Bag of Groceries

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt

5 comments

Speculative Fiction

The bag of groceries sat in my front yard. I’d been watching out the front door and saw a little car drive up fast and stop in front of my house. A young kid 12 or 13, jumped out carrying this bag, leaned over the fence and dropped it near my mailbox. 


“What the fruitcake?” Those were my first thoughts. “What did I order that gets delivered by a 12 year old kid? . . . when did I order it? . . . I wonder if I wrote it down somewhere? . . . jeez Louise. Maybe it’s supposed to go to the neighbor across the street?”


My mood rapidly shifted from curious, to pissed off. I was not going to take anymore mis-delivered mail or packages to that new neighbor across the street. It was a real chore for me to do that. The few times I had done it, I got into my car and drove it 100 feet to the end of my driveway, crossed the street, and drove 100 feet up their driveway, left my car running, with my dogs in it, stepped out of the car, went up the stairs to their front porch and placed the mail or package by their door. Then I quickly returned to the car, backed out of their driveway, and turned down the street, pretending I had someplace to go. I had mastered the art of pretending I had someplace to go when I first got my motorcycle license. Where do you go on a motorcycle? One quickly learns the art of pretending to be going somewhere.


“I’m not taking that bag of whatever it is across the street to those neighbors!” I had probably scared the bejesus out of them the first week they moved in when I brought them a tin of refrigerator dough homemade cookies and a little card that provided the house numbers of their neighbors, and the names of their neighbors’ dogs. I wasn’t so sure about the neighbor’s names — it was like I had never met any of them. At least I don’t remember meeting them. Although once in ten years all the neighbors had come out of their houses and stood in the street, chatting with each other as if we were all part of a close-knit underground community — our relationships woven together with happy shared memories — but it was a secret community, so above ground there was no visible sign that we knew each other, except for that one occasion. That was the only time I can remember that our neighborhood experienced the tremor of an earthquake. I felt like I was the only person aware of the uniqueness of this above ground gathering of friends and neighbors. When the tremors stopped, and we turned our backs to each other walking towards our homes, I called out, “See you next earthquake!”


I did not even want to know what was in that bag. Once I knew what was in there, and which neighbor had ordered it from who-knows-where, I would be forced to do something. I don’t like being forced to do anything. There’s a force inside me that rises to the occasion to counteract any force on the outside. Very much like noise-cancelling headphones. It’s a reliable predictor of whether or not something’s going to get done. Case-in-point, flashback to the days of being a stay-at-home mom/housewife. Husband gets home from a hard day’s work, walks through the door, looks at the vacuum cleaner plugged in and ready to go, and says: “Could you please vacuum this room?” My response, “No.” (Do I really need to explain any further?) “I was just getting ready to vacuum before you came in and asked me to vacuum. Obviously, vacuuming is no longer an option.” Worlds apart. He drops his briefcase by the door, turns on the vacuum without warning the cat, and mad-vacuums the living room while wearing a suit and tie and the kind of shoes that get polished. That is just one of the many examples of how I hold my own against outside forces.


I can’t let the dogs out until I move the bag — what if there’s raw meat in there? or ice cream? No, there can’t be any items that require refrigeration — there’s got to be a law against that. Why wasn’t I notified by text that my bag of something had been delivered? If I hadn’t been standing there by the front door and saw the rapid delivery system, I wouldn’t have even noticed the bag until after my dogs had discovered it. So many things could have gone wrong. Like what if there were grapes inside? or chocolate? or a cooked chicken? I was definitely going to complain about this to someone. Maybe there’s another way to say that. I would be providing the coordinator of the delivery system with the helpful recommendation that they find a way to notify their customer immediately after a package has been delivered. The company would be improving their services and ultimately profit with a growing business due to my suggestion. I was definitely going to suggest that to someone. But maybe not. There’s no energy pushing me to go out of my way to make a suggestion, not like there is to make a complaint.


And what if there is ice cream in that bag? It’s probably double wrapped in brown paper to insulate it, keep it cold just a little longer. But it will still be soft. And when I refreeze it the texture will change, maybe change to rubber? I’m trying to think if there’s any flavor of ice cream I don’t like. Is there any flavor I would actually say, “No thanks, I avoid that flavor of ice cream.” I’m feeling pretty strongly, whatever that flavor is, it’s in that bag.


I wonder if the neighbor across the street was waiting for this delivery and saw it get dropped off at my house? Why didn’t they come right over and get it? They probably got that text that said it’s been delivered! I feel the mounting pressure of their eyes watching that bag from behind the dark windows. Do I dare pick it up and bring it into my house without looking at the slip of paper that identifies the rightful owner? Maybe I’m the rightful owner? Maybe my name and address is on that slip of paper? Or maybe my bag was delivered to the wrong house and the owner there put the bag in their car and drove to my house and had their kid drop it off in my yard? Maybe that is my bag.


Alright, the decision has been made. I don’t know what’s in the bag, but I know the odds are good it’s coming into my house and it’s staying there. I don’t care what it is, where it came from, or who it’s supposed to go to. And if the neighbors across the street think it’s their bag, they are going to have to come over and say “Hello, and by the way, did you get my bag by mistake?” That’s not likely going to happen. But if it did I could say, “There was no slip of paper included.”  I had no idea it was their delivery — how could I possibly know that?


The coast was clear. Nobody visible on the street, or outside in their front yards. No cars moving. Except for one. A little car drives up fast, stops in front of my house, a kid jumps out, runs to the spot where he dropped the bag earlier, leans over the fence and he takes it. He and the bag and the car are gone before I can get the front door open.

August 12, 2022 22:06

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5 comments

Jan Mann
19:52 Aug 29, 2022

The jolt of an external force sets the narrator in motion swinging back and forth between the urge towards autonomy and the urge towards community. It builds tensions around whether the narrator actually controls at which of these two poles she will land (the dogs cannot determine their own reaction, foreshadowing the end of the story). It conveys a shadow story of the person driving the car, who also swings...maybe in the same way?

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Ignis Drake
19:12 Aug 18, 2022

I loved it!! This is the sort of thing I do. I bet you the cat swore and enacted revenge! Brilliant.

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Hilary R. Glick
18:37 Aug 17, 2022

Quick and light read. I really enjoy your uses of colloquialisms such as "jeez Louise" and "bejesus" - very natural sounding dialogue that plays in my head as well. I'm curious - what was the first, smaller, section's intent in this story? Would've like a little more of a full circle moment including this 4th draft idea....

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Charlotte Larson
06:12 Aug 18, 2022

thank you, H.R.Glick, for your feedback -- the natural sounding dialogue was just me transcribing the story I heard in my head. This is my first short story. I have a lot to learn. Your description of the first, smaller section with a 4th draft idea is not what I see when I open my link to the story. I really don't know how or what it is that you see. However, I’ve had one other reader describe the same thing when they opened my story, that is, a section of little print and something about a 4th draft. I wish I could see the same versio...

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Hilary R. Glick
18:18 Aug 18, 2022

Hey! No worries at all... Reedsy has some strange formatting issues, so I totally hear you. I actually thought it was intentional. It seems to be the start of the same story, but slightly different. I thought you were commenting on the repetition or something, if anyone else asks, just go with it. HAHA!

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