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Christmas Shopping by Luke Cremin, 6th Year

It is dark outside when I push the trolley through the opening doors. 

The place is vast and has a high ceiling, lined with an almost blinding white light that reflects off the floor. The only colours are the blue of the hanging signs and the red and green of the pathetic tinsel strewn across the endless line of shelves. I look left and see that there are only two tills in operation. A very bored looking girl sits examining her nails. Behind her is a man scribbling something. They are both wearing a blue t-shirt. Thankfully, the place seems empty. The only sign of life is Mariah Carey singing from above.

If I remember correctly, the turkeys should be on a separate shelf in the meat section at the very back next to the dairy aisle. 

Wasting no time, I push the rattling trolley deeper into the white maze. I pass sweets, cereals, pyramids, signs, more tinsel and I finally reach the milk aisle. They should be right here. Mariah sings louder.

My heart flutters as I turn the corner.

“Baby all I want for Christmas . . .”

The shelf is empty.

ON SALE and BEST VALUE signs point to nothing.


Her voice is shrill and it stabs my skull. I cover my ears and grimace my face. I feel an anxious pang in my stomach and my throat dries as the lights start glaring and my temple is about to burst and the room is spinning and I need to steady myself on the trolley so my quivering legs don’t collapse. 

I take a deep breath and steady myself. This cannot be happening. I am still trembling and my temple is pulsating. Surely there is another one somewhere? The seasonal aisle? They simply cannot be all gone. 

I see a figure in the distance wheeling a trolley down the aisle. I look down and try to ignore him.

“Hey!” He approaches me and stops. He is in faded blue pyjamas and flip flops. His brown hair resembles a nest. “Is there like . . . any more turkeys left ? I kinda need one like . . . right now.”

I exhale. “No, there are no more turkeys left.” He looks at me, mouth open, eyes half closed. 

“Huh. That’s weird.” I ditch the trolley and start walking back, in search of nothing. He follows me. “The one year I’m in charge of the turkey. Usually my一”
I can hear him but I have stopped listening. I feel hopeless. Panic rises as I realise that I am going to leave here empty handed. My clothes start to itch and the place is heating up, even in the fridge section. They don’t understand how much I need this turkey. This is the fifth store I’ve gone to already. The guy next to me stops talking. I think he asked me a question. I don’t know what. 

“Yeah, me too. I guess,” I sigh.

“Wait, your wife left you as well?”

We keep walking. “My kids will be so disappointed in me.” I silently scan the area for anything.

“Maan, my ex-wife’s new boyfriend is going to kill me. He is really jacked and about like six foot sev一” 

Then I see it. 

Four aisles to the right there is a full trolley left unattended, half hidden behind a pyramid of canned tomatoes. I see the familiar curve and red packaging of an uncooked Christmas turkey, glistening in all its glory. Already I am dashing down with excitement, closing in on my prey. I reach the trolley and stop.

I look left behind the pyramid.

A giant and burly man stands there, stroking his bushy beard, examining a jar of pickles. He is wearing a white vest and his tattooed, tree trunk arms stick out the sides. He doesn’t even notice my presence in his shadow. 

“Hey . . .” I open with a fake smile, my heart pounding. “Is that by any chance the last turkey?”

He looks down and half smiles at me. My head is at his hip. “Sorry man, this is the last one,” he says with a booming but soft tone.

My stomach burns with a fiery rage. “Ah . . . lucky guy,” I say, defeated. I clench my fists. He still smiles. 

“Yeah, this is going to be a good Christmas man. I’ve had a rough year. Things have been tough since my mom got hit by that bus一”

Of course she did.

“And my cat got put down for scratching my neighbour一”

“That hip surgery cost a bit as well一”

I hope it did.

“But I’m feeling good. End the year strong, yeah?” I don’t know if that is a question. I am about to burst with anger. 

“Have a holly-jolly Christmas,” I croak and turn back, filled with envy. I put a hand to my burning forehead, slightly damp with sweat. I am on the verge of tears. My head is about to explode. Pyjama man approaches me. “Get one?”

“No, I did not get one.” I have nowhere to look so I stare at the floor. 

He shakes his head. “Man, that’s a bummer. Anyway, I was saying I lost my job and now I’m just driving the buses. A few weeks ago I think I might have一” 

“You what?” I perk up. 

“I think I hit a一”

“No, no before that.”

“My wife left and took the一”

“NO! After that.”

“I’m just doing the buses nowadays.”

An idea. My heart flutters with hope. “Come with me.”

I dart back to the giant and turn the corner. He is still looking at the jar of pickles. I tap his enormous shoulder.

“Hello again.” He looks down at me from a distance. “Here, I don’t want to start anything but,” I lean closer and whisper,

“I think I know the guy who hit your mom.”

“WHO WHAT?” He bellows, shaking my insides. Pyjama man then turns the corner. 

The jar falls to the floor and shatters, spraying my legs with glass and pickle juice.

The giant lets out a roar. “YOU!”

Pyjama man slowly looks up. 

“Tony? I thought I was getting the turkey?”

The giant charges at pyjama man. Pyjama man just looks up in time and sees the incoming giant and ducks behind the can pyramid and dodges the charge. The giant halts and turns to face pyjama man, who is now throwing any projectile he can find. He hurls tomato cans, granola bars and even tinsel which is actually tangling the giant up, all the while screaming about how he wants his kids back. The giant charges at pyjama man and they both crash into a pyramid of一

Then I remember the mission. 

I ignore the chaos and turn back to the trolley. I grab the turkey with two hands and walk away, slowly to avoid suspicion. That employee darts down the aisle.

“What the hell’s going on?”

I smile. “Clean-up in aisle six”

Relief washes over me when I reach the tills. I place the turkey down and the girl looks at me with a mix of confusion and concern. She must be jealous.

“That will be . . . eh . . . twelve fifty . . .”

I hand her twenty and tell her to keep the change. I am grinning and beaming with pride. I head for the exit.

I look back at her.

This is the third turkey you’ve bought today.” 

I simply smile at her and leave.