Man to Mandemic (A Topical Gay Novella): Chapter 3
Thursday 26th March 2020
Aisle 7: Shampoo
"Why do you need an aisle's worth of shampoo, Mother?" I asked, because she had shown limited inclination to use the haircare product in the past. Instead, she had shown preference towards 'traditional' and 'wartime' methods of cleaning hair - used 'when Britain was great' - such as rinsing it in vinegar or lemon, massaging a dozen eggs into a foamy, savoury meringue atop her heard and cans of dry shampoo.
"I'll need something to wash all this oil that I've stockpiled out of my hair," explained Mother, gesturing to several McDonald's worth of oil in her shopping trolley. When I asked why she was intending her hair to come into contact with the oil she laughed and began snatching shampoo off of the shelves/our of the hands of other shoppers.
"There's something very satisfying about creating a problem solely for the purpose of solving it," she said. Society nodded in agreement.
Initially our visit to aisle 7 was without incident; I distracted the other patrons and employees of the supermarket by performing a pitiful gay standup routine about watching football with heterosexual male family members. My material leaned heavily on the discrepancy between the straight mens' investment in the game itself and my sexual attraction to the players, in the hope that it might prove a rich seam of comedy. I managed to coax some exhausted titters out of the crowd, that is until I said "everyone chants 'the referee's a wanker', when in fact I am the one masturbating".
After this feeble effort they gave up on my routine and turned away, muttering that I lacked 'a hook' (wrong: Mother and I had rinsed the DIY section), 'an interesting narrative' (wrong again: we had cleared the shelves of hardback and paperback chart-topping fiction) and 'clothes' (fair enough: I had taken my clothes off to better attract their attention).
Unluckily, the crowd turned to see my mother attempting to steal a bottle of dog shampoo from the basket of a blind woman, who was presumably intending to clean her guide dog's fur when she got home. Either that or she had low self-esteem. Mother was cornered by the crowd, made restless and aggressive by my subpar standup comedy, who furiously demanded to know what she was doing pinching the blind woman's shopping.
"She doesn't even have a dog!" said an old woman neighbour of ours who had once told me that life isn't fair.
The crowd produced pitchforks from Mother's trolley - she had left none on the shelves - and were talking themselves into running her out of town when I said:
"Never mind giving her a caning, you should give her a canine!"
The crowd spent so long sighing and shrugging at this remark that Mother was able to slip away unnoticed.
Aisle 1: Fresh Vegetables. At first we were able to make satisfying progress under the cover of Gary and Elaine's messy divorce proceedings, which were still ongoing and drawing a fair crowd. After a minute or so, it worryingly seemed like the division of assets and custody of the children had been sorted quickly and amicably. I was able to buy us some more time by innocently pointing out that Gary hadn't exactly fought to see his kids more often than every other weekend and every Wednesday. Elaine erupted in aspersions on Gary's character and aptitude for fatherhood which gave Mother a whole forty-five seconds to load her trolley with every single packet of Tenderstem Broccoli on display. Gary suggested that they continue their divorce proceedings in court and, to the dismay of the salacious, rubbernecking crowd, they departed. We were on our own now.
While Mother pulled the hair of other shoppers and/or broke their wrists in order to purchase more pak choi (which I knew would end up straight on the composter once she discovered its common usage in East Asian cuisine) and carrots (which she was wary of once she found out that their orange colour came from a Dutch breed of carrot. After that she would give strong preference to the "original" purple carrots, which to her were very much the Blue Passport of fresh vegetables), I became bored. Naturally, my first port of call was to masturbate.
However, having already done so eight times since I had entered the supermarket fifteen minutes earlier I was keen to spice things up - not literally of course, chilli peppers are far too small for me to have enjoyed pushing them up my arse - by pushing vegetables such as courgettes, parsnips and swedes up my arse.
Once I had finished enjoying the rectal stimulation they provided with a loud groan and a hissing wheeze from my penis - which it seemed was running on fumes, spunk-wise - I would place the erotic vegetables back in the large plastic tubs in which I had found them, making sure that they touched as many other vegetables as possible so that any accidental faecal deposits left on the veggies would look like that fine layer of soil you get on pretentious new potatoes.
