Lesley Anne Collins is fascinated by shopping lists, so much so that she collects them, then imagines a short story inspired by each list. All shopping lists re-produced here are genuine and collected by Lesley in and around our local supermarkets. If you’ve ever written a shopping list and left it behind in your trolley, you may just see it appear here.
As the last customer of the day, Joe hurried through the inky darkness of the empty supermarket car park. The store lights reached high into the starry sky, lighting up the rolling rain as the heavens heralded another Christmas Eve.
As he ducked into the store, Joe didn’t quite hear the dragging sound that had begun behind the bottle bank.
Inside, he pulled a creased white slip of paper from his pocket.
‘Snacks, meat, beer, Harpic cleaner, dog treats,’ said the shopping list.
‘Why on earth do we need dog treats? We don’t even have a dog,’ Joe had asked his wife, Miriam, earlier.
‘Next door are getting a pup tomorrow morning for Christmas and it’s all our son has talked about,’ replied Miriam. ‘Jez says he wants to find out if its tongue is prickly, if its nose is wet. But, most of all, he wants to feed it. I have waited for him to add something else to his Christmas list, but it’s Christmas Eve and ‘dog treats’ are still the only thing on his list. It’s not going to change now, is it?’
Back outside the supermarket, Joe had everything. Salty snacks and cooked honeyed ham for Christmas Eve, freezing beer for Christmas evening and winterberry fragrance toilet cleaner for a sparkling toilet. Everyone has an extra clean Christmas toilet, Miriam had said.
Joe had everything on the list. Except the dog treats.
‘Dog treats sell out faster than butter-basted turkeys on Christmas Eve. All those new puppies on Christmas morning, see? Sorry, mate, you won’t get dog treats anywhere now,’ the supermarket manager had told him, ‘hope your boy’s not too disappointed.’
Back in the gloom of the empty car park, Joe cocked his head to one side trying to identify the dragging sound which he now heard in the near distance. He listened in the glistening air. The dragging had stopped but Joe now made out the curl of warm human breath which came from behind the steely blue bottle bank.
Joe moved towards it.
The dragging started again. Joe froze.
As he peered into the blackness behind the bottle bank, Joe made out the figure of an old man swamped by an anorak which no longer fit, seated on the wet ground, his black boots made glossy by the incessant rain. He clutched a battered sack, presumably full of cans and out of date food.
‘Just taking a rest, my friend, I won’t be here long.’’
‘None of my business,’ Joe reassured him. ‘Don’t you have anywhere to be?’
‘I will move along soon enough,’ came the reply.
Joe laid his shopping on the ground.
‘Take this,’ he said. ‘It’s not much, but you’re welcome to it.’
The man made eye contact.
‘Thank you, my friend.’
Back behind the bottle bank, Joe found no trace of the old man. No battered old sack. Nothing.
Except the shopping Joe had offered him. It was untouched.
As the rain fell, Joe realised exactly who had been behind the bottle bank. On Christmas Eve.
‘Just taking a rest, my friend, I won’t be here long.’
And on the wet ground, next to the shopping bag, a pack of dog treats for Jez.
by Lesley Anne Collins © 2015