Snakes and Pills

226 - fleet

Jay stood just outside the periphery of the infrared sensor's range. He stared at the clear grocery store doors, fixating on the little circular yellow stickers. They were affixed to both of the sliding doors and read: "Caution: Automatic Door." What kind of caution would anyone need to exercise in the presence of automatic doors, he wondered?

He stepped forward. The doors slid open. Jay checked, just to be sure, before continuing his advance towards the inside of the store. The doors were not equipped with spikes or booby traps of any kind, and even if they were, the doors remained safely and obediently open until he finally moved out of the sensor's range on the other side.

The doors slid shut then, but their pace remained quite unhurried. Jay stared again at the circular yellow stickers, also affixed to the inside of the door. That made four such stickers in total. He really couldn't figure out their necessity, but he simply did not have all day to ponder such things. He had come to the supermarket for a reason, after all.

Outside, it had been dusk, and on winter days like these the sky faded to darkness all too quickly. The fluorescent lights illuminating the inside of the grocery store were comparatively quite bright, and Jay's eyes took a few moments to adjust. He heard the beeping of cash registers in the vicinity, and occasional notes of muzak struck his eardrums like the call of a distant Siren.

Like most people in an unfamiliar grocery store, Jay felt an overwhelming sense of discomfort as he realized he didn't know where anything was. Compared to the one in his neighborhood, this place was strange. The produce area was on his right, near the entrance, instead of in the back. Nearby, he caught a glimpse of the breakfast cereal aisle. None of it made any sense.

He considered backing out right now. Turning tail, trying for a less disorganized store. But then he'd have to face the automatic doors again. No, he had come here out of necessity, and he wouldn't leave empty-handed.

Jay began walking down the lane that ran behind the rows of checkout counters with his neck craned upward to scan the signs identifying what each aisle contained. Aisle 4's signboard read: "Milk, cheese, yogurt." Yet aisle 9 simply said "Spirits." Why elaborate on dairy but not on booze, he wondered? He supposed the owners of the supermarket knew their business better than he did.

Upon reaching the aisle with greeting cards and toys, Jay was truly hitting the bottom of the aisle barrel. He still hadn't found what he was looking for. Did he dare ask for assistance? Nearby, a teenage girl wearing a bright red vest was lazily sliding boxes of crackers onto a shelf.

The back of her vest was emblazoned with yet another yellow circle, but this one was fashioned to look like a smiling face. Below it, the words "May I help you?" were printed. With an invitation like that, Jay could hardly resist.

"Excuse me," he began, feeling a bit guilty for interrupting her work. She stopped and looked up at him. He didn't know why he had expected her to ask, "May I help you?" Such a thing would have been redundant.

"I'm looking for golf balls, can you tell me which aisle they're in?" Jay asked quickly, sensing that the employee was eager to get back to her work.

"Golf balls? Uh, I don't think we sell those," she said.

"You don't? Oh," Jay said, crestfallen.

"Sorry, this is a grocery store," she said. "Maybe try a sporting goods shop or something?"

Jay lit up slightly. She had been able to help him, after all.

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