A Little Bit of Sausage
by Donna Aversa
It was like this. I was at that big membership Warehouse Store getting paper for the office copier. That’s why this is a workers’ comp deal. I was on the clock. The membership and office credit cards were in my pocket. My plan was get in, get the paper, and get the hell out. Maybe get one of those $1.75 hot dogs and a Coke to eat in the car. I needed to be back at my desk before break-time so my supervisor would see how efficient I was. I was still a probationary employee and couldn’t afford to lose another job.
As soon as I got my cart, I was blocked by chuckleheads who bring their mini-chuckleheads to the Warehouse Store. I can’t say the name of the place because when the judge issued the restraining order, he told me not to. But everyone knows. And shouldn’t those mini-chucks be in school or stealing cigarettes?
It wasn’t only the kids. It was a sample day. Sample. Day. Every other aisle had a little cart with a little person in a little apron handing out little samples of steamed frozen mackerel or Ritz crackers. Christ on a bike. It was a Ritz Cracker with a cube of cheese. But old men with baggy plaid golf shorts and pasty white legs abandoned their shopping carts to huddle around with their dopey grins, laughing every time the little apron guy said, “Everything is better when it sits on a Ritz.”
Then go sit on a Ritz, I thought as I pushed through the geriatric cracker eaters with their carts full of Charmin and vodka.
Finally, I made it to the office supply aisle. I loaded my cart then booked it for the check out. Past the Dixie cups of coconut water, past the microwaved mini-taquitos, and past the inane pineapple lady chanting, “A little bit of Maui in your pantry.”
Just when I thought I was in the home stretch, I got caught in a riptide of rattlebrains that put me directly in front of the little man with little sausage samples. “Milwaukee Good” was stitched on his cap and matching apron. I was ticked about the detour. Then the smell hit me. Honest to Pete, it smelled exactly like Uncle Rodney’s backyard when he fired up his smoker when I still got invited to family reunion weekends. Exactly. Before I knew it, the man said something about Wisconsin and handed me a napkin with a slice of sausage on a toothpick. His smile was lopsided and genuine. Wisconsin Man actually enjoyed handing out bits of sausage to the Warehouse Store freeloaders.
“They’re really good,” Wisconsin Man practically twinkled at me.
When in Rome and all that crap so I popped the sausage into my mouth and tossed the toothpick into the little can. A little smoky. A little salty. And something else I couldn’t place. Like a word on the tip of my tongue, just out of reach. I wanted another.
The guy behind me reached around, bumped me to the side. “Keep it moving!”
“Hey. Watch it,” I said, holding my ground. It was only because of these Warehouse whack-a-doodles that I was in front of the sausages.
“Mighty tasty,” said Wisconsin Man. “You can get a package in the cooler right here.”
“Back of the line!”
“You can microwave, but grilling is best,” said Wisconsin Man.
“Manners,” said an uptight suburban lady in bedspread print capri pants. Manners? Like these sample-snackers are in a position to school me on the etiquette of freebies.
No way was I going to the back of the line. No way was I going to buy a package without another taste. No reason I couldn’t just take another sample. So I did. Somehow that second piece of sausage was better than the first. The flavor hit that place in my brain that slows me down, the place my therapist is always yammering about.
“I said no seconds!”
“I’ve got plenty for everyone,” said Wisconsin Man. But he took a step back from the crowd. “You need a fresh toothpick for each sample,” he nodded at the empty toothpick in my hand.
I turned, face to face with the guy who pushed me. I gave him my “you just tracked dog shit on white shag carpet” look. It usually works. Usually. But this jerk thumped my chest. I would have been ready for that in a bar. Or on the street. But cry-eye who expects it in the Warehouse Store. I lost my balance. I fell into Capri Lady. I put out my hand to stop my fall and the sausage toothpick drilled into the palm of my hand.
“Son of a bitch!” I cried out. I admit I was a little dazed.
“He’s gonna hit me!” Pushy Guy yelled.
I don’t know how I could have done that because I was still on the ground. I did manage to roll off capri pant lady. When she saw the bent toothpick sticking out of my hand, she fainted. Her head smacked the concrete floor. Her lawyer spent two weeks trying to serve me with her lawsuit.
I sucked in a breath and pulled the toothpick. Only half of it came out. At first, there were only a few drops of blood. But I ripped some skin or something because it really started to bleed.
The sausage man moved his cart. Warehouse Store people pulled orange safety cones out of nowhere.
The judge said I have a temper. Which is why I can’t go to the Warehouse Store. That turned out okay because I don’t have to buy office copier paper anymore. I’m off the IV antibiotics and should be able to use my right hand by the end of the year if my physical therapy stays on track. And turns out those Milwaukee sausages are at my neighborhood grocery store. I like that place. It doesn’t have a sample day.
Donna Aversa lives in Southern Arizona where she and her husband provide a retirement home for a former show dog. Donna is a student at the Tucson Branch of The Writers Studio where she also teaches first level Workshop classes. Her motto there is, “We don’t judge. We critique!”