Writercise: Checking Out

So for a couple of months in late 2001 I joined an online creative writing group in an effort to expand my writing chops. I wasn’t really looking to become a writer per say, but I thought it might be helpful to try my hand at stuff that I wasn’t necessarily invested in. The idea behind the group was that once a week they would present a new exercise, be it a particular scenario, or a set of story points, that the members of the group would then try and craft a story from scratch from. Then we’d (politely) critique each other’s work. Rinse and repeat. I completed three such assignments and then the group folded. My timing, as always, is awesome.

My first submission was based on the scenario “Write something about somebody standing in the checkout line at a supermarket”, or something like that. Here’s what I came up with.

* * * * *

Checking Out

Tonight was definitely going to be the night. No more waiting, no more hoping, hell… no more begging. We’d agreed. Tonight. And so far things were shaping up to be perfect. The forecast called for cold and snowy – the ideal weather for staying in and cuddling up. I could already see a slow drift of flakes fluttering past the windows of the Safeway as I waited my turn in line, and it wasn’t even six o’clock yet. No doubt by ten there would a thick white blanket on the ground and a thick wool blanket wrapped around Chrissy and I. Yup. Tonight was definitely the night.

You see, my parents were at this point well on their way to New York on yet another one of their weekend Broadway excursions. And Kevin, my 10 year-old pain-in-the-ass brother, had been shuttled off to Randy Peterson’s straight from school. That left the house to me – me and Chrissy that is – and we had every intention of taking advantage of the situation. A little Chinese food, a copy of “Save The Last Dance” in the VCR (what can I say, I had to make certain concessions), even a bottle of red wine that Billy Krueger swiped for me from his parents wine cellar. Does red wine go with shrimp low mein? I didn’t really care.

It was foolproof, it really was. It needed to be. Seventeen-and-a-half years was a long time to wait for an occasion such as this, and let me tell you, I wasn’t leaving *anything* to chance. Hence the trip to Safeway. A couple of bottles of soda (in case the wine didn’t go down so well) and a fresh tub of Chrissy’s favorite – Häagen-Dazs Coffee Mocha Chip – was all that stood between me and destiny. Oh yeah, and the rubbers. Hey, I said I wasn’t leaving anything to chance, didn’t I?

So there I was, waiting in line, mapping out the night’s events in my head one final time. I should probably tell you that Chrissy and I had been dating for about six months at this point. It was no temporary fling. She was special. I mean it. Unlike any girl I had ever dated before, and trust me, I’d dated plenty. But none like Chrissy. No sir, this was my first real, honest-to-goodness relationship. Hell, I might even have loved her. At least, as much as a seventeen year-old kid on the verge of losing his virginity *could* love. Something like that tends to cloud the emotions, know what I mean? Anyway, everything was going perfectly to plan. That is… until the voice.

“Hello, Danny.”

Looking back on it I think the thing I’m most surprised about was the fact that I turned around so quickly. I mean really, I knew the voice the moment it spoke, and it only took a nanosecond for the consequences of what was about to happen to kick in. I was screwed, and not in the way I had planned. Nope. Chrissy’s dad had an unmistakable voice, and it was that voice which brought my whole world crashing down around me that night. So why the hell did I turn around so quick? Must’ve been instinct.

“Good evening, Mr. Fimple.”

I still wonder if I might have given myself away right then and there. “Good evening, Mr. Fimple?” Sounds innocent enough, I know, but something didn’t sound right. Seriously. You should have heard the way I said it. He could probably hear the guilt in my voice. We’re talking total Eddie Haskell territory. Anyway, things were looking pretty hopeless. Here I was, standing in line with only one person in front of me – some little old lady with some tomatoes and a jug of prune juice. It’s not like I could exactly pretend they weren’t mine. Of course being the moron that I am, I made no attempt to hide the damn things between the soda bottles or anything. Nope, left them right out there in the open for all the world to see.

My mind raced. I thought I could maybe grab a TV Guide off the rack in front of me and toss it down on top of them. You know, to cover them up. But it was no use. He’d see. There’s no way he wouldn’t see. So like a complete and utter tool I just stood there and waited for the shit to hit the fan. Man, that had to have been the longest thirty seconds of my life.

“All set for your big weekend?”

Point of fact, Chrissy’s dad new that she was spending the night with me at my house and that my folks wouldn’t be home. Some people might find comfort in that. I sure as hell didn’t. It didn’t matter to me that he knew we would be spending the night together. That unto itself is innocent enough. Even if he had suspicions we might, you know… do it… I’m sure as a father he had ushered that thought out of his mind. I know I would if it was my daughter. But now? Standing there in line with those… *things* cluttering up the conveyer belt? No way. He knew. There was evidence. I’d been caught red handed preparing to deflower his daughter. A greater humiliation I have never known.

“Ah, yes sir.”

By now my heartbeat was out of control. I’m surprised I didn’t just pass out from the panic. What could I say? How could I possibly defend myself? I thought about maybe saying they were for a friend of mine, but seriously, how phony would that look? He knew I was spending the night with his daughter. Hell, he even gave his approval. That’s when it hit me. Maybe he *didn’t* care. Why else would he agree to let Chrissy spend the night with me unsupervised? Two seventeen year-old kids? He had to have known what we were up to. Maybe he just figured it was bound to happen sooner or later so why not now? These were the rationalizations I was making in my head as the cashier started passing my stuff through the scanner.

“Last minute shopping, I see.”

That was it. He’d seen. He had stood there looking over my items and he knew. There was absolutely no way I was going to get away with it now. What do I say? How do I respond? “Yes, sir, wanted to stock up on condoms. You know, just in case your daughter’s got some horrible disease.” Some how the idea of him being relieved that I was at least thoughtful enough to practice safe sex wasn’t very comforting.


I couldn’t even get out a whole word. I was as pathetic as humanly possible. That’s when the bastard smiled.

“Well, I hate to rain on your parade, Danny…”

Oh, Jesus, here it comes. I might as well have just dropped to my knees and begged for my life right then and there. Thrown myself on the mercy of the court as it were. Anything to lessen the blow.

He plopped the box down on the conveyor belt with a hearty thud, making sure to draw my attention to it. His smile grew wider. And in a moment of painful clarity I was finally able to see just why he was *really* smiling.


With that the foundation of my perfectly laid plan crumbled into a cloudy pile of rubble. There it was. Finito. Kaput. Over. Seventeen-and-a-half years of waiting were about to get an unwelcome and unexpected extension. All because Chrissy Fimple didn’t take into consideration that little thing we call nature.

I wonder what Mr. Fimple would think if I just gave *him* the condoms?


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