Mother and I were delighted to observe that the other shoppers were disinclined to purchase the varieties of vegetables I had sexually interacted with. By the time I had shagged every vegetable in the supermarket to within an inch of its sell-by date, the aisle was ours!
Aisle 4: Tinned Soup
Mother's determination to buy close to a tonne of tins made absolutely no sense to me, both because it wasn't 'being sexually and romantically attracted to men' and because the ratio of space filled by canned goods to that filled by air was approximately nine hundred and thirty to one.
However, it became clear as we progressed around the supermarket why she craved canned goods, as censure and abuse followed us wherever we went.
"Self-isolating for a century are we?"
"There should be limits on this stuff."
"Pair of criminals."
"Leave some for others!"
"It doesn't give you the shits, love, you don't need all that loo roll."
"Maybe she does to wipe up her head."
"She's a shithead"
"Oh. Nice one."
"Thanks. Fancy a drink later?"
"Shouldn't we be social distancing?"
"Is that the only thing stopping you?"
"Listen, sounds mad, we barely know each other, but how's about you come over to mine and we stick a film on and..."
"Ha, yeah. Chill."
"Sure, I love chilling, and I love films."
"Nice. Fave director?"
"Quentin Tarantino, deffs... Hey, where are you going?!"
"Leave some stuff for the key workers you heartless cow!"
"Things like this really bring out the worst in people"
"I cannot fathom the selfishness."
"Pathetic? 'Cause I stack shelves? It's not 2008 anymore, you prick. I'm working hard to feed my family. What do you do? Finance? Few calls, boozy lunch and a couple of emails and you're done? Can't be bothered to do an honest day's work, can't be bothered to pay VAT on any meal you've ever had, I bet. You are pathetic."
"I was talking about that woman with loads of shopping."
"Oh. My apologies, sir. I- excuse me, are you filming?!"
"And what? That speech was sick. It's goin' on twitter love."
"But she had a go at me for no reason."
"It's true, it was a misunderstanding."
"Could you maybe just pretend it wasn't? This will go VIRAL and I have a SoundCloud that needs promoting."
"Cheers. Cor, check out those greedy cunts."
"My name isn't cor."
These were just some of the caustic comments Mother and I deserved as we made our way from aisle to aisle. By the time we reached the tinned items, a crowd was surging behind us. Comments became jeers became grabbing at our clothes which were expensive because Mother is a snob about Primark and the rich men who I fuck in exchange for clothes are also snobs about Primark, though they at least pretend to care about the exploitation of the people who make the clothes in appalling conditions for unfair wages. The advancing crowd forced us to climb atop our stockpile to avoid their snatching hands. They were taking back our hoard!
"Grab the tins, Donald, grab them!" yelled Mother, which was a sufficiently clear instruction to prevent me from interpreting it as an order to begin masturbating. I did as she asked and grabbed her breasts.
"Those aren't tins," she pointed out.
"What did you mean?" I asked, taking my hands off her breasts.
"Grab as many cans as you can," she snapped.
I did as she asked and grabbed two cans, which happened to belong to my mother.
"Get off my tits, you freak," she yelled, leading by example and picking up a tin of spaghetti hoops from a nearby shelf. She absolutely wanged it into the face of an advancing man whose skull caved in, killing him instantly which, while regrettable, did at least mean he would be unable to force us to share our shopping.
I understood. We cleared the shelves of as many tins as we could and thus had an impressive ammo dump with which to fend off any shoppers jealous of our hoard.
Aisle 4: Batteries
My shoving these up my arse proved, in the long term, to be a mistake. The doctors tell me they shaved many, many years off my life expectancy.
"Ironic, given that many of the batteries whose chemicals leaked into your gut over a period of several decades were extra long-life batteries. They've certainly prevented you from having an extra long life!" joked a junior doctor.
