The Errand is Always the Same

This is written in response to the below challenge at part of the Indie Ink Writing Challenge. You can check that out here: My challenger this week was Amy Labonte, and my challengee was Tobie.

“The Errand is always the same: each presses on toward the nothingness into which the divided are drawn.” Pablo Neruda
Every week, Tiffany ran the same errands. She tried to remember, today, while clenching the wheel of her old Suburban too tightly and avoiding insane traffic, just when this had started. It had to have been after Jamie was born, she didn’t remember this feeling of frustration and loneliness before that. 

Her husband, David, traveled so much these days, leaving her with the kids and the house, and above all, the errands to deal with. The groceries, the mail, the pet food and the cleaning supplies. Her world had shrunk to the four wall of the house and the circuit of errands. She wondered how much more it would shrink. Would her world become so small it would be a black hole, the gravity of her responsibilities pulling her down until she was nothing at all?

She pulled into the parking lot at Shop-Mart and climbed wearily out, clutching her purse. The kids were with the sitter for two hours, leaving her with just enough time to do everything. 

“Divided, we conquer.” she muttered as she walked into the store. The greeter looked at her funny while delivering the same upbeat speech she’d stopped listening to – how many years ago? Tiffany took the offered cart and sped through her routine, knowing exactly how to circumnavigate the store to get what she needed without wasting time or money. 
At the checkout, Betty greeted her cheerfully. They saw each other practically every week. “You look peaked.” The older woman observed. 

“I feel like I see more of you than I do David. And too much of the kids.”

“It will be better when they are all in school.” The grandmother assured her. 

“You keep saying that.” Tiffany returned ruefully, but with a smile. 

Energized by the exchange, Tiffany wheeled her purchases back to the big vehicle. Loaded in the capacious rear cargo area, she climbed into the drivers seat and started the engine. She blinked. 


Horns blared and she jerked the wheel to avoid the neon blue Prius bearing down on her. Heart pounding, she stared in horror at the road ahead. She was driving down the road toward Shop-Mart. Why had she turned around, when had she pulled out of the parking lot? She risked a glance over her shoulder at the stoplight, no groceries in the back. Hadn’t she just been here? On auto pilot in her shock, she pulled into Shop-Mart. Had she really lost a whole week in that blink of an eye? 

She grabbed her purse and started into the store again. The same greeter pushed a cart at her and said something in a cheerful voice. Tiffany couldn’t understand it. The words were garbled. She tried to smile back, but it felt like a rictus. She pushed the cart deeper into the store. 

She knew she was in trouble when she met herself in the dairy aisle. The other self didn’t look up from her PDA, checking her list. Reminded, Tiffany pulled out hers and looked at the list. Same as earlier… today? last week? Disoriented, she looked up and saw herself again. Just in front of her cart, bending to grab a case of yogurt. Tiffany blinked. 

“What’s going on?”

The other her didn’t hear, moving off around the corner pushing her cart. Tiffany followed and found herself back at the beginning of the Dairy aisle. Suddenly she though she understood. Her life was collapsing onto itself, the weight of it all pulling her so far down that the orbiting errands of her life had become small enough to see her both coming and going. 

She stood stock still in the aisle, afraid of what would happen with another step. Where was the event horizon? Had she already reached it, that plane where the black hole of her life had sucked her in too far to climb back out? 
Tiffany stood there shaking. Would one more step take her into the nothingness of red-shift and oblivion?
Local Police were called today when a woman started to scream uncontrollably while shopping at the Shop-Mart. Emergency services had to remove her in restraints after she refused to let go of the cart and her purse. Child Services has taken temporary custody of the woman’s three children while her husband is reached as he travels out of the country. Reporters who talked to store clerks learned that she was a frequent shopper, and one speculated that post-partum depression might be the cause of the woman’s breakdown. 


5 responses to “The Errand is Always the Same”

  1. Holy crap. What a story!! So expertly you weaved the tale!

  2. i can relate to the mundane routine of Tiffany's life so much but wow i was not expecting that ending!

  3. I'd been reading a story about the close-in study of a black hole, and it wove it's way in to my story. I've had days where I felt like my world was getting smaller and smaller…

  4. See, Cedar? I *knew* you would totally ROCK at this IndieInk challenge thing!! Great story! I especially loved the line: Would her world become so small it would be a black hole, the gravity of her responsibilities pulling her down until she was nothing at all?Very powerful stuff!

  5. That was simply awesome. I liked the melancholy, the switch and I could absolutely feel that poor woman. Well done! – andrea