issue 31: july -august 2002 

 | author bio

Strange Things Afoot At The Sperm with NamesPiggly Wiggly
Rusty Haight


My name is Robert C. Gordon. I live in the town of Brainerd, Wisconsin at 1153 Elmwood Drive. I am single, Caucasian, and I work at the check-out stand at the local Piggly Wiggly, which is a grocery store.
      This may all seem like useless information to someone I’ve never met but, in my experience, information that may seem useless can often be more relevant than we think. For example: last Thursday I had just begun my shift at the Piggly Wiggly and my head was full of codes and numbers. Bartlet pear: 4024. Large navel oranges: 4012. Haas avocado: 4046. Russet Potatoes: 4072. Butternut Squash: 4759. From somewhere in the depths of my mind came a faraway thought, like a whisper in the back of my brain. It said: Margaret Feldman. Margaret Feldman.
      I continued to enter produce codes (Bananas: 4011, White onions: 4663) while smiling politely at the customer. Then I heard it again. It was growing louder.
      Margaret Feldman.
      I didn’t know why I was thinking it or what it meant. I rolled the name around on my tongue.
      "Margaret Feldman."
      The woman customer in front of me took a jump back, startled.
      "How did you know my name?" she asked.
      I hadn’t even realized I’d said anything.
      "Pardon?" I asked.
      "Margaret Feldman. That’s my name. Do I know you?"
      "I don’t think so," I told her to the best of my knowledge.
      "Then how do you know my name?"
      I wasn’t sure how I did know her name.
      I shook my head. "You must have misunderstood," I explained. "I didn’t say Feldman. I said, ‘would you like help to your car, ma’am?’."
      That was the best I could come up with.
      Margaret gave me a funny look. "I was sure you said my name."
      I smiled and thanked her for shopping at Piggly Wiggly.
      Then from deep in my brain: Margaret Feldman. Age: 65. Only daughter of Ruth and Howard Feldman; Long Island, New York. Two children: Mort and Helen, aged 37 and 29. Allergic to shellfish and penicillin. Astrological sign: Aquarius. Cup size: 32.
      I burped. Must have been something I ate. The curse of being a cash register person is having to stay on your feet for many hours at a time. It can make you go a bit loony after a while.
      I began to ring in the coffee and paper towels, cigarettes and hand cream of the next customer.
      David Schmidt.
      "Hello sir, welcome to Piggly Wiggly." I beamed, cheerfully. "Did you find everything all right today?"
      David Schmidt.
      "Yes, thank you," he replied.
      "Will you be paying cash?"
      David Schmidt. Marital status: divorced. Favorite colour: orange. Last book read: Chicken Soup For The Fisherman’s Soul. Profession: dentist. Uncircumcised.
      I was getting some serious static from inside my brain. It was like a radio between stations that all of a sudden started to intercept rugby scores from Indonesia in the middle of the evening news.
      "Credit card," smiled my customer, handing over his American Express.
      I took a good look at the name on the card.
      "David M. Schmidt."
      "Your total is $42.97. Here’s your receipt. Thank you very much Mr. Schmidt."
      He smiled and left with his groceries.
      Shoe size: 7
      Something was going wrong. I needed to sit down. I hung a sign on my register that said "Closed: Please Use Next Available Register," with a picture of a little curly-tail piggy on it. I wiped my sweating palms on the front of my apron and walked toward the break room. On the way I passed my friend Roger. Roger Lewis. Weight: 175 pounds. Skin type: oily. Sexual orientation: Hetero. Cross-dresser.
      "Hey Bobby," he said with a look of concern. "You feeling okay?"
      Favorite dessert: peach cobbler. Mother’s maiden name: Irving. Religion: Protestant.
"I’m not doing so good, Roger," I muttered faintly.
      Blood Pressure: 172/86. Body temperature: 98.6
"You don’t look good."
      One pet dog: Scruffy. Last meal: Cap ‘n’ Crunch. Frequency of intercourse: 1.7 times per week.
"I’m gonna go sit down and have a coffee, Rog’," I said. "I’ll talk to you later."
      "Okay buddy."
      Number of cavities: 4
      I hurried, faster and faster toward the refuge of the break room.
      "Hello," waved Jennifer, another fellow clerk.
      Blood type: O
      "Hi," I waved back.
      Last education completed: Grade 10. Hair colour: Revlon walnut brown number 4.
I broke into a run and pushed through the break-room door. There was no one in sight. Finally, peace and quiet. I picked up a doughnut from a box on the counter and stuffed it in my mouth.
      Ingredients: sugar, white flour…
I started to choke.
      Maureen from the fish department walked in and gave me a slap on the back.
      "Ya gotta remember to chew, there, Bobby," she chuckled heartily.
      "Maureen," I said. "Correct me if this is wrong. You’re 5’3. Your mother’s name is Sylvia, you have three cats named Snowball, Buster and Ruby and you have a noticeable webbing between the first two toes of your left foot. You’ve slept with eight different men in your lifetime but only had orgasms with three."
      Maureen was stunned. She and I had never talked much up to that point.
