out two Swanson’s and headed to the cash register. Pocketed a matchbook. Paid, nodded goodnight to the clerk, left the store, and drove home.
While the Swanson’s heated up he opened the evening paper and lit a cigarette. Checked the matchbook, out of habit.
I’ve never bought flour in my life, he thought. Never even thought about buying flour. Wouldn’t know what to do if I had flour and nothing else in the house. Where do you start? What’s the first step?
You get married, though, you got flour in your life. You go to the store because she’s out; you come home early and it’s on her hands and her apron because she’s kneading something on one of those big thick wooden boards, and you go to kiss her and she pretends to warn you off because she’ll get flour on your suit. And then somehow she turns it into pie.
The timer went off. He took the Swanson’s out of the oven, using a section of the newspaper as a mitt. He let it cool on top of the stove while he went to the living room and unfolded a tray and turned on the TV. It took a few seconds to warm up, then showed the end of “Circus Boy.” Probably kids all over town on the floor watching that one. Kid joins the circus. Wonder if they looked back at Dad in the chair and thought it would sad if you and mom disappeared but circus life does look fun. There are lions and clowns and adventure. He clicked over to 3 to watch Groucho and got his Swanson’s and sat down and started to eat.
Shake Rattle and Roll, he thought. That was the song in the grocery store. Shake Rattle and Roll. One of those tunes you heard in the radio and saw in the previews for movies aimed at the kids, the ones where they’re all in some club dancing and having a great old teenaged time. Shake rattle and roll.
There was a commercial for a cigarette brand different from his own.
The corn was cold, but if he put it back in everything would burn.
Groucho was funny that night, but he usually was.