All Stories, General Fiction, Humour, Short Fiction

The Potato Grabbers by Robert John Miller

“I’ll grab the corn and you grab the potatoes,” Poncho yelled to Julia. Julia was wearing her wedding dress, full train and veil, to save time. She wouldn’t have to change when they returned.

Their wedding was that afternoon. They just needed a few last-minute party favors and grilling supplies and they were riding around the only store in town — the big box superstore that felt like a city unto itself, a real urban wonderland, with the McDonald’s and the Starbucks and the Subway and the bank and the drug store and the clinic and the clothier and the grocer and on and on, all inside — riding around on a pair of electric scooters, not for necessity but so they wouldn’t wear themselves out before the big day, big metal baskets stretched out in front, each armed with a pair of hand-grabber reaching tools.

The store was full from the Sunday after-church crowd but they were flying, the two of them on their wedding day, perfectly in synch. Flying.

Their engagement had been the result of an ultimatum given days earlier after the romantic part of Poncho’s combination insomnia and untreated sleep apnea — the staying-up-all-night-watching-foreign-films-together part, the casual-deadpan-disposition-throughout-the-day part, the alluring I-feel-mere-inches-from-death-so-nothing-can-scare-me confidence part — had finally transitioned into what could only be called the exhilarating-terror-of-narcolepsy part, the nagging sensation Poncho felt that, at any given moment, sweet respite would come and he would wake up on the ground somewhere, lost and bleeding and calling out.

Julia had told it to him straight: She would not continue retracing his steps and searching his stomping grounds and calling the police station and the hospital and the crematorium every time he went missing, and then picking him up and driving him to the library to rent his movies; he would have to agree to finally get a smartphone so she could use the Find Me app like all her other coupled friends did. The wireless store (also inside the superstore) had spurned their once ubiquitous friends-and-family plan for the less flexible strictly-family plan, the terms and conditions of which stated they could save several dollars a month (total) on a shared mobile data plan should they be actual familial relations. The plan purchased, the engagement ensued.

“The potatoes are too heavy,” Julia yelled back. The hand-lever accelerator was jammed on her scooter so she had just been circling and grabbing, circling and grabbing, circling and grabbing ten-pound sacks, first with one hand grabber and then with two, knocking bags of potatoes off the stand along the way, creating obstacles for them both.

“The potatoes, Ponch! Toss me one of your hand grabbers or we’ll never get any potatoes!”

“There’s no time, Julia,” Poncho yelled back. “I managed two ears of corn and that’s plenty!”

Poncho was already riding off to visit the paper products.

“Follow me,” he shouted, Julia still circling and now trying to grab sacks of potatoes off the ground with her real-life hands, ballooning her belly out to steer.

“If we don’t get the potatoes what will be the late-night snack?” Julia called, but Poncho was long gone.

Potatoless, she pulled a hard left and sped across the walking aisle in front of the store just before the line of checkouts, searching for Poncho and dodging pedestrians. She finally saw him riding by the lube shelf, hand grabber outstretched, knocking a whole rack of lube into his basket.

“I got lube for days, baby!” he laughed, imagining the giant slip ‘n’ slide he wanted to one day build for the kids that the lube would help create that evening. Julia was accelerating quickly to catch up but spun into donuts from the spill’s goopy remainder.

“Meet me by the charcoal, Poncho!” Julia said, suffering through the whiplash. “We’ll need all four hand grabbers to grab it for sure!”

“What do we need charcoal for if we’ve already forsaken the potatoes?” Poncho yelled back. “We can pop these two ears of corn in the skillet for everybody!”

Poncho rode toward the party favor aisle with hopes of wrapping up the trip but detoured through stationery to avoid a group of indecisive teens gawping around a refrigerated soda cabinet. Julia still in pursuit, he doubled-back through cutlery in search of one his prized ears of corn he thought had dropped out of the basket during his evasive maneuvers, only to find it hiding under some of the lube bottles. It was then that his last bout of narcolepsy attacked him, crashing him into an end rack of clearance knives, hand grabbers impaling the parts of him the blades forgave.

Julia caught up just in time to be with Poncho in his final moments. “Oh, sweet, sweet Poncho,” she wailed while circling around him (unable to de-jam her cart’s accelerator), fruitlessly grasping out with her hand grabber in an attempt to hold him once more, her veil sopping up blood, tears streaming, bemoaning, “The cancellation fees on our cell phone plan will be simply astronomical.”


Robert John Miller

Banner Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

6 thoughts on “The Potato Grabbers by Robert John Miller”

  1. Brilliant take on everyday life. How many times my narcolepsy has led me to similar ruin? Good thing nobody could run over Miss Rigby while she was picking up the rice from the wedding that didn’t happen.


  2. Reads like a Cohen brothers film. Slapstick Funny, and very visual. Too bad about the wedding. Yikes! Julia’s veil soaking up Poncho’s blood. Could’ve been worse, could be in a hearse, well, Poncho is in one now.


  3. Hi John,
    This was a lot of fun.
    Superbly written, well constructed, inventive and made me smile!!
    All the very best my friend.


  4. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this story quite a lot indeed, but I wondered, in the end, what store-that-probably-begins-with-a-W from heck they were in – never have I seen a display with knives pointing outwards, simply awaiting hapless customers – perhaps a touch of spec fic there?


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