12 Jul

Gerry Mycroft spent far too long in the supermarket because Gerry Mycroft was looking for something so important and essential that he’d forgotten what it was.

This wasn’t unusual, of course. More than once every week he found himself forgetting something really important. Only that morning, before he’d left for the supermarket, he’d gone upstairs to the spare bedroom and when he arrived there after less than half a minute he had no idea what had impelled him to climb those stairs and go there in the first place.

Was it for an item of clothing from a cupboard that held rarely needed items of clothing? Was it a new strap for his watch, because the one he wore had the leather dangling unsupported by one of those fragile little loops that support straps and break all too easily? He’d paused, tapped his forehead with two nervous fingers and then, without picking one thing up, he had climbed back down the stairs, still pondering. Then he’d gone into the kitchen where his bus pass was and remembered. He’d gone upstairs to check that he’d turned the light in the spare bedroom off because one thing he couldn’t abide was wasting electricity and being faced with bills that were one penny more than they needed to be.

So he returned back upstairs, wondered why he’d gone there again, noticed that the light was on, switched it off, and returned to the kitchen.

That sort of thing happened all the time. When he’d been younger, a whipper-snapper as he put it, he’d sniggered at elderly gentlemen who behaved in a like forgetful way and thought of them as being eccentric in a delightful, post-youthful sort of way. So at least he’d been fair!

Now he knew what it was. It was the kind of amnesia that had about it the first clammy touch of the grave. It heralded a certain path and that was one path he had no immediate desire to take.

But why had he come to the supermarket? There was something, some important thing, maybe several somethings, that he’d set out to acquire and he had come to the supermarket in order to acquire it. He paused, placed two fingers to his forehead and tapped gently, knowing those fingers would do nothing in the retrieval of memory but also aware that they probably made him look less eccentric.

No, not eccentric: stupid.

There’s only one thing for it,” he mused, silent in his head which was a good thing because he knew that sometimes he talked to himself aloud and that people who noticed either asked him what he wanted, in the assumption that he was addressing them, or thought him stupid and looked at him mockingly before moving on in the superior way that younger people have when in the presence of senility. “There’s only one thing for it,” he repeated, “and that’s to walk round the shop until I see what it was I came for.”

He selected a supermarket trolley, inserted a coin because that’s what you have to do, and started slowly navigating his way down the first aisle, which was fresh fruit and vegetables and smelled quite enticing. It was the strawberries with a hint of raspberry, he assumed. And the tomatoes … he had a weakness for tomatoes. Maybe… but no, that’s not why he was there … but he selected a particularly delicious looking packet of nice red tomatoes anyway, slipped it in his trolley, and moved on.

Why am I here?” he asked himself, and stood still, rotated, still holding the trolley that almost knocked a small child over, and frowned thoughtfully.

That man nearly knocked me over!” protested the child to his mother, “and he’s pulling a nasty face at me…”

Come on,” urged the mother as she tugged the child away, clearly moving as far from the suspicious old man who was insanely rotating a trolley as she could.

Gerry Mycroft, realising that he might not be giving off his chosen appearance of a perfectly normal shopper, stopped rotating himself and his trolley, and moved on past the cheeses.

There was a huge array of different cheeses, all tastefully displayed, and some had yellow stickers on them, indicating that they had reached their sell-by date and had been reduced in price. When articles were reduced in price they particularly appealed to Gerry, even if he didn’t really need them. They were bargains, and that word, the singular bargain had been hammered by time deep into his brain so that even old age hadn’t eased it out.

He picked up a packet of Extra Mature Cheddar and sniffed it. Half price! A true bargain! He gently placed it next to the tomatoes into his trolley. Cheese and tomatoes always went well together.

What he would do when he got back home, he told himself, was make a small packet of cheese and tomato sandwiches like his mother used to make, back in the forties when cheese and tomatoes were a luxury, and take himself on a picnic. His mother had taken him on picnics and the cheese and tomato sandwiches had been delicious, what with the way the juice from the tomatoes had soaked into the bread and made it all gooey and special and really, really tasty. His mouth watered as he made his plans. Cheese and tomato sandwiches. Perfection if ever there was perfection!

He moved on, still short of memory.

The next aisle was tins. Tins of meat, tins of fish then tins of beans and tins of peas then tins of fruit.

He’d always loved tinned peaches!

Way back in the cheese and tomato sandwich years they had been treated to tinned peaches with evaporated milk instead of cream, and he’d loved it. He still preferred evaporated milk to cream! It had more flavour to it, somehow, just like it had during the post-war years when it was one of those luxuries that made life truly worth living. Tinned preaches and evap!

A tin of peaches followed by a tin of milk (evaporated) found its way into his trolley, and he carried on.

What was it that he’d needed from the supermarket? What had been so important that he’d walked all this way to buy it, when his legs were as dodgy as they were and walking made his back ache near the right kidney?

He walked, slowly, leaning on his trolley for support, round the entire supermarket and nothing jogged his memory. He even perused the medicine section, but he had a new packet of ibuprofen at home, tablets that he took when his arthritic thumbs reminded him that age was to be endured rather than enjoyed and certainly wasn’t for wimps.

Nothing there.

Well, maybe it can’t have been that important after all, and he wasn’t going to walk all the way back home, no way, not with this back-ache, he had a bus pass in his pocket and he was going to use that. His aching back could only stand so much walking in one day!

He stood in a line at the check-out for ten items or less, put his tomatoes, cheese, tin of peaches and evaporated milk on the endless moving belt that constituted the counter, and then put them all back in the trolley and looking disgustingly flustered half-ran to the bakery section for a loaf of sliced bread.

Sandwiches need bread,” he told himself.

Back at the check-out he paid for his small load, packet it into a bag he always carried with him and made his way to the bus stop.

It wasn’t until he got home that he remembered what it was he’d gone to the supermarket for.

He’d had his morning coffee and just fancied a sandwich for lunch. Maybe, he had thought, one with tomato in it.

One like his dear departed mother used to make. With delicious cheese. And maybe a treat as pudding. Maybe some fruit?

Yes, that’s why he’d gone to the supermarket. And, praise the gods, he’d remembered, which made a change.

© Peter Rogerson 11.07.17


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