I have yet to accept his written apology.
Aisle 11: Wine
My friends and family had always been keen to impose a fair distance between me and alcoholic beverages, concerned that I would respond badly to its intoxicating effects. As we approached the shining rows of bottles I recollected that the last time I had drunk drinks - two cosmopolitan cocktails in a gay club on the eve of the Brexit vote. I had resolved to vote leave in the forthcoming referendum and had actually listened to something tedious and irrelevant that BooBoo had said to me. There was no denying it: alcohol and me did not mix.
Relieved that I was neither coke, lemonade, nor ginger beer, I started selecting bottles of wines from the shelves with a spring in my step. This spring quickly rusted beyond use in the face of my Mother's eye-watering particularity about wine.
"How about this wine?" I would ask.
"It costs less than ten pounds," she would reply.
"Yes it does," I would agree, deciding that Mother was, as I had long suspected, simple and placing the bottle in her trolley.
"NO!" Mother would scream, smashing the bottle over my head, sending wine and fragments of glass and/or my skull flying everywhere. "We are NOT having shit wine in the house, are you off your fucking trolley?" said Mother, shifting several of the several hundred packs of toilet roll that she didn't need to make way for more bottles of wine that she also didn't need.
I would invariably interpret the phrase 'off your trolley' literally, earning more corporal punishment from an increasingly irate Mother.
Despite my repeated questioning on the subject, Mother remained steadfastly opposed to explaining what - other than being able to read the price - qualified her to make decisive judgements on how good a particular wine was or wasn't.
This fractious episode of our shopping trip was saved by the appearance of Hetty, a friend of Mother's whose trolley was also piled everest-high with goods. Hetty wasna woman with whom Mother had cultivated something approaching friendship during their frequent intersections in the 'speedy boarding' queue of short-haul flights. Both women were united by their passionate belief that they needed to board the plane approximately two minutes before everybody else, an attitude that happily informed their behaviour in all other social situations.
"God, who woke up all the plebs? I've never seen so many tracksuits in my life!" chuckled Hetty, in reference to the other shoppers minding their own business.
"Yeah, I fucking hate poor people too," agreed Mother.
My initial concern that Mother and Hetty would end up scratching each other's eyes out over the last bottle of Freixenet prosecco was assuaged when it emerged that Hetty's house was formerly owned by the council, thereby placing my parents on a slightly higher social plane than Hetty and her husband. As such, their tastes in wines happily tesselated, with Mother taking all wines £10 and above, Hetty selecting all wines priced between £6.50 and £9.99 and Hetty's cleaner - whose name nobody knew and whose appearance in the same supermarket as her caused Hetty great social embarrassment - taking two bottles of £5.5o merlot because that's all she needed.
Aisle 9: Frozen Goods
Our visit to the frozen food section got off to a bad start when I spotted Gi'Angelo, a silly man with whom I'd had sex on several occasions because, despite being silly, he was still a man. Although as irritating and as interested in talking about the TV show Sex and the City as my ugly gay confidante Booboo, Gi'Angelo was not hideously ugly so I permitted him to have sex with me.
A flaw unique to Gi'Angelo (as far as I knew; I had and would never, ever have sex with BooBoo) however was that our sessions of gay sex would last an awfully long time due to his high tolerance of GHB and other drugs and robust stamina, sometimes days. And while I liked nothing more or else than sleeping with men because I'm gay, days in close company with Gi'Angelo was undesirable indeed.
Spotting Gi'Angelo putting frozen berries in his shopping trolley - health-conscious for purely cosmetic, narcissistic reasons, Gi'Angelo lives almost entirely off of fruit smoothies and huel - I hid behind a cabinet of frozen party food. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the glint off of Gi'Angelo's sunglasses (I scowled; we were indoors in early March) and his red and white striped Ralph Lauren shirt (which was admittedly nice but Gi'Angelo was wearing it so I was determined to hate it because he is very annoying) getting closer and closer. I needed an exit strategy. If we ended up having sex, which we definitely would because why not, the supermarket would close before I could purchase any of the items on my list (many of which would make having sex with Gi'Angelo more pleasant) and help mother stockpile for seemingly no reason at all.
