If you ever find yourself bored with grocery shopping, it’s because you’re not doing it at the right time. You should be going late at night. That’s when the entire market is populated by ghosts, trolls, golems and other assorted mythical creatures. Factor in the color-neutralizing florescent lighting, the likelihood that you’ve probably not slept enough and an abnormally low number of people and you’ve got yourself an otherworldly experience.
I have lived both as a night owl and as an early bird. Having no internal clock to speak of has allowed me to become a master of both day and night. If anyone can understand late night shopping, and all of the glory and peril it can offer, it’s me. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to expose you to the Late Night Family Trio, The Skeleton and the Lone Shopper. Keep in mind that these are just three archetypes out of the many macabre folk that frequent midnight supermarkets.
The late night family trio consists of a frumpy looking mother, a single oddball child and a father who seems angry without purpose. Dads do stuff that nobody can understand. My father stomps around loudly all of the time for no reason and talks to himself all of the time, regardless of how good or bad his mood. He leaves television sets on in every room he is not occupying but claims anyone else using more than a desk lamp in a pitch black room is “wasting electricity.” Dads are enigmas and the late night grocery store variety are no different. This particular dad’s surface seems placid but that’s just the booze, if you watch him for long enough he will eventually fly into a quiet rage. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. He seems ageless. His awkward looking thirteen year old son, that he has to be completely ashamed of, will hint that the dad is in his early forties but his look will throw you off. His snug faded jeans, plain white tennis shoes and a tight gray short-sleeved shirt drip with potential youth while his salt-and-pepper hair with budding comb-over indicate a powerful maturity. In fact, the only thing about this dad that you can be sure of is that he hates his family. He pouts and says awful things about his wife under his breath while his son tries to sneak more junk food into the cart. Occasionally he yells things in response like, “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” The most unsettling thing about this family is that while the father is visibly loathsome of its very existence the mother seems to be happily content. In fact, I sort of wondered if she wasn’t going to go home and blog about how much fun they had at the store that very night.
The skeleton is similar only in that she is also full of secrets. For example, why is she buying so much food when she probably weights about sixty-seven pounds? She desperately needs to eat something, but I’m pretty sure she’d die attempting to tuck into anything more substantial than a bowl of thin soup. Yet someone seems to have filled her cart to the brim with steak and eggs. Equally perplexing is what chemical is causing different parts of her head to die. In my experience, most human heads tend to age somewhat evenly all over. The skeleton’s head has opted to age at different rates at different locations, most notable being around her mouth. I suppose mummified would be the best word to describe it. The answer to her terrible unspoken riddle is crystal meth and the steaks are for the large pack of near feral dogs that she calls her “babies.” Remind yourself that, while master of her kingdom of hybrid wolves, she is powerless here.
The same cannot be said for The Lone Shopper. The market is his domain. The Lone Shopper is usually encountered at the end of the longest abandoned aisle in the store. He’s never shopping and will probably make terrifying eye contact with you as if he’s just been waiting. This is because he has. Avoid him at all costs, especially if he is wearing his belly shirt. This ghoul sometimes appears on busses and subways as a serial groper and, if left unchecked, has serious serial killer potential. The look in his eyes says, “I’m one more blind date away from turning someone into a chair.”
There numerous other notable types of late night phantoms and nymphs. There are the glossy-eyed youths looking for snacks, the businessman who works too late, the unattended baby (easily the scariest) and that’s just to name a few. It might be worth someone’s time to consider making trading cards. I’m interested to hear about the fauna that you’ve encountered during your midnight trips to the grocery store too.