Jeannette hated shopping. The old man just inside the door at WalMart always smiled at her in that creepy way that reminded her of Fraggle Rock, and she tried to avoid him as much as was humanly possible. The problem was that she was never quite sure at which door he would be stationed, and she always chose the wrong one. Once, at Christmas time, they even had him ringing the Salvation Army bell and collecting donations. His name tag read “Earl.”
She had thought about reporting Earl to his superiors, to someone slightly higher up the WalMart food chain, but soon rejected the idea because she was a wuss. Willie, her ex, always called her a pushover, the kind of girl who would put up with a lot before finally admitting that it wasn’t going to work. She guessed it worked just as well in WalMart liaisons as it did in personal relationships. It still pissed her off, though, that Willie was right, at least in this one thing.
There were many things that made her tick, the girl who hated shopping and was a pushover. She was a sucker for any kind of plush animal. Once she caught Willie cheating on her with Lean Lynette down the hall and swore she would cut off his balls, but the next day he brought her the 8 foot tall stuffed bear from Macy’s that she knew was $89 bucks, and she forgave him on the spot. His balls were still intact. In addition to her plush animal thing, she also grew close to people way too quickly. It always backfired on her.
But Jeannette needed underpants. No, not thongs, because they always wandered up her crack and she hated that feeling, but plain old honest to goodness panties, reinforced, for her sense of security. Oh, and they always had to be white, because who knew if she would be going to bed alone. Okay, who was she kidding? She always went to bed alone since Willie ditched her ass. Her old underpants were falling apart, so she girded herself up and took a drive to WalMart, hoping she would spin the wheel right and end up at the door unguarded by Earl.
Earl was one of those old guys who had a perpetual five o’clock shadow going on. In fact, it had been going on so long she had taken to calling it an eleven o’clock shadow, and she smiled to herself whenever she thought of it. He was obviously a beer drinker too, because while his chest and legs seemed proportionate for a guy his height, his belly made him look like he was eight months pregnant. She thought that any day he might go into labor and grant her some peace when walking into her favorite store.
He made her think of that ancient Dixie Chicks song, “Goodbye Earl,” where the narrator kills off her husband in a rage, and gets away with it. Sometimes Jeannette thought of killing off Earl and leaving him in a shallow grave, but only sometimes. He was a thorn in her side, but only when she went shopping. If he became a stalker, though… she thought to herself how lucky he was to have escaped that distinction. Perhaps if she wore something a little more revealing next time she went shopping she might change that, and then feel justified in taking him out, Chicks-style.
First, however, she had to get that underwear. She figured she could motor through the sliding doors, and Earl or no Earl, she would make a beeline for the hanging Hanes rack in the exact center of the store. She had to stop herself from thinking about how some women actually tried on the underpants in the store, how they went into the dressing room with a few pair, came back out, and hung them back up. Ewwwww. It was hard to get the image out of her head once it was situated there, so she tried to think of her favorite actor instead. Yeah, Zac Efron always did the trick.
She was unlucky as Earl was dead center between the ENTER and EXIT doors when she entered, intent upon her underpants. He intercepted her as usual before she was even able to dodge his meaty hands. He smelled of beer and piss, and she wondered who did the vetting before anyone was hired at that particular WalMart, at any particular WalMart. When she finally reported him she would also report the hiring manager, whoever that happened to be. There was absolutely no way Earl should still have a job, not with his meaty hands and his beer and piss smell. Seriously.
He pawed her as usual, getting his hand around her waist, and she involuntarily gagged, sliding out of his grip and wishing him dead at high volume inside of her head at the same time. Hating Earl had become her favorite past time, she realized in that moment. It had replaced Desperate Housewives as her drug of choice, yes, even the Desperate Housewives that came on Lifetime on repeat every weekday in the afternoons, the marathon kind. It was close, but hating Earl was better because he was real, because she could ultimately do something about him, and the network cancelling Housewives was out of her hand.
Making a detour after leaving Earl in the dust, Jeannette headed into the sporting goods section and found her a Swiss army knife. She had never used one before, but the diagram on the packaging looked easy enough. A smile sprang to her face, a Cheshire cat, shit-eating grin that took her over from ear to ear as she fondled that knife in her delicate hands. It was time to do something about that old man at the entrance to her favorite store or she would never again enjoy a good shopping experience. She had to do it for all the times she hadn’t done it. That sounded good in her mind, good enough anyway.
She pocketed the knife and headed for the intimates section. It was time to try on some underwear in the WalMart dressing room. And it was going to feel so good against her skin.