Garibaldis and Fig Rolls. Flash fiction by Ruth Dear

The line of people loops half-way round the perimeter of the car park, not as busy as last week, and it’s already edging forward as I cross the road to join the end.
Ahead of me, a woman shifts from foot to foot, repeatedly assessing the gap between us, and the couple in front. I’m surprised she doesn’t whip out a metal rule to check we’re keeping our distance. As people shuffle forward, I make sure to stay the width of two parking spaces away. The woman glares when I catch her eye. Are smiles infectious now?
Her two young boys fidget and squirm as her gloved hands constantly stroke hair, pat shoulders, straighten jacket hoods. They’re moaning every few minutes; bored, hungry, thirsty. She should have left them at home.
Mum promises treats if they are patient and behave. Will the trolley police remove those as non-essential items? Essential for the mum’s sanity, that’s for sure, totally justifiable. Maybe I could get away with that too, come up with an excuse why I deserve a treat. Perhaps I do, stuck here, listening to their constant complaining.
At least the supermarket is taking precautions, limiting the number of people in store, operating a one-in, one-out policy, although it’s turning today’s quick trip into an hour’s wait on dreary, damp tarmac. This week I remembered to bring earphones, but the music doesn’t drown out the noise of the boys bickering.
“Oi, move along, love.”
While the queue has snaked away from me, I’ve stayed planted in the Eighties, humming along to Blondie’s greatest hits.
Now the family are almost at the store entrance,
“Remember, hold on, stay behind the trolley not at the sides. Keep away from everyone.” The boys, locked between the mum’s arms, don’t see her biting her lips as they move forward.
My turn next. I grab the trolley from the fluorescent- vested security guard who spritzed the handle and propel it through the doors. Prominent arrows, already peeling from the floor, dictate the direction of travel, black and yellow striped tape marking the specified safe distance. I need a few basics but, with no space to manoeuvre round people who are meandering along, I’m trapped in the fruit section.
An article I was reading on the way to work this morning said blueberries are a super food. I drop a couple of packs in my trolley, followed by an avocado – full of healthy fats. In the hot drinks’ aisle, a box of green tea joins them – lots of antioxidants. A large jar of sauerkraut should get my guts healthy quickly. Despite having a cupboard full at home, I pick up two large packs of super-soft quilted toilet roll. It wouldn’t do to run out, especially if the sauerkraut does its job.
The biscuit shelves are decimated. Garibaldis and fig rolls aplenty, but none of my favourites. I compromise with a selection of cereal bars, full of oats, beneficial for my heart and cholesterol levels.
At the checkout, I pay with my contactless card – can’t remember the last time I used cash – and stuff everything into my bag-for-life before escaping into the fresh air. The number 63 is pulling into the bus stop and I wave frantically at the driver, hoping he won’t leave without me.
There are two other passengers, one at each end of the lower deck, and I flop into a seat mid-way between them, taking care not to touch anything. No-one else gets on. I wind my scarf around my hand before I press the bell for my stop.
Once home, I boil the kettle on and unpack my bag. No milk, so I opt for instant hot chocolate, eschewing the health benefits of my newly purchased beverage. As the spoon clatters against the sides of the mug, I look at the shopping lined up on the worktop – no biscuit to dunk in my drink, and worse still, nothing for dinner. I should have written a list.


  1. Great observations Ruth!

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