Shell Shocked: Master of the absurd and preposterous
I am the undisputed master of the absurd and preposterous. This means I’m never to be taken seriously about anything I write, or say.
The other day I was helping my friend shop for groceries at Bailey’s. As we walked through the paper goods section I said to him, “Look over there. There’s a squirrel eating paper napkins.”
My friend knows me well. He said: “Why don’t you go home and take a nap? I can finish shopping by myself.” I was insulted, embarrassed and hurt. I had seen a squirrel eating paper napkins, but by the time I looked back to where the squirrel had been it was gone.
So I sulked and accompanied my friend to the frozen foods section. “Look,” I shouted. “There’s a penguin in the ice cream section eating Jerry’s Banana Republic ice cream. Don’t you think we should alert people?”
My friend gave me the coldest stare without bothering to turn his eyes to the site of the ice cream massacre. “Why do you do this all the time? Why do you get me to try to dignify your outrageousness? You’re treading into manic absurdity and it won’t be the first time.”
“Look there really was a penguin in the ice cream section. When I shouted it disappeared. God only knows what section it’s in now and what it’s eating.”
I pouted some more and decided to separate from my friend once and for all in Bailey’s, that is. I wandered into the meat section and eyed some tasty looking steaks. At that very moment a huge kangaroo leaped out of the chicken breast display and galloped haphazardly into the jams and jellies aisle.
I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, but the shoppers were totally focused on the two for one giveaway in the dry cereal section. For every box of frosted shredded wheat you would buy that day you got to take a Bailey’s check out clerk home with you to do the dishes. My friend had availed himself of that opportunity on a number of occasions until one day I caught one of the Bailey people doing the dishes without detergent. Boy, did I send her packing.
At any rate, no one seemed to notice the kangaroo let alone pay any attention to it. Was my penchant for absurdity rising to new levels? I wondered.
My friend caught up with me in the crme brulee aisle and said: “I suppose you’re going to tell me that you saw a dinosaur in the cottage cheese shelf? Or, maybe an orangutan in the book section? Or, an ostrich in the ethnic foods aisle? Well?”
He tapped his foot expectantly and waited for me to confess. I wasn’t falling for his obvious pattern of sublimation, which started during his childhood when his sister was his father’s favorite and not him. The channeling of his impulses was so obvious that the paper plates in his kitchen would shatter every time he turned on the faucet.
But I digress. Back to Bailey’s. I said nothing. But when that didn’t work I said the following: “No, I haven’t seen a crocus or a rosebud or a robin on the wing. But I feel so gay in a melancholy way that it might as well be spring. It might as well be spring.”
Then my friend realized that he had forgotten lettuce and tomatoes and went in search of them. This gave me an opportunity to look around the store more carefully to see if I had missed anything. Sure enough, there he was, large as life. There was a puppet on a string hanging from the Dole’s pineapple juice rafter. It was a beauty.
I was anticipating a Punch and Judy show, but my friend asked me to take out a credit card to pay for the groceries. I studied the look on his face as we pushed the shopping cart out to the car. I sensed that he wouldn’t invite me to join him in a food shopping spree anytime soon.
-Art Stevens is a long-time columnist for The Islander. His tongue-in-cheek humor is always offered with a smile.