The click of canned cat food being meticulously stacked on the check-out counter becomes hypnotic. Ten cans. Twenty cans. Thirty cans. Forty cans. An eternity of cans of Fancy Feast, stacked in pyramids, towers, ziggurats. The cashier, a teenage girl, patiently ticks off the cans as the old woman sets them down. Each can is a tick-mark on the paper. Clusters of five gather and multiply.
“Okay, that’s 60 cans of cat food,” the cashier says, meeting the old woman’s eyes. The woman nods, sealing their unspoken contract. Rather than skittering across the number pad, the cashier simply mashes the same key sixty times.
Once the clicking subsides, the cashier addresses the old woman again. “That’ll be $95.40.”
“Oh, no,” the old woman replies. “I have a coupon.”
I wonder to myself why she’s only mentioning this now.
“I’m an amateur mentalist,” the old woman continues, as if reading my mind. “I’ve been beaming a message into your brain about my coupon,” she says. “Did you feel anything, as I sat here, watching you ring up my sixty cans of cat food? I dearly hope you did, because I’ve been working so hard at this and I’m really hoping I can make a go of this whole telekinesis, clairvoyance thing.”
“I feel like maybe I felt something,” the cashier replies. “At one point, I thought to myself that this looked like the kind of thing that only a person with a coupon would buy. But I know that we don’t actually have any coupons for this kind of cat food right now, so I just forgot about it.”
“You felt it, then? Really? You wouldn’t just tell me that?” the old woman asks.
“No, of course not,” the cashier replies. “I would never lie about something like this. I take clairvoyance very seriously.”
“Oh, good. You’ve made me so happy. Here’s the coupon.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the cashier replies. “This is a coupon for shampoo, not cat food.”
“Oh, dear! Really? I must’ve had a cat food coupon for another store. How bone-headed of me. I’ve just been so focused on my mental exercises that I couldn’t keep it straight.”
“Oh, no need to apologize,” the cashier replies. “I’ve got literally all the time in the world. Because I’m a teenager and I haven’t yet developed an acute sense of my own mortality.”
And I, now huddled in a dark corner behind the store, contemplate the taste of the gun in my mouth. I ask myself what will eternity look like? What will nothing look like? What’s it all mean?