I moved my head to allow a group of young women to reach into the freezer cabinet and extract several boxes of tempura prawns.
"Three for five pounds? That's as good a reason as any to celebrate!" said one.
"Excuse me, it's my birthday. That's a much better reason to celebrate than a discount on these items," said another, bursting into tears and slapping and scratching her friends until she remembered that they were shooting a TV advertisement for this offer and that, birthday or not, she should be more professional.
Once filming had wrapped I had the beginnings of an idea. I turned and looked at the freezer full of party food. Party food! My mind flashed back to eight months ago. Gi'Angelo had hosted a very tiresome dinner party with me and several of his tiresome friends, especially BooBoo. Once the other guests had left and BooBoo had been shoved roughly out of the door (he always outstays his welcome), Gi'Angelo and I had begun to have sex. Fortunately for me the sex didn't last as long as it might have. Unfortunately for Gi'Angelo this was because the three courses of fruit smoothies and huel that he had served to me and his other guests for dinner had gone straight through me and had begun to intrude upon our sex, gushing from my arse and around his thrusting erection in the form of brown slurry. For some reason he had found this unsavoury and, being hilariously sensitive to having poo on his penis and all over his bedroom, discontinued our sex to my great relief.
Gi'Angelo was pawing at some chicken dippers (as if). I had to act fast. I plunged my hands into a chest freezer full of sweet frozen treats and extracted a Magnum. Steeling myself, I relaxed my anus and encouraged it to swallow the chocolate coated ice cream whole. I waited in chilly agony for several seconds before extracting the treat from my bum. Like someone rolling a condom over an erect penis using only their anus, but in reverse, the ice cream came out completely free of its chocolate coating, the heat of my gut having melted it off its original station. Bingo. I absent-mindedly handed the remaining ice cream to a child who had lost its mother which seemed to cheer it up immeasurably. Then I pulled up my jockstrap and jeans and faced Gi'Angelo as if everything was normal.
"Ciao, bella," said Gi'Angelo, even though he is from Nottingham and doesn't have any Italian ancestry (he changed his name by deed poll to Gi'Angelo from Mickey for attention). I sighed and muttered a terse 'hello'.
"I know it's the frozen isle but that doesn't mean your reception has to be frosty!" complained Gi'Angelo. I attempted a smile and he made a similar lame remark about my smile being frozen on. God, he is boring.
Not wanting to prolong our conversation (him saying boring things while I texted other people about how boring the things he was saying were) longer than necessary, I encouraged him to have sex with me.
Thirty seconds later I was bent over the edge of the chest freezer, grunting with something approaching pleasure as Gi'Angelo shagged my perfect arse. A couple of shoppers made disapproving remarks.
"Oh have a drink, love. It's the weekend!" tutted Gi'Angelo at their perceived prudishness. His smugness was short-lived, however, as mere seconds later he had withdrawn his penis from my bum with a wet, smacking gasp and a howl of horror (the wet, smacking gasp was made by my bum, the howl of horror wasn't (though if bums could talk...)).
"You didn't douche, you dirty sod!" he screamed at me, his face contorted with rage and revulsion, like a contortionist who hates their job and themself. I turned to see the source of Gi'Angelo's rage. As I had hoped, his penis was covered in a film of wet, sticky brown matter that looked awfully like poo, but was in fact Magnum Chocolate that had been up my arse.
"So you don't want to continue having sex?" I asked, praying to the Gods that were sympathetic to gay sexual problems (the Ancient Greek ones, I imagine) that my scheme would be successful. Gi'Angelo answered my prayers by calling me a nasty bitch and beginning to search for a means of cleaning what he thought was shit off of his still-erect penis. Having worked up a bit of an appetite, I took Gi'Angelo's penis into my mouth and down my throat, sucking and slurping until his penis was spotless.
"De-licious. What a treat!" I said, smacking my lips with a satisfied belch.
