By Nicholas Scott
All I wanted was asparagus; purple passion asparagus. Known to be sweeter, softer and tastier, it was difficult to find. The produce manager at my favorite grocer texted me they'd just received a fresh order.
It was going fast, but he saved me a couple of bunches. I responded with a gleeful emoji and told him I was on my way.
I was on a mission, I told myself. In and out, no time for distraction. If given the chance, I'd spend all day talking my way through each department,
talking meat cuts with the butcher, floral arrangements with the in-store florist, and then there was Jerry, the produce manager. He had an eye for produce.
I scanned for Jerry as I walked through the department, but he was missing. I walked up to an associate I'd never seen before.
A young kid, Airpods in his ears, bobbing his head as he straightened a pyramid of Red Delicious apples.
"Excuse me," I peered down at his nametag; it was blank. "Is Jerry here?" The kid looked at me, or through me, then shrugged.
"He's holding some Purple Passion asparagus for me." The kid continued tidying apples, moving from Red Delicious to Honeycrisp. Had he heard me? “Excuse me?" "Dude. He's not here. He's gone."
"Ooookay." Curious. I glanced around one more time and noticed three bunches of purple asparagus remaining in the crisper display. I hurried over and grabbed two bunches. No distractions, I reminded myself. I headed directly to self-checkout.
I was doing good, on the way out. I didn't even eye the 25-cent bubble gum machine, and avoided the free magazine rack with the Greensheet, Apartment Finder and the local glossy magazine, but stopped dead in my tracks at the bulletin board.
The photo of me was recent, a Polaroid that must have been taken yesterday. It was taped rather crudely to a white sheet of paper; the word MISSING scrawled in bold black marker across the top.
I pulled it down, the green tack holding it to the bulletin clacked across the stone tile behind me. I could still smell the marker fumes.
I scanned my surroundings, stepping backward slowly. What kind of sick joke was this?
I hugged my asparagus to my chest while digging for my keys. I walked hurriedly to my car, wishing for once I had parked up close and not in the ding free zone.
I stopped midstride as I approached my car. The passenger side door was ajar. I could hear the ding ding ding of the open-door alarm.
Someone slouched in the seat. I peered through the open window. It was Jerry or had been. He stared blindly straight ahead, in his lap, two bunches of Purple Passion asparagus.
I felt the press of cold steel against my neck. "Get in."