The frozen desserts cabinet at the West End Avenue Piggly Wiggly has been nearly emptied of items, probably for some last-minute double-barreled bachelorette or anonymous sex party buffet, but remarkably a large stack of lemon meringue icebox pies remains untouched.
Monsieur M sorts through them, selecting certain ones based on an invisible and unknowable criteria. Three boxes of Mrs. Begemoti’s Big Bad Tart Pie are flung into the grocery trolley. “I’ve always been a tiny bit afraid of lemons,” admits Monsieur M.
Now we set off for the canned goods aisle where we are assured by a native grocery inhabitant that several different brands of frijoles negros can be acquired. Indeed there are many to choose from and, following the same cryptic selection process, Monsieur M adds three cans to the cart. “I’ve always been a tiny bit afraid of white people,” admits Monsieur M.
At the checkout register, a former-country-music-one-hit-wonder-and-chainsaw-repairman clerk does nothing while an automated scanner system deposits our boxes and cans within transparent biophane bags. Looking up into my shiny chauffeur’s cap while avoiding my eyes, the clerk says simply, “it’s real bad when you got polaroid karma, ain’t it,” and waves us through.
Thankfully my subscription Mercedes Monoped has just enough room for groceries and luggage and the two of us. “Home, Aristophanes,” I command the vehicle’s eavesdropping dashboard, and after a few quick cranks of the starter pedals we are silently flowing down flowery avenues, walled in by a nearly seamless chain of tower blocks presenting a relatively consistent Nu-Victorian Disney aesthetic.
“I’ve always been a fan of the Smurfs,” says Monsieur M, regarding the architecture from the seat behind me. I continue coolly browsing through the holodisplayed contents of my apartment’s even colder refrigerator as we cruise along, determined to impress my guest with my ability to Tetris fast-moving consumer goods into my freezer with a certain domestic sprezzatura once we arrive.
As we enter the St. Thomas Station thrupass and circumvent the usual, ceaseless ground traffic slogging toward the city’s only dedicated hospital for dealing with every new pandemic du jour, we can see a slow but constant line of ambulances far above us, delivering new critical patients to the skytop ER and then dribbling off into the wind again on the opposite side.
Turning off Church Street, a fat advertising drone lumbers into view, beckoning tourists to “experience Hee Haw Mardi Gras 2031 before the party ends!” A last sharp turn reveals my building, a mid-rise affair with some cheap and shiny orange Go-Bot flair stuck to the top.
“I had quite the crush on Lulu Roman,” says Monsieur M, as Kentucky Colonel Decontami-Mint mist dispenses from the parking deck gates and envelops the car. “She was like a Victor/Victoria kind of Matsuko Deluxe, and BR549 was clearly a Marxist critique, a kind of working class Oresteia.”
Exiting the car, we both reflexively shut our eyes as a plaid parade of lasers confirms our identities and our virus-free conditions.
“This reminds me of a story,” begins Monsieur M.