The analogical clock at the Shopsmart marked 11:59 a.m. when Adam Gabriel made his decision to leave it all. At midnight, he would hit the accelerator of his 1989 Chevy pick-up truck as hard as he could, parting with the last two years of which he had only scattered recollections. 11:59. The plastic handle from the diaper pack and cardboard box of tampons slid from his rubbery, sweaty palms as he winced his eyes shut, stowing away the magic numbers inside his brain. They fell to the ground in a muted frenzy, irking him to tighten his wince lest the magic numbers escaped his head, disappearing like they had so many times before.
Aisle four. Diapers. Jessie’s. She was hungry—she cried. Denise held her too tight—she cried.
She had a rash—she cried. Her baby doll’s eyes didn’t blink—she cried. The television was on—she cried.
The television was off—she cried. “Elastic waist diapers squeeze her too tight. They leave crease marks on her waist. Don’t get the cotton-lined ones either! They make her rash worse and she starts to cry again. We’re out of rash cream. Get the plastic diapers instead. We’d have the money for it if you had a real job,” Denise always snapped in one long, extended bark.
She always used the word “it” in the most general sense, assuming there was always something Adam couldn’t bring back from the store. Plastic. Aisle six. Tampons. Denise’s.
You didn’t bring me the plastic ones. You know the cardboard box ones make me sore. Why can’t you get it right at least once? Go back and get the plastics. More plastic.
The whistling, high-pitched feedback on the loudspeaker snapped Adam out of his current state, leaving him to wonder how he had gotten from aisle six to cash register ten—the “LESS go EXPRESS” lane. With a newfound purpose, he fingered the cashier for the Marlboro cigarettes behind the counter. “Red. Hard pack,” he said surprising himself with his brand new hardened tone. The cashier handed the Marlboros over to him as he glanced at the analogical clock overhead. 12:16 p.m. The minuscule strokes made by the minute hand as it marked the seconds, minutes and hours until midnight beset the loud rumbling of the shopping carts and other cashiers asking for price checks over the loudspeaker. Adam gave his cashier a frozen glance when he heard her ring up his total: “$11. 59 for the cigarettes, sir.” 11:59. It was the magic code. A signal. The signal. The signal of what would come after midnight. This thought jolted Adam into quickly searching his pockets for the exact change.
Staring at him with an expressionless look, the cashier began reciting the magic code in a
monotone that made Adam involuntarily wince.
“Just a second.”
“Give me a sec, will you”
“11.59. 11:59. 11.59–”
His wincing became more frequent with every monotonous repetition of the magic code. The cashier’s repetitions became a distant echo, morphing into different yet familiar voices. He heard familiar cries growing in the distance which caused his eyelids to flutter violently. After forcing his eyes wide open, he found himself staring up at the ceiling, looking past the voice that had recalled him back to life.
“…11.59. It’s 11:59, wake up dammit!!! What the hell did you drink last night??!!!
You’ve been out for twelve hours straight! And you forgot the diapers and my tampons AGAIN!!!”