Cast and customers – chapter four

cast and customers





Saturday. Bus. Stop. If I lost the meeting with Belinda, the day would have started in the wrong way. That day, I saw her getting on the bus that preceded mine. Everything seemed to row against me.

On Saturdays, the volunteers for the Caritas usually arrived to collect the packages destined to refugees or third-world populations. They had Franciscan manners, and we indulged them. If you had to pass through with a platform of mineral water and they were there, you were not bothering them. The guys had their own tables at the entrance to pick up the packages from clients who wanted to participate.

Clients were fuzzy-headed by the news on the dioxin chickens and the mad cow disease.

Sometimes real psychosis was created. People were suspicious.

– Look at this chicken: doesn’t it look too puffy?

– Madam, that’s not a chicken: that’s a guineafowl.

– Really? I had no idea we were importing meat from Egypt!

With that reflection, a long, stressing, shitty, and rainy week was over.

Monday. The week started with another promotion. Everything was organized and clean when we opened; the shelves were tidy, and the discounts seemed to be pieces of an inlay; piles of articles were bond together with a base of four packs placed horizontally, under other four vertical packs, and so on. The fruit section was a luxuriant garden, and the deli looked like a country cellar. The smell of the hot bread was spreading throughout the corridors.

At the end of the day, the chaos of the rush hour didn’t dissolve, but it moved into your head. From the outside, you could hear the honking of the cars waiting for the traffic light to turn green, whereas the supermarket seemed a town demolished by an earthquake: discount signs were mixed up, the piles were no longer ordered, the discount desks seemed assaulted and bombed; a bottle of rustic tomato puree was laying disintegrated on the floor, another of oil was lying there too, only a little further. Papers and flyers were on the floor; packs of meat were neglected on the detergents shelves. Near the exit, there were full bags that someone had no time to hide. The check-outs were ringing with the typical, computerized rhythm of our end-of-the-day accounts. That job was paradoxical: one needed to create a magnificent exposition meant to attract the public, aware that the success would be determined only by its destruction. Quite the opposite of the theater.

Sometimes my grandpa came back to my mind. He told me about the war and about his country; he compared misery to a cashier’s check: it was the same everywhere.

There was a conflict somewhere in the world, said the television. The West was taking part in it too. The supermarket became full of scared people; elder ones hoarded any kind of item: sugar, pasta, flour. They stayed patiently in line, and nobody complained.

The wired broadcasting wasn’t working, and I was relieved by it. The coffee shelf was empty, little grains were left there. An old man came closer, slowly. He stopped, looked around, and with a little brush, he let a mixture of dust and coffee fall in the empty bag.

He was the old man Alfredo Toffolo. He seemed to come from Sciuscià or Bicycle Thieves, but he had no bike, and his shoes weren’t dirty, and the shoelaces were patched. He ran a hand through his white hair, held by a trickle of water. He came to the supermarket with the spirit of a young boy, trying discreetly to get closer to the usual middle-age lady, accompanying her and holding her envelopes. They gave each other company.

Alfredo always gave me his poetry: – You’ve always got to read – he said.

Green fields where red poppies grow.

That’s where I want to sleep, tired.

Plaqueless and marbleless.

– Keep my poetry, and every time you see a red poppy, call it Alfredo.

He winked and went out from the chocolate sector. It looked like he planned the robbery of the century, but he was only looking for emotions. Those sweets were for his grandchildren. He pretended to be there by chance when I went throwing away the wastes of the fruit-and-vegetables sector.




Read chapter two



cast and customers

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