Laura Gardner walked contentedly through the aisles of the supermarket looking for nothing in particular. What many saw as a chore, she found grocery “shopping” relaxing. Her husband said, halfheartedly, that the only reason she liked going so much was to look at all the colors in the soda aisle. Frank could be such a nudge.
Turning to the grains and oats aisle, she bumped into a tall, broad-shouldered man. “Oh excuse me! I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you there. Oh, Honey Nut Cheerios? Good choice!” said Laura, trying to make the situation less awkward. It wasn’t working. The man turned around, and she looked up at the face that held a small scar across the right cheek. It was Steven Bains.
Laura froze with shock. “Oh my God! Oh my God! Stev–”
Steven, mortified someone had seen him, dropped the cereal box and clasped his hand over her mouth. “Mrs. Gardner, be quiet, please!” he said in a hushed tone. Laura nodded, and Steven guided her against the shelves, his back to anyone who might see.
“Mrs. Gardner, you can’t tell anyone that you’ve seen me. I–”
This time, Laura interrupted him. “For God’s sake Steven, what are you doing…alive! You died two years ago! Why do dead people need groceries!”
“I didn’t think I’d see you here! What are you doing in a grocery store on the other side of town!”
“Sometimes I like to go to this Save-Mart instead. The aisles are wider and…”
Steven brushed her off. “Mrs. Gardner, you can’t tell anyone you’ve seen me. I mean you can’t tell anyone. I’ll explain it all. Promise me that.” Laura shook her head in agreement. “I’ll call your house later as a credit card company. If you can talk, let me know.” With that, he ran off, leaving Laura in a state of utter confusion.
Josephine Falcone answered the front door to greet Rocco and Philomena Benedetto.
“Phil! Rock! Come in, come in! So good to see you!” said Josephine between the hugs and kisses. Her sour demeanor seemed to disappear when she had people to impress.
“Hello, Josephine,” said Philomena with an indifferent tone, as she looked the house up and down in slight disapproval.
Josephine actually looked uncomfortable. Trying to deflect Philomena’s eye of contempt, she ushered them into the dining room. She looked back to see Louise in the doorway and said, “Louise, bring out the lasagna and the sauce. Don’t drop anything!”
Louise was more than happy to oblige, and brought the meal out promptly between the chit-chat of the family members that had assembled around the large table in the mahogany-lined dining room.
“All right all, just help yourselves!” said Josephine, the picture of a perfect hostess.
“Uh, Josephine,” said Philomena, “You don’t say Grace in this house?” She paused and looked at her cousin. “Well, I’m not surprised,” she said, with a slight tilt of her head.
“Oh,” said Josephine awkwardly, “Of course we do.” The family said Grace with very little grace, then began to eat. Philomena began to heap the sauce on her lasagna. Sauce was her favorite part of a meal, and Josephine had made plenty just for her.
Philomena took a piece of bread, then loaded it with sauce and took a healthy bite. Her plump, wrinkled face changed from gluttonous to repressed shock. “…Very…good,” was all she could mutter. Josephine looked at the rest of her guests. They had looks of polite disgust as they ate.
As the meal went on, Philomena said, hurriedly, “Excuse me. I…I have to go to the powder room.” She bolted from the table. Soon after, the others began to run out of desperation, green with agida. They were sick beyond comprehension.
Josephine was abashed, and Louise Falcone smiled with smug satisfaction.