….Hunter S Thompson would say things like “I have consulted my attorney, and she recommends that all names and places are redacted (huge ink splotch) and any resemblance to anyone living or dead, or similarity to situations involving the aforementioned living or dead is pure unadulterated coincidence, and the following is a work of fiction and fiction only.”
The phone rang twice, I saw the name and ignored it. A text message flashed up saying “PLEASE talk to me,” now I don’t know whether it was the please, the capitalization or the conciliatory emoji that followed, but I put down the Guild and picked up the phone. The person on the other end once had “Never answer the phone” written on sharpie on his forearm. He was not dedicated enough to the cause to tattoo it and instead made do with a large smudged Felix the cat, a strat with a wolf in the center that looked a little like a potato that had sprouted, and two dice – a 1 and a 3 showing, but with no depth to them, light blue squares with black dots. Simple but effective. I would have preferred “never answer the phone” myself in a plain typewriter type font, but then I was never one for bodily adornment. He picked up immediately. “You ok? What’s up?” I asked as lightly as I could manage. “Mayonnaise. $3.60 for a small jar. Does that sound right to you? I would think 60c sounds like a more reasonable price.” The sounds of a grocery store spilled over the line. “You gotta help me shop,” he continued. It is imperative I get this riiiii…i…ii…i ..” His voice trailed off, he sounded either high to the point of dissociation or else knocked on the head. “You hurt or just too high? Ketamine?” This is a man who has a fractured neck, a brain tumor, a history of strokes and is advanced in years. “I got thrown outta a car.” This was not what I was expecting. Thrown out of a car and then hobbling around Safeway in a daze unable to answer basic life questions about mayonnaise and bread. Mind you, he has never been able to to answer questions about anything practical, I was always the one to go and do the shopping, while he waited and food magically appeared before him, the mundanities of life had become impossible for him many years ago, this was not unprecedented.
“The price on the mayo looks right. If you go to Walmart it might be cheaper, but the gas, man, wipes out the savings. But…B___, you don’t eat mayonnaise. You don’t eat any condiments – remember your salt intake.” “I had a hamburger yesterday, and some chicken fried steak before that.”This was serious stuff, his heart would never take it, I had kept him alive only through judicious feeding, rationing of saturated fats, salt and sugar, his body would never take it, and he knew it. “Fucking hell man! You are suicidal! You can’t eat that shit, and you know it!” He tutted down the phone, I could almost hear his chin jutting as he replied, “When someone buys you a meal, it is unchristian not to accept it,” Except when I was doing the cooking, and he inspected the dish for any kind of sugar or salt or seasoning. I suppose what he meant to say was, as usual, there was no harm in putting me out, in causing me distress or offense, but just about everybody else in the world did matter. I should have dated Lou Reed. “Help me!” he yelped down the phone, his cart clattering noisily. “I need bread! Where is the bread!” He was yelling now, the scene was turning bad at the other end of the line. I could hear a man telling him to settle down, and offering to lead the senile delinquent to the baked products. “Seven grain or wonderbread?” I could sense the consternation in the air, hear the faint noises of containment and irritation from the workers in the store, as he yelled down the phone. “I dunno, I have celiac, I haven’t eaten bread for years. Do you want white or brown? Wholegrain or spongey cakey shit?” He yelled at me about the special deal on the seven grain Franz, and lectured me about how he was good at saving money. I avoided the question, and listened while he tried to find out how much the cheese cost. He was wailing down the phone now, “Cheese should cost 65 cents, maximum! It’s an American right! A cheese sandwich! I just want a cheese sandwich, damn you!” I told him cheese hadn’t cost that in fifty years, maybe not even then, and listened while a frustrated young man tried to take his card. “Your PIN, buddy! Enter YOUR PIN!…The numbers…the code…four numbers?”
Somehow he made it out of the shop without being arrested, and also with his shopping. It appears that his buddy who had ALL the cheddar and all that good hot cooked crackerbarrell, knowing his position of power as the person with the dairy product, and B___’s position of vulnerability as the guy who just needed a cheese sandwich with a little mayo on it, like any good American deserves, was treating him like his starving sailor on a marooned boat, and bitch slapping, pushing out of cars and using him to go pick up the lunch goods. He kept the phone on by accident as he walked into the house. I listened to the obscene noises of bread being slapped with mayonnaise, and cheese thrown on top hastily, the moist slop of the top slice upon the unguent mess, and the sharp slice of the finished product onto plate. “Eat it! Eat all of it! Eat it! There’s mayo in there.” “How much was the bag,” Buddy replied. “25 cents, I did good. I saved us some cash on the bag.” I sat there agog at this homoerotic sandwich eating scene while the band played running on empty in my ears. The melted puddle of a man being fed, was yelling for the feeding to be slower, for more mayonnaise, for mercy, for real AMERICAN cheese, not that foreign shit that is probably funding Islamic terror, or at least a group of Mexicans and their extended families.
It was all too much. B____ came back onto the line as he hurried out the door. “Im gonna need more Mayo, Kid,” he said to me as the door slammed shut. “Talk later.”
And with that the line went dead.