Original Reddit Prompt: You’re a can of SPAM left in a shopping cart that was haphazardly abandoned in a mall parking lot. Describe your journey back to your shelf on aisle 12.
Warmth lingers within me as she removes me from the bowl of hot water, takes off my top, and with a few smacks sends me sliding out onto the cutting board. She slides her knife, smooth and dangerous, through me, and places my pieces in the frying pan.
“Huh?” I say, hearing a crying baby, “I thought we were alone, baby. Aw, crap!” I realize I was dreaming, or perhaps hallucinating. I’m still stuck in this jail cell of shopping cart, and now that the mid-summer sun is at its highest point in the sky, I’m really starting to cook.
“Isn’t it someone’s job to collect these things?” I sigh, but I know that my place at the back of the parking lot isn’t likely to change for a while. The busybody mom that left me here must be one of those who parks as far as possible from the store for more exercise, or because she’s scared of other people dinging her car, or some idiocy like that. It’ll be hours before I’m discovered, and by then I’ll be so cooked who knows what’ll happen.
The parking lot around me fills with more and more cars. That’s it – that’s my ticket. If it gets busy enough, people will have to park back here, and I’ll be rescued.
Finally, as the after-school crowd rolls in, a disheveled woman with two leashed children tied to the baby backpack she’s wearing exits a Prius two spots away. This is it! She strides toward me, moving quickly, in a hurry. Her fingertips touch the cart’s handle. I try to catch her distracted gaze, and succeed!
“Ew,” she says, looking at me with disgust. She shakes her head and turns around, abandoning my cart and me.
“What? WHAT?!” I scream, soundless. “I’m literally an unopened can of FDA approved food! Would it be so hard to just bring me to a cart corral? Christ!”
The sun is high; I’m feeling sweaty. A beat-up pickup rumbles over and squeals to a stop in the spot next to me. Here we go, this has to be it. A man exits, hair-lined belly hanging out from under his stained white shirt, the soles of his work boots separating from the shoes. He pulls a dirty baseball cap out from somewhere behind the driver’s seat and affixes it firmly over the bald spot shining from the middle of his grey, oily hair.
He glances my way, looks away, then looks back. He’s not interested in the shopping cart, it seems, but in me.
He walks over, slow, heavy steps that seem to take a lot of effort. He reaches into the cart toward me, smiling, and picks me up. It takes him a moment for the heat to register.
“Gaahhh!” he wails, throwing me across the lot. He uses some choice words, and storms off toward the store. Great.
I’m not sure if my predicament is better or worse: I’m right on the lower edge of a parking space already occupied by an SUV, which is providing me some shade at least, thank goodness. This could go very, very wrong, though, and I think my landing may have damaged the can. If so, my odds aren’t looking good.
A chattering sound approaches, accompanied by the sharp, rhythmical clicking of heels on asphalt. A woman in casual business attire, carrying a reusable shopping bag and yammering away on her phone, makes the turn towards the driver’s side of the SUV I’m under. She looks down into her purse for her keys, and notices me.
“Huh,” she says, apparently finding me interesting.
“Help me!” another silent scream to these deaf beings.
Surprisingly, she bends over and picks me up, a nostalgic smile on her face. Hopeful, I visualize myself in her kitchen, dished up before her. I hope that imagining it makes it real, that soon I’ll be brushing against her lips and running across her tongue. I’m feeling warm again, and it isn’t because of the sun.
She takes a few steps, and casually places me on top of a trash can. Not in it, just on top of its rain-cover lid. She gets in her car, never stopping her phone conversation, and drives away.
A man in threadbare clothing, with a mean look in his eye, finds me hours later in the dark, just before closing time. I’m exhausted, and defeated. He cracks my can open right there and eats me with his fingers, before slipping quietly into the grocery store, laughing to himself as the lights go out and he makes himself a bed behind a checkout counter.
In the early morning, he rises before opening, makes his way to aisle 12, a place I once called home, and defiles it in a way I’d hoped never to be seen by my friends and family. I lie there, exposed and embarrassed, until the morning crew comes in.
“Aw, man!” the pimply-faced kid complains when he sees me on the floor. “That guy got in here again! I hate it here!”
You’re tellin me, kid.