We drive to Wal-Mart because there is nothing else to do. Too poor to try sneaking into a bar and tired of pinochle, the 24 hour appeal of the one-stop-shop becomes our next activity.
There are three of us. Me, James, and Ben. We smoke cigarettes in the parking lot which is full because it's almost one o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. The slush on the ground makes our feet cold. We stand and smoke anyway.
It’s something to do.
Inside we walk around and Ben begins to touch things. He runs his hands over the aisle of towels. He closely inspects the coffee machines. He takes them apart and opens them up wonders about their build quality, among other things.
I pay attention to the people around me. Most are old, some middle-aged. A black man walks around with a giant Valentine’s Day teddy bear. No doubt something special for somebody that may be gone the next day.
There are always next day returns.
We wander the aisles. Watch television in the electronic section.
James talks about how in two months he’ll have enough money for the 32 inch flat screen, not high definition. Only 780p.
Ben runs his hands over the television. He finds them smooth.
The sales associate eyes us. His blue vest is faded.
In the toy section, as we approach making a full circle of the place, Ben touches all the toys that make noise. A Mickey Mouse starts to play a guitar; a talking bus takes the toy children to school. The stack of bikes doesn’t look steady.
In the front right corner of the place James picks up two cans of jalapeño Pringles off the “for quick sale” shelf.
Two lesbians are arguing in a section called "Hygiene."
James makes jokes about how on the outer fringes of homosexuality and lesbianism everybody just sort of looks like everybody else.
We generally agree while he pays two dollars and change for his expired chips.
In the parking lot a faint snow falls. James munches on his chips while smoking a cigarette. Something I don’t understand and probably couldn’t manage.
It is night. It is Wal-Mart, and in the parking lot surrounded by strange people buying cereal with their discount beard trimmer packages, I wonder what it is we are doing.
We are doing exactly what there is to do.
We are the young adults of Wal-Mart.
Nathan Floom's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Contemporary Haibun Online, WORK, and The Seattle Review. He has a BFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University.
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