Human Element


Lacey, David (Wiley, 2009, ISBN 9780470721995)

I buzz into the supermarket’s parking lot at six in the morning.

From there, I can already hear the klaxon. Inside the store, it sounds like a fire drill on the morning of a hangover.

I buy a carton of ice-cream sandwiches and some shaving razors. When I get to the checkout, the counterwoman has her hands cupped over her ears. I’ve met her before. I’d liked her at once. She’d struck me as cheerful, inquisitive and talkative in a way that seemed to reveal compassion. She looks about fifty, plump, content and married. She makes me heartsick for married life.

“What makes that noise?” I ask.

“The security door,” she shouts over the wail, “I have to prop it open.”

I try to conceal my apprehension.

“They sure must want it to stay shut,” I say.

“I can’t leave the checkout to deal with it,” she explains, “Nobody else comes in ’till six thirty.”

She has explained this to all the shoppers.

“It sounds like an air raid siren!” I say.

“I have to prop it like this every month on the fourteenth,” she says, “Same time every month.”

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  1. And no further explanation was provided? Bizarre.

  2. Pingback: Benji | The Melbourne Review of Books

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