By Ellis Shuman
My wife makes the best chocolate cake.
Moist. Rich. So chocolaty. I stood there daydreaming about the cake, my mouth watering, and then my phone buzzed.
“Where are you?”
“I’m in line.”
“At the front of the line, or at the back of the line?”
“Um, somewhere in the middle of the line.”
“Did you get applesauce?”
“I need it for the cake. You forgot! You’re always forgetting things!”
Chocolate cake—applesauce was one of the ingredients.
“Of course, I remember,” I said.
“Well, make sure to get it. I want to bake before dinner.”
I apologized to the others waiting in line at the cash register and spun my shopping cart around. With one hand holding down the toilet paper resting precariously atop a mountain of groceries, I set off in search of canned goods.
My tennis partner was lingering by the dairy refrigerators. Like me, Bill was pushing an overfilled cart. Like me, he didn’t seem pleased with the task.
“How are you?” I asked him. “We haven’t played in weeks.”
“My shoulder—it’s still bugging me. What’s up with you?”
“Oh, you know. The same.”
“We should get together, even if it’s not on the courts. Why don’t you come over on Saturday and we’ll watch the game? Have some beer?”
“Beer? Sounds good!” I said.
“You know what? Bring Janet as well. I can fire up the grill and we’ll make a meal out of it.”
“I don’t know what Janet’s planning,” I said. “If she’s up to it, what should we bring?”
“Why don’t you bring the beer?”
“Sure, I’ll bring the beer.”
“Well, I’ll see you then. Meanwhile, I need to find muesli. I won’t be allowed back in the house if I don’t buy muesli.”
“I hear you,” I said. I patted him on the shoulder and continued through the store.
Daily special! Marked-down prices. The red-bordered notices on the shelves drew my attention to discounted products, many of which I had missed on my first circuit. Onward through the store. Baking goods, dry goods, pet food. Frozen goods, fruits and vegetables. Finally, I arrived at the beverage aisle.
Beer, he said, but what kind? Pale amber, stout, or Belgian-style ale? Local beer, or the more expensive imported variety? If I get a cheap six-pack, I’ll appear to be stingy. But imported beer? I’m neither a regular drinker nor a beer connoisseur, but I didn’t want to be judged on what I would bring to Bill’s table. Okay, let’s just go with what’s on sale—American-style lager.
I waited at the checkout counter, smiling at the other customers. But wait! Janet had asked me to pick up something. What was it?
Applesauce for the chocolate cake!
“Excuse me,” I said, spinning my cart around to begin another trip around the store. Up one crowded aisle and down the next. Paper goods, cleaning supplies. I turned around the next corner and found myself back at the beverage aisle.
“Did you get the beer?”
“Bill! I thought you would be out of here by now.”
“I’m still looking for muesli. What is muesli anyway? Some kind of fancy granola? What’s wrong with good old cornflakes?”
“It’s probably with the other breakfast products,” I said, pointing toward the back of the store.
“Hmm. I see you got lager,” Michael said, regarding the pack balancing next to the toilet paper on top of my cart.
“You don’t like lager?”
“Oh, I do! I assumed you to be an ale guy. A pale ale guy,” he said with a laugh. I didn’t find his joke funny.
“Anything else you want me to get?” I asked, trying to humor him with a display of generosity.
“Let me see. We could use salted nuts to go with the beer. Cashews, almonds. I really like cashews, don’t you?”
“Listen, I’m just suggesting it. It’s not a problem if you can’t get any.”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll find something,” I assured him.
“Great! I really have to find that muesli and get the hell out of here. I hate grocery shopping!”
“Me, too!” I replied, but he had already wheeled his cart away.
I passed the bread and baked goods section, bypassed the coffees and tea, and headed to the candy and snack shelves. I hoped cashews were on sale.
Back in line at the cash register, I tried to think if there was anything else I was supposed to buy. Janet may have mentioned something, but it must not have been all that important. She would be pleased to hear we had been invited out. I knew she didn’t mind the occasional beer. We’d probably eat outside—the weather was certainly good enough. I wondered what Michael would be grilling. Hot dogs and burgers, or something more expensive?
“Will that be all, sir?” the cashier asked after the last of my goods had passed in front of her.
“Yes, that’s everything,” I said, pulling out my wallet. I handed her my credit card and arranged the shopping bags in the cart. “Thank you,” I said when she handed back the card along with my receipt.
A short while later, I parked the car out front and made two trips carrying the groceries into the house. “I’m home,” I shouted, and Janet joined me in the kitchen.
“Did you get the applesauce?”
“For the cake. The chocolate cake you love so much!”
“Uh, no. I was at the supermarket, and…”
“You forgot, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t forget! They were all out! I even asked the stock clerk!”
She shook her head, not believing a word I said.
“What’s that smell? Is there something in the oven?”
“Yes. Devil’s Food Cake. I knew you’d forget the applesauce. You’re hopeless!”
My wife makes the best Devil’s Food Cake.
* * *
Ellis Shuman is an American-born Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. His writing has appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, The Oslo Times, and The Huffington Post. He is the author of The Virtual Kibbutz, Valley of Thracians, and The Burgas Affair. You can find him at https://ellisshuman.blogspot.com/