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On a cart and a prayer

If it weren’t for my wife, I would have starved to death long ago. Not only is Sue a great cook (her specialties include everything, which is exactly what I like), but she does all the food shopping. Only illness can prevent her from the swift completion of her appointed eye of rounds.

So when she got sick recently, I had to go to the supermarket. By myself. For the first time in almost 39 years.

“Here,” Sue said between sneezes, handing me a shopping list. “You don’t have to get too much. Do you think you can handle it?”

“Of course,” I said confidently. “I’ll just put the cart before the horse’s aft.”

“If you come back with everything,” Sue said wearily, “it will be a miracle.”

When I arrived at the store, I met Ken Fehling and Richard Cunnius, who also were shopping for their wives.

“My wife doesn’t shop,” said Ken, who recently retired as a college director of residential operations. “So she sends me.”

“Do you go back home with everything on the list?” I asked.

“Always,” Ken said. “My wife thinks I do a good job.”

“I don’t think mine does,” said Richard, a retired electrical engineer. “When I get back home, she’ll say, ‘Did you get it on sale? Did you do this? Did you do that?’ Then she’ll discover that I forgot something. I guess I’m not a good shopper. But if my wife can’t go, she sends me.”

We stood in the produce section, getting in the way of other shoppers, all of them women who seemed annoyed that three geezers were blocking their way to the lettuce, and talked about wives, kids and grandchildren before I said, “I have to go to the deli counter to pick up some cold cuts. Nice meeting you guys.”

“You, too,” said Richard. “Good luck.”

“Check off every item on your list,” Ken suggested. “That way, you won’t forget anything.”

When I got to the deli counter, it was so crowded I couldn’t get to the machine to take a number.

“I’ll get it for you,” said Maddy Spierer, an artist who owns a design company. She handed me No. 57. The guy at the counter yelled out, “No. 45!”

“I guess we’ll have to wait,” I said.

“You looked lost,” Maddy noted.

“It’s my first time shopping alone,” I said.

“You’ll be OK,” Maddy assured me. Then she realized she had taken two tickets, Nos. 54 and 55, so she handed me the latter. “It’ll speed things up,” said Maddy, a mother, a grandmother and a veteran food shopper. When her number was called, she said to me, “You’re next!”

“I’m not going to get bologna because I’m already full of it,” I told Maddy. But I did pay it forward by giving my No. 57 to a woman named Tanya, who had No. 62. When I told her my wife had sent me shopping, Tanya smiled and said, “Smart woman.”

A few minutes later, in the canned food aisle, I saw a tall gentleman with a black suit and a clerical collar.

“Are you a priest?” I asked.

“I’m a Methodist minister,” the Rev. Amos Sherald responded with a warm smile.

“You’re just the man I’m looking for,” I told him. “This is my first time food shopping by myself. My wife said that if I came back with everything on the list, it would be a miracle.”

“Did you remember to bring the list?” Rev. Sherald asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

“It’s a miracle!” he said.

And, lo, I felt the hand of God guiding me through the rest of the store, making sure I did, indeed, get everything Sue wanted me to buy.

When I arrived home, I told her about my supermarket adventure and especially about my encounter with Rev. Sherald.

Doubting Sue would not believe until she had checked the bags. “He was right!” she exclaimed. Then she added, “How would you like to go food shopping for me next week?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “After all, miracles don’t happen every day.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Reflections of Erma