She could never get him to go shopping, either with her or without her. He just wasn’t interested, and on the occasions when she shamed him into accompanying her, he behaved very badly. Stomping around, glaring at people, being rude to clerks – really, it was just easier to leave him at home. So no one was more surprised than June when Carl announced he’d bought a membership to Costco.
“What were you doing there?” June inquired. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d even know where it is.”
“Went with Tom,” he said.
Tom was their next-door neighbor, a fellow retiree. Carl and Tom spoke at length over the fence every day, and sometimes they’d jump in one or the other’s pickup truck and roar off on errands. These errands often involved the purchase of tools and lawn equipment which apparently didn’t count as shopping, or might result in an empty-handed return home with outraged reports of ridiculous prices and snotty salespeople. As far as June knew, they’d never before ventured to Costco.
“What were you after?”
“Hedge trimmer, half-price. Got it, too. Tom’s a member.”
But why did you decide to join? You hate to shop.”
“Hate to shop for twiddly little stuff. This is different.”
He went out to his truck and began carrying in things. There was a 30-roll package of toilet paper, a 10-roll package of paper towels, 24 light bulbs, a 12-pack of shaving cream and several trees-worth of nuts. June scurried around trying to find places to stash it all.
The coup de gras was a giant crock of pickles. Carl shuffled under the weight of it. With a grunt, he heaved it onto the kitchen counter. They both regarded it in silence.
“I like pickles,” Carl finally offered.
“Where the hell am I supposed to put that?” June asked.
“Let’s open it up and try ‘em.”
“No, once that crock is opened, it’ll have to be refrigerated. I can’t get it in the fridge up here or the one in the basement. That’s if we could even lug it to the basement. What did you think you were going to do with all those pickles? There are only two of us, you know.”
“Yeah, I had noticed. Well, as I said, I like pickles. Maybe I just wanted to buy what I like for a change. Wonder what a frozen pickle would taste like.”
“Frozen…why would you freeze pickles?”
“Make pickle-sickles.” Carl snorted at his own humor. “Grand-kids might like ‘em.”
“I don’t see that happening,” June replied. “Now, you figure out what you’re going to do with all those pickles because I’m not touching them. And I’d better not find the shelves taken out of my refrigerator to accommodate that crock.”
She stalked from the kitchen. Carl watched her go, then turned his attention back to the pickle crock. It was big. That was a lot of pickles. He wouldn’t have admitted it for cash money, but like the dog that caught a car, he didn’t have a clue what he was going to do with them now that he had them.
Maybe he could give some away. He called over the back fence to where Tom was getting ready to try out his new hedge trimmer.
“Hey, y’all could use some pickles, right?”
Tom looked up briefly. “No thanks. We don’t much care for pickles.”
Next Carl called his children. Offers of pickles fell flat there, too. No one seemed to be a big pickle fan. He contemplated toting the crock into the garage and covering it with a tarp, but June had some kind of radar that warned her of such ideas.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” she called from the living room. “Don’t you even think of hiding those pickles. You bought them, you figure out what to do with them.”
“Dang, that woman not only has eyes in the back of her head, she has eyes on stalks like a snail. She can see around corners,” Carl muttered.
“Okay, then,” he called back. “Just stay out of the kitchen because I have work to do and I want to do it in peace.”
June heard clinking and clanking and smelled pickle brine. She had to struggle not to peek – heaven only knew what kind of mess he was making. But in the end, she went to bed and left him to it. Whatever it was.
The next morning, neighbors going out to pick up their newspapers were greeted by jars of pickles on their doorsteps. Notes were stuck to the lids with masking tape:
“Good pickles make good neighbors.”
They looked up and down the street, shook their heads in confusion, shrugged, picked up their jars of pickles and went back into their houses. Carl watched with satisfaction from his vantage point behind the big holly bush.
“See there,” he said to June as she served him his scrambled eggs. “I handled it. Pickles all gone.”
“I’m not even going to ask what you did with them, or why you were sneaking in and out of the house all night.” June knew, with the experience of the long-married, that some rocks were better left unturned.
“Are you going to Costco today?” she asked.
“Nah. Doubt if I’ll ever go back. You know I hate to shop.”