MR. MUSCLE GUY

John Smithwick


I went to Sam’s today and for the first time I wore a face mask. I felt like a wimp.  It didn’t help when Mr. Muscle Guy walked by without a face mask and wearing a Superman tee shirt. Worse, he glanced at me and smirked. Now I feel like a pathetic wimp.


My wife sensed my humiliation and put her arm around me. “Don’t let him bother you. I bet by the time he gets to be your age, that tee shirt won’t even fit him.” 


Gee, thanks.


I followed my wife out of Sam’s pushing our loaded shopping cart up the slight incline to our car. I imagined myself as one of those old time coal miners, pushing an ore laden cart out of the mine shaft. Left foot… right foot… left foot. You’re almost there. You’re almost there.


We finally reached our SUV. I pushed the button on the remote. There’s a beep and the back of the SUV yawns open.


Sweat has caused my mask to stick to my face. I peel it off and let it slide down to my neck where it hangs by its elastic strap. It’s not tight. I can still breathe. Maybe I can get a refund.


My wife gets in the SUV and turns on the air conditioner. Her day is done. I look at the groceries that need to be loaded. Four dozen hot dogs, 144 cans of cat food, six half gallons of orange juice, four dozen eggs, case of Chex Mix, eight frozen pizzas, five pounds of unsalted butter, jumbo jar of peanut butter. My head starts to spin. Only in America, I think. Only at Sam’s in America. I look around for Mr. Muscle Guy. I’m going to need help loading everything.


Grocery shopping used to be easy before this virus hit. Now, people shop like a nuclear winter is coning. Four dozen hot dogs? I look through the rest of the groceries and find no hot dog buns. Who eats a hot dog with a knife and fork? Beans and franks in a can I understand. But a plain hot dog rolling back and forth on a plate? Is that what we have come to as a society? Is the end that near? I stare at the hot dogs sitting innocently in the thermal bag. “Damn you,” I say.


With the groceries loaded, I get in the SUV and start it. My wife comes to attention. “Let’s go straight home. I’m hungry.”


“Ok,” I answer. “What are we having?”


She thinks for a moment. “I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe hot dogs. Did you remember to buy the buns?”




John Smithwick is a writer living in Florida.


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