Love and Grooming 7
By Lou Blodgett
People disappearing is an interesting thing. You either feel like running where they were to see where they’d disappeared to, or away, so’s not to disappear yourself. I had to stifle both impulses- first and second. But, Clarissa was very gone. I wondered if we’d wind up in the same place if I went a few seconds after her. Then I wondered if she was in the right place in the first place. If I went right then, I felt, I may wind up in Game Of Thrones or Candy Crush World or something. We should’ve gone at the same time.
So, I went back to my desk to wait for Clarissa to return. Yes, some things were said that I wish I could take back. The argument had become too heated. I called up the audit display, just for something to do. I pondered the box of Oateeos, looking at the design and noticing how things can change slowly, but dramatically over the course of years. I matched it with the Shrek-themed mac and cheese. Then, I noticed that what I hadn’t been playing with was the trimmer. It was gone.
Clarissa couldn’t have taken it, since it was too big for her pockets. I would have noticed. None of the stockers would have taken it. It would’ve just been something that they would have deal with, and they would have been embarrassed to be seen with it besides. Then I realized I was in the wrong damn place. When we returned the last time, it was to the cart corral. I headed out onto the floor, during the slowest period in the store. During daylight hours, that is.
The carts rolled, and the registers beeped and sang. As I walked to the front door, I realized that I couldn’t relate my problems to anyone else. I would lose my job. I detoured through the pet aisle, knowing that it was slow there early in the day.
The tiny tins and fishy stews.
With the tabby logo on the cap.
Too much from which to choose.
So many things for Tige to lap.
Savory free-range abalone
for the feline set that’s Tony.
Tuna flakes with Omega Dee.
Clumping litter for their pee.
And for the Persian you adore
dolphin-safe diced albacore
in a nuanced white-sauce that
will satisfy your aristocat.
The mealworms have their dreams,
wriggling in their larval state.
They think they’ll soon be beetles,
all they have to do is wait.
So, at thirty-six degrees,
does that frosty brood
lie sterile in their vigil.
All they’ll ever be is food.
For the pup you mean to please,
wild-caught armadillo and
sautéed baby peas.
If you think your life ain’t all,
bring out the wolf or lynx within.
Be a good Neanderthal.
Scratch the cat beneath the chin.
I swear that ‘Kitty’ smiled
as she munched the kibble through.
If she really were so wild,
she would munch on you.
And they sometimes do.
After spending some time orbiting the cart corral in the bright sun, I realized that that looked weird. So, I slowly picked up trash throughout the parking lot, asking customers- “How ya doin’?” and telling them to “Have a good one.” I kept an eye on the center of the parking lot, and there was No Clarissa. I wanted her back in my world, despite the words we had. So, I was old. I did need help with some things, but being old wasn’t so bad. If she were in the proper dimension, Clarissa would now be doing what the hell. Talking to Dimension Peato? Somehow solving the body-hair shaming controversy? She should be done by now. I formed another strategy where I would find a place to watch the cart corral from a distance, and, it would still look weird, but a different kind of weird. I cut through the middle of the lot toward patio furniture on display at the front of the store, but paused at the corral and put my hand on a rail there. I heard a cart rattle, but that was the most common sound in the lot.
“What the hell?”
Clarissa stood there, blinking at a trimmer, still in its pristine package, there in her hand. I fairly leapt to her, but, mercifully, kicked a rail-post, then, to catch myself, reached into a kiddy race-car cart, grabbing one of the tiny steering wheels, which, of course, spun, offering no support. I fell half-way into it.
“Did you follow me?” She cupped the package like she had days before. I guess when Clarissa doesn’t quite know, she cups it.
“NO! No, no no.” I said. “I waited. The trimmer’s gone from the desk.”
“Did you steal it?”
“NO! It just wound up in my hand when I went into the light, and I clung to it through instinct. Should we open it?”
“By all means!”
I looked to my car, taking inventory. I thought there might be a screwdriver… Peato was out in front of the store. He saw us and shook his head.
“How’s Peato In The Other Dimension?” I asked.
“Helpful! He knows about Weedeater Spa. Through a friend. He said it wasn’t the first complaint from this dimension. He took the advert and said he’d make a call.”
“Should we open it, then?”
“By all means,” Clarissa responded.
Peato stood tall and smirky, over there in the pick-up lane. He bent down and picked up a receipt someone had dropped.
“Well, everything happens for a reason,” Clarissa said, out of vision, and: ‘KA-WHUMP!’
She had decided not to wait for a tool, and had just cracked the package by stomping on the hook-hole with the heel of her shoe. She picked the package up, peeled it open, and plucked the trimmer out.
“Come on, then.”
Pavlov couldn’t have rung a bell clearer. I went to her, where she stood amongst the carts. I felt a bit of grab as she started with the top of my right ear.
“OOH! That one fell like the first leaf of autumn,” Clarissa said. She finished with the exterior and pushed the trimmer into the canal. It grabbed, and stalled out a bit, like a mower in June. But, there’s nothing like makeup depilation.
“Jesus,” I said.
“Wait till we get to Mister Nose.”
I turned for her to work on the left, and Peato was walking toward us. He boomed.
“You’re taunting me! You’re taunting me with that thing.”
Clarissa laughed. Then, we went on to Monsieur Nez.
“I get it. Performance art.” Peato came up to us, snapping his fingers for applause, and looking blasé ecstatic.
“I love you in another dimension,” Clarissa told him. I was distracted. The trimmer went up my right nostril, and: “BZZZZERT!”
“Which dimension is that?” Peato asked.
Peato nodded, as much as I could see.
“I’m nice in that one.”
“Helpful.” And, she was finished. I flicked a finger down the length of my nose, then used a hankie and sniffed. I brushed a few post-depilation tears away and presented myself to them both.
“I must say that you look like a new man!” Peato said, then handed me a lanyard which had a badge freshly printed with my name.
“I’ll never sign the write-up!”
“You don’t have to! It’s been six months.”
“What does that mean?” Clarissa asked, excited.
“New hire. His file still exists, but it doesn’t apply, since he hasn’t been on the payroll.”
Clarissa told me, “Then you’ll be able to visit Oscar at a better time.”
“Oscar in another dimention?” Peato asked.
“This dimension, old cat.”
“Benji,” Peato announced. “You officially don’t have a history. And we need you! Doug joined the Army.”
There we stood, with Peato pleading and Clarissa observing, absentmindedly holding the trimmer of which she was so proud. I didn’t need much convincing. Zildy and Sooper Dooper were equally bad in their own ways, and I needed a change. I was falling out of shape, and there was an appointment with Oscar in the mix.
At the end of the day, I realized that I’d learned some things. I’d learned what those odd, glowing fixtures were. Without even having to ask anyone. I learned that Peato was less of an asshole in Dimension Thirty-Two XB. And I learned that if you’re ever searching for your heart’s desire, the furthest that you have to look is behind the toaster pastries.