Cal tossed the box of dried pasta into his military tactical assault backpack. Best thing he’d found at the charity thrift store.
“Nah, on second thought I need to put that back. Thanks.”
The cashier nodded and put the ground beef aside for the stockboy to retrieve. Cal had been craving pasta with meat sauce but that cheap variety probably had equal parts antibiotics, growth hormones and who only knew what else.
The cashier handed him his receipt and Cal rearranged his groceries so as not to crush anything. “Oh, excuse me,” the woman who had bumped into him stopped. “No bother,” Cal didn’t look at her or her low-cut sheer blouse.
“Could you help me take these to my car?” Couldn’t he go to the store in peace? What did she want with him anyway. Dressed like that.
“Have a good day!” she called to Cal’s back. Why did the good-looking ones have such bad personalities? Because everything is easy for them.
He wondered when he became so…unpleasant. He could hold on to his manners, couldn’t he? He turned and picked up her bags. “Where’s your car?” She looked up at him, smiling, until he looked away.
They crossed the parking lot and he loaded her bags into the backseat. “Can I give you a lift?” He argued with himself until he was on the verge of saying yes. Then she leaned closer. He looked down at her, and she titled her face up to him. Tiny gold flecks glimmered on her skin and disappeared under the gossamer fabric.
He turned and strode away without looking back.
He slammed the door and didn’t notice Nelson curling around his calves as he tossed his backpack onto the table. The rickety table wobbled under the weight. What a piece of shit! Cal kicked it and two of the legs buckled. He slammed the backpack until particleboard splinters flew across the linoleum. He threw the backpack against the wall and dark liquid smeared the plaster before it landed with a jangled thud–shattered glass, ripped plastic and smashed paper packaging. He stomped and kicked, the pulp of his groceries slowly seeping through, staining the bag.
Nelson stared at him.
Cal sat down, surveying the room.
He’d go pick up some fried chicken–and eat it standing at the counter.
The best fighter is never angry.
“Nelson?” Cal looked around for him.
No, Lao Tzu.
Nelson purred, lapping up the spilled almond milk.
Here is Part 1 of the story: You are Already Dead