Snakes and Pills

202 - gershwin

Robert unfurled the crumpled shopping list from his jacket pocket. He shifted the weight of the basket into his other hand so that he could hold it more comfortably. His eyes darted back and forth between the list and the contents of the basket. Mentally, he checked off each item that he had already gotten.

Only one remained. Milk.

Robert had nearly forgotten the milk. He chuckled to himself, reflecting on how sometimes the most essential and basic things are what we are most inclined to forget. He somehow managed to remember the specific flavors of yogurt that his daughter had requested when he had strolled down the dairy aisle earlier. But his eyes had missed the shelves and shelves of the basic liquid.

He doubled back to the dairy aisle, feeling a little silly. His family was loyal to no brand of milk in particular, so they generally bought whatever was the best deal when they went shopping. Robert began perusing the cartons.

Nothing caught his eye from the onset. Milk from one company or another was almost always on sale, but it appeared that he had come at a bad time when everything was at full price. He was reaching the end of the aisle when he finally spotted a bright red promotion card advertising something discounted.

The price tag indicated that this milk was fifty-percent off! Nervously, Robert examined the expiration date, thinking that perhaps the low price was because the milk would go bad by tomorrow. No such catch. He was ecstatic.

A moment passed until he realized what he held in his hand. It was a gallon-sized jug, and his family typically bought quart-sized cartons. The promotion was only for the gallon size. Robert did not know what to do.

He placed his basket down on the floor and pulled a phone out of his pocket. He dialed his wife, and waited a moment for her to pick up the house phone.

"Hi, I'm at the grocery store," he quickly explained. "And there's a really good deal on big milk, but I'm not sure if I should go for it. What do you think?"

The other end of the line remained silent while his wife tempered her annoyed voice. "You really need my help with picking out milk?" she asked.

"No, I don't need your help, but I was just thinking you could more accurately estimate how much milk we use in a week. It's a gallon," he responded.

"Why would I be able to estimate it? You're the only one who drinks the milk," his wife said. "If you think you can use it and it's a good deal, get it. If not, don't. It's just milk! Honestly!"

Robert apologized and hung up the phone, promising to be home soon. She was right, of course. He held the gallon jug in his hand, trying to estimate how much he might be able to consume. The deal was incredibly tempting, but in the end he reasoned that he might not be able to finish it all, which would be a waste of milk and money. Reluctantly, he placed the jug back on the shelf, and picked out the cheapest quart of milk he could find.

His list now complete, Robert checked out. Bags of groceries in hand, he fumbled for his keys to the car. Pressing the button on the remote, the trunk popped open, and he placed the bags inside. He closed the trunk, unlocked the doors, and sank into the driver's seat.

Robert closed the door. He would soon be home, but his body wouldn't move. His hands clenched the steering wheel tightly, a conduit for his frustration and regrets. He should have bought the big milk.

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