An Impulse Purchase (short story)

Will your Christmas shopping look like this? Maybe not this year, but it will.

Balbina Wachowiakowa was doing shopping with her husband and son at the veryhypermarket. Their cart was already half-filled, and they only just reached the food section.

“Mom! Mom! Look! Cubicar! Cubicar!” Rafik shouted while looking at a meter-long model of a Formula Zero car with all kinds of bells and whistles, whose three-volume user’s manual fitted nicely into a small 20-liter trunk in the rear of the bolide.

“No Rafcio, we can’t afford it, we still need to buy enough laundry detergent to last us three months, because at our local hypermarket it costs 25 groszy more per package.”

“Mother is right,” father said matter-of-factly.

“OK,” Rafik changed tone from childish to adult, “I take the white-green one and we’re out of here.”

“Rafik. No! We have other things to buy!”

“Mother is right,” father said and suddenly turned with the cart into an isle with home improvement equipment.

“Balbi, look. Ecological multi-drillo-screwdriver!” Felicjan, the father, said suddenly when he saw a promotional kit with a set of “three lifetimes guarantee” drill bits.

“No, Felik.”

“But I must tighten that screw in the cupboard. You know, that in the upper right corner, in our second storage room.”

“Felik. End of discussion. We have expenses. Don’t you remember? Today we’re going to auntie Basia’s birthday party.”

“I remember, but…”

“Mother is right,” Rafik interrupted matter-of-factly.

When they got to register number 221 with their fork-lift cart with a trailer, three hours and 59 minutes had passed since they first entered through the gate of hall number 3.

“Not bad. Only three hours today,” father said matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, because mom spent the whole hour picking out a gift for aunt Basia.”

“Not aunt, but auntie,” mother said.

She picked out, in the end, a totally useless 300-piece dinner set. The aunt had already two of them, and she lived alone, after her third husband and seventh live-in boyfriend had left her.

“Is that all?” The cashier asked after scanning all the items, and before Balbina could answer, began to recite from memory:

“And maybe I could interest you in a five-passenger car in an ecological matt color, with seven cushions, four-climate zone AC, engine ready for the installation of an organic propulsion drive, and with twenty additional options in a standard version.”

“Only twenty,” disappointed Rafik asked.

“Thank you, we can’t afford it,” father said matter-of-factly.

“And the trunk? Is it big?” Balbina asked.

“Err, maybe…” the cashier answered and continued with her memorized speech:

“We’re offering a convenient purchase option in installments of 20 złoty a month, or every other month. The available colors are: Bahama spruce, Roman birch doublemat, grassy glamour with the upholstery in either mountain moss, or exotic beach.”

“And the trunk? Big?” Mother asked again to keep up appearances.

“Err… I don’t know.”

“OK, we’ll take. You see, we’ve bought quite a lot today. Grassy glamour, exotic beach, monthly payments.”

“Great, here are the keys and the registration. Insurance in the dashboard compartment. The car is parked in the back on the left. The license plates will activate five minutes after the engine is turned on. Happy driving.”

“Thank you,” Balbina answered and a moment later added:

“Oh yes, I’d like a lighter, please.”

The cashier wrinkled her nose and began to query her computerized register system.

“Lighter, lighter… Unfortunately, we do not carry this product.”

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