Gi'Angelo joined in the screams that erupted around us, was violently sick onto my head, and ran off, to my intense relief. My mother was able to take advantage of the panic and empty the aisle of its contents onto a second industrial trolley that she had chartered.
"I could get used to this gay malarkey," my Mother chuckled, ruflling my hair like a mother of a straight child might. Unfortunately, the residual vomit Gi'Angelo had selfishly left in my hair got on her hands and all over her rings. She was violently sick onto her Dorothy Perkins blouse and Hobbs shoes and Asos skirt and laddered tights and she reverted to being pretty but-not-as-bad-as-she-used-to-be homophobic.
Aisle 10: Pasta
Mother had spurned my suggestion of purchasing some pasta - as a dried eating product or 'food' I felt it would be ideal to store in the basement and not eat, as it wouldn't encourage damp or mould that might bring down the value of Mother and Father's house.
"I don't eat foreign muck," she snapped.
A passing woman calmly pointed out that she had just loaded her trolley with many gallons of wine produced in almost every part of the globe except Britain.
"I don't eat wine," Mother said, magisterially, as if she had humiliated this woman. I pointed out that she had chosen to purchase several tins of Spaghetti, which is a variety of pasta.
"Not if it's in a tin it's not," she snapped, "besides it's made by Heinz, one of the finest British food manufacturers in history."
Mother was appalled to learn that Heinz was not a British manufacturer, something I was pretty confident of (Heinz being the surname of my one-time sexual co-partner Guther, who is German).
"Pah, well I'm not eating anything German. We won the war." said Mother, in a tone that suggested those two statements somehow related to one another.
"Did we?" I asked, genuinely wanting to know, as I noticed a picture on the front page of a newspaper bearing a picture of Boris Johnson side by side with Angela Merkel. Mother stomped off to be rude to an employee of the supermarket because she felt like it.
I headed over to the pasta aisle, hoping to take a picture of my erect penis alongside a packet of linguine pasta for the amusement/erotic enjoyment of Gi'Angelo. (While Gi'Angelo is as Italian as Heinz is British, I enjoyed forcing him to play up his fictional Italian heritage because, as Gi'Angelo is stupid and unimaginative, he found it strenuously difficult. Watching him sweat out a detailed description of the centre of naples on the spot to an Italian man named Fabio whom we both slept with was almost as enjoyable as the gay sex we had had.)
However, when I reached the pasta aisle I was met by...
"Empty, empty shelves.
All of the shelves are empty.
There is no pasta," I breathed in an accidental haiku. On the other side of the supermarket, Mother scowled.
"I do not like a poem that is not ours; full-English like Gower's.
I don't mean breakfast,
I mean English poems, fantast- ic, unlike those of shit foreign poet bast-
ards. Over theirs, our stuff towers," she said.
"Hey, nice Kap Chabang," said a passing Thai woman. Mother wept.
Back in aisle ten, I stared in horror at the empty shelves of pasta. This didn't make any sense. Mother hadn't wanted to stockpile any pasta, so why was it out of stock? The only other shelves that I had noticed were similarly empty independent of Mother were the shelves containing toilet roll. That made sense - it was approaching evening which, in my bedroom was masturbation prime time. But pasta?
Then I realised something else very odd and deeply disturbing. Not once, throughout our entire shopping trip, even when spouting racist and xenophobic rhetoric, had Mother mentioned Brexit. Brexit had been the primary obsession of my parent's lives for four years, but now it was as if their attention was concentrated elsewhere. I gasped again. This could only mean one thing:
Brexit had happened.
The pasta had left.
The Italians were next.
I ran from the supermarket, heading in the direction of Gi'Angelo's apartment. I needed to sleep with an Italian man, whose passion and accent I found particularly erotic, while I still could. While obviously not Italian himself, Gi'Angelo's name meant that unwitting, gay Italian men flocked to his instagram and, by extension, his penis and anus like flocks of other things to wherever they were going. If there were any left, he would know where....
TO BE CONTINUED