off to the supermarket


WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING, YOU ASS-FUGLY MONKEY!" the man in the shiny Jaguar shrieked.  His car's brakes squealed like upset pigs.

"Oops, shit," Johnny thought first as he jumped away from the very close car.  Then he thought, "I am watching where I'm going."  The monkey boy had been extra careful all morning.  He was tired and spaced-out feeling, but boy, o boy, he sure remembered what the angel had told him last night.  "There is a good chance you will die today."  That man in the expensive car had been distracted though.  Perhaps because he was talking to someone on his cellular phone.  He'd driven right through that red light.  The man in the big, shiny car now didn't want to blame himself for his actions though.  So he blamed the innocent monkey who had been so cautious.

Johnny knew that some people don't like to blame themselves when something wrong happens.  Like that time way way way back when he'd gone camping with Milton Tumbleweed.  Milton had brought 792 lb of TNT that he'd stolen along with him on the camping trip even though Johnny had said, "I'm not sure I like that idea, Milton."  And Milton had set up the explosives.  Then he had set them off.  The explosion that followed created a big, big crater.  It also tossed Milton through the air.  It also plucked Milton's arms and legs right off his body.

Johnny had gone to the hospital to visit his friend after the bad accident.  Milton had lost not only his arms and legs but also half of his face and one third of his tongue.  Although Milton's way of talking had been strange, Johnny had been able to understand his now-quadriplegic friend.  "You thumb-ath monshee!  I'll thet you shore thith!"  Milton had said, writhing on his hospital bed like a worm on a wet sidewalk.  Milton had blamed Johnny for the explosion even though the monkey boy had been far, far away from the explosives and had not ever even touched them.  After he'd finished healing, Milton got a special wheelchair that he could steer by pushing the stub of his tongue against a mechanical control box.  But Johnny tried to keep away from the resentful Milton.  Last Johnny had heard, some federal scientists had fitted Milton with some experimental robotic limbs.  Johnny wondered sometimes if a hateful cyborg would come to kill him someday.  Johnny thought that that would not be a nice way to die.

Johnny stood on the sidewalk.  He wiped at some sweat on his brow.  The angry man in the expensive car lifted his middle finger to Johnny as he roared away.

After that, Johnny walked to the grocery store.  The store's big parking lot was full of angry-seeming drivers who made the monkey boy nervous.  He was still thinking a lot about the angel's warning to him.

Johnny didn't understand death, but he didn't want to die.  He just knew that sometimes people died.  His uncle Mudshark had died a long long time ago.  So had his grandfather.  And they just weren't around anymore.  Johnny wanted to continue to be around.  He sometimes felt overwhelmed by life, but he would prefer to continue to experience it than experience something new and possibly unpleasant like non-life.

The monkey boy was careful careful as he crossed the parking lot.  He was soon standing by the grocery store's doors.  Looking into the store through the glass windows he saw that the store was full of people who looked dangerous.  "Maybe that old woman will stab me with a knife," thought Johnny as he stood faltering at the grocery store entryway.  The automatic doors detected him, opened, then closed, then opened again.  "Or maybe I'll buy a jar of mayonnaise and the mayonnaise will be bad and I'll eat it and not know and I'll die."  The doors opened and closed again.  "Or maybe..."

"Get out of the fucking door you fucking monkey," a man behind Johnny said.  The man was scary-looking and had tattoos all over his body.  Johnny didn't say anything - he just ran really really quickly down the sidewalk.  "Maybe today isn't the best day to go to the supermarket," Johnny thought.

Johnny began to walk home.  He wondered if, by avoiding the supermarket, he had somehow avoided the specter of death.  He was cautious anyway - just in case - and he gave a wide berth to anyone coming down the sidewalk.  Even the old man with the walker.  And he paid a lot of attention to the busy road.  He watched cars far away until they were close and he was ready to jump out of the way in case one of them swerved to hit him.  Johnny was sweating like crazy.

The monkey boy was around two thirds of the way home when an earthquake hit.

"Ahhke-ke," said Johnny as he fought to keep his balance.  The sidewalk moved weirdly under his feet.  The old man down the sidewalk with the walker fell over.  A couple cars on the street ran into each other.  The glass in the window of the donut shop across the street shattered.  And way over by Democracy Street, Johnny saw the old abandoned Victory Building slowly topple over.  Car sirens were going off everywhere.  The monkey boy was flustered.  He decided to didn't want to be outside anymore, so he hurried home.

Back at his apartment, Johnny saw that a piece of ceiling had collapsed during the earthquake.  The big piece of ceiling had fallen right where Johnny usually sat to watch TV or read.

"Oh my god," thought the monkey boy.  "That could have squished me real bad."  Then he was suddenly very happy because he thought he had avoided the possibility of death that the angel had warned him about.  "I'm a lucky, lucky monkey boy," he thought.

Johnny sat down on the dusty apartment floor and turned on his television set.  Most of the channels were full of emergency broadcasts and news.  The Oprah Channel though was pure Oprah.  Johnny smiled and watched TV.  He watched Oprah for the rest of the afternoon.

Then, because he was tired, he decided to go to bed.  Johnny was exhausted so he fell asleep right away.

Around an hour after Johnny had fallen asleep there was an aftershock and another piece of ceiling collapsed in the monkey boy's apartment.  A big, heavy chunk fell down and landed right where Johnny was sleeping.  The big piece of ceiling smooshed the monkey boy's skull.

Johnny died.

Then the angel appeared again and brought Johnny back to life.  His skull was back to normal, but the angel's presence still hurt, and he was still very, very tired.  "I thought I told you to beware, you silly monkey," the angel said.  She was frowning in a disapproving manner.

"I'm sorry," Johnny said.

The angel left again right after that.

Johnny found it impossible to get to sleep again that night too.


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