Like most twenty-four year olds with no steady source of income, Jenny couldn’t remember the last time she stepped foot inside a Walmart.

Sure the garish yellow on blue caused her physical pain and the screaming kid in the frozen food aisle made her make a mental note to ask her gyno about birth control, but that wouldn’t stop her. Jenny was a woman on a mission. She’d come to buy an air fryer and she wasn’t leaving without one.

Not just any air fryer. An InstantCuisine Turbo XL Air Fryer, in red, if possible. She’d first seen it in a Buzzfeed listicle shortly after she moved: ‘17 Best Housewarming Gifts for a New Homeowner.’ Jenny obviously wasn’t a new homeowner, but she’d been intrigued and bored enough to scroll through it. After clicking past robotic vacuums and a cheese board whose price made her head (and wallet) hurt, she found it. With its large basket and seven unique settings, it made for the perfect housewarming gift to herself.

Breakfast was the only meal Jenny nailed every time. (It was pretty hard to mess up a bowl of cereal or a couple fried eggs.) Every other dish just took way too long and had too many pots and pans and ingredients to keep track of. With the InstantCuisine air fryer, she’d be able to make anything from chicken wings to brownies with one tool if her heart so desired.

This is such a responsible purchase. Jenny smiled to herself as she pushed her shopping cart through the horde of responsible adults. Responsible adults who seemed to know exactly where they were going without glancing up at the aisle markers at all. Responsible adults with well thought out grocery lists, most likely. Probably wrote it with actual pencils on actual pieces of paper and not in the notes app of their phones while stopped at a red light on the way over here.

After picking up a gallon of milk, a couple mangoes, and some purple shampoo, Jenny navigated her way to the kitchen appliances aisle, excited to finally get her hands on her InstantCuisine air fryer.

Except it wasn’t there. At all. Not even a price tag on the shelf which would indicate it being temporarily sold out. Didn’t Buzzfeed say you could find this at Walmart? Jenny thought to herself. Or was it Target? One glance at the screenshot of the listicle on her phone confirmed that it indeed said Target.

Oh well. Jenny wasn’t going to let this bother her. She had a full tank of gas and a determined attitude to get her hands on that air fryer, even if she had to drive all the way to Target now.

Except it wasn’t at Target either. This time there was a sticker on the shelf for it, so Jenny knew it had been there, maybe was there only moments before she arrived, but was currently out of stock. Staring at the sticker didn’t do her any good. Making a quick lap around the store and returning (now with a cinnamon scented candle in her basket) didn’t make it magically reappear, either.

What would Heather do? It was a question Jenny asked herself more often than she’d admit. Heather was the definition of responsible. She owned a two-story house, which she lived in with her soon-to-be husband Michael. Heather claimed to never order takeout, which Jenny always wrote off as an exaggeration until she moved in with her. Heather has probably never asked Google how to do her taxes. Heather would check if the air fryer was on the Target website. Heather would see the ridiculous prices on the website and make the sensible choice to purchase one secondhand off eBay or Facebook.

Jenny however wasn’t as economical as her sister, and the thought of buying a pre-owned kitchen appliance from a stranger felt weird to her. Target website it was.

Though she had moved in a week earlier, Jenny still felt weird unlocking her apartment door and being met with just the echoes of her own movements. She had lived at home with her parents until she began college, then on campus with roommates until she dropped out, then back with her parents, then briefly with Heather and Michael, before finally moving into a place she could call unequivocally her own (if you forget the landlord, that is). She dropped her bags on the wooden coffee table and moved to her kitchen counter, leaning her weight against it as she fished her phone out of her pocket and searched target.com for the InstantCuisine air fryer.

It was there this time, of course. Over three thousand reviews for an average of 4.6 stars, which justified its $160 price tag to Jenny. Finally. Jenny added the air fryer to her cart and moved back towards her bags to grab her credit card from her wallet.

She searched Google for Target promo codes as she walked, eyes glued to her phone, which is why she tripped on the untied garbage bag in her living room, spilling garbage on the floor. The only reason Jenny had an untied garbage bag in her living room was because she had yet to buy a garbage bin and was instead using various plastic bags and cardboard boxes to gather her trash.

Heather wouldn’t wait a week before buying a garbage bin. Jenny frowned as she sat on the edge of her coffee table and crossed her ankles in front of her. And Heather would save up for a couch so she’d never be forced to sit on her coffee table.

Jenny chewed on her thumbnail as she searched the internet. A decent couch would cost at least a couple hundred dollars, right? Maybe less if she bought one secondhand. Jenny groaned as she tipped her head back to stare at the ceiling. After a moment, she turned back to her phone and removed the air fryer from her cart.

One day... but not today.

November 26, 2022 04:58

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Tricia Shulist
22:16 Nov 28, 2022

Nice story. Good work with the angst and determination. I liked it when she was channeling her sister — WWHD. Ha. Thanks for this.


02:10 Nov 29, 2022

Thanks Tricia!


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Chris Campbell
06:32 Nov 27, 2022

Precious, you have captured the essence and pitfalls of shopping both physically and online. This was humorous and poignant highlighting Jenny's first taste of independence, living on her own. As I wait for my air fryer to finish cooking some highly anticipated greaseless fries, I will spare a thought for Jenny's desire to have one. Well done!


01:59 Nov 29, 2022

Thanks Chris!


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