      "I have to go, Maureen," I said, breaking into a run.
      On the way out, a woman nearly ran me down with her shopping cart.
      Marion Hill. Grandmother of two. Recently windowed. Collector of porcelain kangaroos and other kangaroo-related artifacts.
I sprinted to the parking lot where I narrowly avoided the bumper of an on-coming car.
      1976 Buick Skylark 2- door hatchback. Colour: continental blue. Body assembled: Fairfax, Kansas. Rear chassis mounted by Kevin Williams, former quarterback University of Kansas Gray Hawkers. All State, 1965.
I did a diving roll across the hood and landed hard on the concrete. The driver got out of his car and shook his fist at me.
      Jim Gordon. IQ: 112. Favorite television show: M.A.S.H. College major: political science.
      "Jesus, Jim, watch where you’re driving!" I yelled.
      I dusted myself off and limped away as the vindictive statistician in my brain continued to bombard me.
      I took one last look at the store (Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store: Founded 1916, Memphis, Tennessee by Clarence Saunder) and raced home.
      I passed a man walking a dog. Lhasa Apso. Name: Sparky. Age: 7 human years, 49 dog years.
      An elementary school. Literacy rate of Grade 12 graduates: 67%
      A soccer field. Number of blades of grass: 8,279,997,934,210,313,973
      Why was I hearing these voices? What were they trying to tell me besides absolutely everything about everyone and everything I came into contact with? Those "improve your brain-power" cassettes I’d gotten from the library seemed like such a good idea at the time.
      I sped down the sidewalk. Concrete poured July 27, 1924 by J &R Construction Ltd.
      "Who cares!" I began to scream, jamming my fingers in my ears. It didn’t do any good. The voice wasn’t traveling through my eardrums, it was inside my thoughts. I was starting to draw stares as I made my way down Elmwood Drive.
      "Be careful!" I cautioned a pregnant woman. "That baby will be born one month premature and it’s going to happen while you’re at the movies!"
      I didn’t tell her that the baby would grow up to be a maladjusted homosexual, whom she would name Leon, or that Leon would go on to serve two years in a federal correctional institute for mail fraud. I assumed this may have wrecked the surprise.
      I ran up my driveway, still yelling "Who cares!" as the unwanted insights in my head become more and more detailed.
      "Who cares about what?" asked my mom.
      Lenore Gordon. Née: Smith. Ring size: 3. Favorite coital position: missionary.
      "Nothing mom," I muttered, while alternately moaning and cursing the unwanted information about my parents’ sex life. I ran to my room and closed the door as the voice rambled on about the colour of the rug and the pictures on the wall. I dove under the covers of my bed and closed my eyes. If I couldn’t look at anything, I reasoned, the voice would run out of things to spout statistics about. I stared at the dark inside of my eyelids and listened to my heart pound. 120 beats per minute. Cardiac output: 20 litres per minute.
      I leapt out of bed and began frantically rummaging through my closet. I found my old Walkman and a heavy-metal cassette. If I couldn’t make the voice stop, maybe I could drown it out. I put the headphones over my ears and turned the tape up full blast but through the wailing guitar solos I could still hear it: Iron Maiden’s Powerslave album. Released: September 3, 1984. Vocals: Bruce Dickinson …. I threw the Walkman aside. Sony Walkman. Manufactured: Tokyo, Japan; June, 17, 1994. Inspected by #41.
      I tried my best to eat dinner with my folks but I couldn’t drown out the information that my father’s fifth grade year-end math score was 68% and that the teacher of that class once fondled him as he cleaned the blackboard. I also learned that my mother’s first boyfriend was named Julian and that he drove a Bugatti. According to the voice, my younger brother’s left kidney was inflamed and would become useless later in life, although his right kidney would serve to pick up the slack.
      I could barely touch mom’s meatloaf with the knowledge that it contained the combined remains of cows nicknamed Jimmy, Sport and Webster and that one of the crunchy bits I’d chewed was part of Webster’s tooth.
      I excused myself and went to the washroom. The voice was busy telling me how many pounds of feces, on average, our family excreted into that toilet on a given day. I grabbed a handful of mom’s Valiums, tossed them down my throat, splashed cold water across my face and lurched back to the bedroom. Under the covers, I closed my eyes and drifted into a deep sleep with facts about the production of Valium and the factory where it was made, rolling around in my brain.
      The next day at Piggly Wiggly I felt like death. I had begun the day by eating part of an English muffin produced in a factory that would later be shut down for having nearly twice the government’s expectable level of rat droppings present in their muffin batter.
