Mrs. Jones was alone in aisle thirteen. She held up a bottle of mayonnaise into the light. There was no price tag, but she could tell that the mayo was of the superior kind. It was pearly white, not as yellow (and definitely not as sweet) as the mayo they serve at the sandwich shop down the road. This mayo was also probably pricier.
Like all things good. I bet it’s French, and fuck me, can the French cook, she thought.
Her good eye followed her stumpy index finger in search for the price tag that was lost somewhere in between all the other plastic casings on the canned food aisle shelves. Her glass eye reflected in the sheen of the yellow mayo bottle cap, which she held slightly tilted. The convenient store lighting was giving off a glow of ignorance.
Thinking that the price might have blended in with the bar code, she focused on the back of the bottle. Nothing. The bars danced and blurred and curved in places she thought bars could never curve. They were taking on a life of their own and causing a migraine, pushing up from inside her sinuses. She sniffed. The doctor had said that I’d have some problems with depth perception at first.
Maybe I should have sent Clarissa out tonight instead, she thought.
The bar code numbers moved like the waves of the angry ocean outside. Mrs. Jones’ dentures scraped over her tongue. Clarissa’s eleven o’clock scones with apricot jam and cream had left a sour taste in her mouth.
She almost dropped the mayo. With two hands she pulled the glass bottle in between her heavy bosom and let out a sigh.
Lokesh Singh scratched the back of his neck, almost completely taking off the scab over his mole the barber did. The buzz of the diary fridge was threatening to take over the conversation.
‘Yes,’ she said. She composed herself by raising her chin.
‘Is everything ok?’ he asked in a thick Punjabi accent.
‘Fine. Just … browsing,’ she said. She cleared her throat.
Lokesh was going to do the right thing and ask how she’d been coping after the fire, but thought better of it when he saw her fidgeting with her purple paisley scarf covering the scar over her neck and cheek. He only managed a ‘How-’, and it came out like a Mick Jagger rock ‘n’ roll howl. The rest of the words were caught in his throat.
‘Ahem … I’m at the counter if you need any help,’ he said and walked past her, trying not to look into her glass eye. He’d heard it was completely see-through. ‘At the counter. If you need me,’ he said again, and then blinked, pretending an insect had flown into his eye.
‘Very well, then. Thank you, Lokesh,’ Mrs. Jones replied, making it clear that the little Indian fellow with an excuse for a mustache and an unfortunate birth growth on the back of his neck was now ready to return to what he called a stable job.
Halfway down the aisle he turned back and saw that she was still eying him. Lokesh lowered his head and scratched his neck again, this time taking off the whole mole.
The back of his white Happy Mart – Shopping is a Joy t-shirt turned burgundy where the blood seeped into the fibres. ‘Ahfuggitmaan,’ he said, shaking his head and making a left into the restrooms, instead of making a right to his usual post behind the counter.
As soon as the sound of his rubber soles faded, Mrs. Jones looked back down at the bottle of mayonnaise in her hand. She wasn’t sure if her glass eye had moved, but a sudden feeling of acceptance reigned supreme; the eye didn’t feel cold anymore, and the uncomfortable bulkiness in her eye socket had subsided dramatically.
This is my eye now, and a damn fine glass eye, thank you very much. She focused on the label again, and everything came into focus. The first letter was a K, but the overhead light on the diamond-like design made it impossible to see the next letter. The glass eye sent a message to Command Centre:
“Is it an O?”
“Copy that. Negative.”
Damnit! the glass eye wanted to shout.
“Goddamnit!” shouted Mrs. Jones. ‘Lokesh! Come here! How much is this *droning fridge sound* Mayo?’
“Give me five, Missus. Jones! I have a situation here,’ replied Lokesh.
“Is it an E?” asked the glass eye.
“Copy that. Nope. Negative,” said the voice in Command Centre.
“Has to be a consonant,” the glass eye guessed, “L?”
“Nope. Sorry, times up,” confirmed Command Centre.
“For the love of God,” the glass eye hissed at the neurons. It made a 360, just to piss Command Centre off.
Walking down the aisle, Lokesh was holding almost a whole roll of toilet paper over his wound. ‘Yes, Missus Jones?’
“This bottle of mayonnaise. How much is it?” Mrs. Jones asked in her most polite voice, but with an undercurrent of annoyance. She had to get out of Happy Mart.
“Twenty-eight ninety-five.” Lokesh flinched.
“That’s what I thought.”
The police arrived twenty minutes too late, and the medics – after Forensics had taken photographs – had quite a struggle removing the piece of glass-come-bottle cap from Lokesh Singh’s throat.
Rocking in her chair in front of the fire, Mrs. Jones was doing a crossword on her lap.
Hangmanhangmanhangman, she wrote, squeezing the letters into each tiny little square, every now and again piercing the newspaper and stabbing herself in the leg with the ballpoint pen she’d taken from next to the cash register on her way out.