      I listlessly rang up purchases of apples full of Alar and grapes full of DDT, while mumbling "have a nice day." I tried hard not to tell a man that he was developing testicular cancer. I hastily scribbled a little note on his receipt that said "check your scrotum for lumps," under which I drew a little happy face.
      When the pregnant woman I’d seen the other day walked up to my till I didn’t even notice her.
      "It’s you!" she screamed.
      "Pardon?" I asked.
      "You told me my baby would be born at the movies yesterday and he was, just like you said."
      I grinned. "How is Leon?"
      The woman was shocked. "Psychic! This man is psychic!"
      I told her to please keep it down but a crowd was growing around me.
      I noticed that Maureen from the fish department was back and was staring at me in awe.
      "It’s true," she said. "He knew about my webbed toe!"
      The next thing I knew people were throwing money at me asking if they would win the lottery or if their spouse would cheat on them. I tried hard to focus my energy and give them the answers they wanted.
      "Will my son pass his military entrance exam?" asked a man.
      "I don’t know," I shrugged "but his name is Morris and he has 217 freckles on his body. Right now he’s drinking a glass of milk."
      "Amazing," the man gasped.
      "And see that lady over there?" I asked, pointing to the door. "Her name is Doris and she’s here to buy a litre of buttermilk and a package of bridge mixture. Aisle 7 and aisle 18, Doris!"
      The shoppers were all impressed but soon became irritable because while I knew exactly what they had for breakfast, I couldn’t predict good health or good fortune. Eventually I had to excuse myself. I told my supervisor I was sick and that I needed to lie down. I also said he should get the rash on his heel checked by a dermatologist but that it likely wasn’t serious. As I discarded my apron and walked through the automatic doors to the parking lot, the throng of people followed me. I told them the wingspan of a blue jay overhead and not to eat the berries that grew on the tree where it perched. I told them that it would rain in seven minutes and the name of the weather system that would cause it but I could offer no insight as to whether God existed or whether life had any meaning.
      Finally, I’d had enough.
      "People!" I yelled. "I need rest to hone my psychic abilities. I'll be at the grocery store tomorrow, where I will be happy to tell you all I can during my coffee break. Until then I need sleep. Thank you for your patience."
      The voice in my head was gibbering faster and faster. I could barely make out the words. It sounded as if there was some sort of auction taking place in my brain but that nothing of interest was for sale. Completely depressed I walked to the basement, loaded my daddy’s service revolver, cocked the hammer and placed it against my head. It was a Smith and Wesson single-action pistol with a muzzle velocity of 760 feet per second. I began to weep.
      "Make it stop!" I yelled. "Please God, make it stop!"
      I wanted so badly to end it all but I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t so much for myself but for my future wife, Janet, and our three kids Sophie, Leonard and Tina. Sophie was to become a dental hygienist while Leonard would sell tires. Tina would go to art school and come to excel at making animals out of macramé. I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t even bear to masturbate any more for fear that I would learn the names of their two million dead brothers and sisters. I put the gun down. I had to, for the children.
      On the third day, for the sake of my family, I committed myself to a sanitarium. Through meditation and breathing exercises, heavy tranquilizers and classes in intermediate basket weaving and pottery, I’ve managed to quiet the voice to a whisper.
      I’ve had to modify the philosophy of our meditations, which was originally "find your inner voice," but aside from that everything is going fine.
      My boss at Piggly Wiggly assured me that my job will be waiting for me when I am well again and that his doctor had provided him with an aloe vera-based cream to combat his rash. I was thrilled on both counts.
      I’m learning to live life one day at a time and to eliminate stress wherever possible. Life is short and we must savor every day. I have only 21,974 days left and I intend to live each one to the fullest before I die peacefully in my bed of natural causes. It will happen March 7, 2058 at 11:35 pm. I will be 76 years old and I will try to act surprised.

© 2002 Rusty Haight

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author bio

RustyRusty Haight was born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario. At the age of nineteen he moved to Vancouver, and lived in a rooming house in the heart of the skid row district known as the downtown East-side. Shortly after, he began working the graveyard shift at a 24 hour sex shop. These experiences helped inspire his recently completed first novel, Pandora's Box, a book about poverty, pornography, mental illness and revenge. He still lives in Vancouver with his girlfriend Andrea and their two miniature pinschers. e-mail: Rusty_mf_666@yahoo.com


 tbr 31           july - august  2002

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