So you go into a shop.
I don’t know what the façade looks like and it doesn’t make a difference.
You would go in even if it was dilapidated,
maybe it is,
most days it is.
So you go into the shop,
and the shelves are lined with everything,
all carefully catalogued,
prices clearly visible.
You are the only customer.
So you are in the shop
where everything has a cost
and everything is for sale
and there are no other shops,
not ones that will serve you,
or even let you in.
So you are in your shop,
the only shop you can go to,
and you have some money,
not much money,
never enough money;
there was a time when you could buy everything
and still have left-over riches,
when the more you spent, the more you had,
you were middle-classed.
So you are in your shop with your lamentably thin wallet
and your jumbo shopping basket
and you are buying just the basics
like Getting Dressed and Preparing Food and Getting Water and Brushing Your Teeth,
and you can see Talking with Friends and Leaving the House and Having Fun
up on the high shelves,
their price tags written big,
far too big for you.
So you are buying basics
because everything has a price
and you are very poor
and tomorrow the price will be higher
and you will also have less money
and it is then you see it.
On the shelf for the first time,
tucked in with laughing and speaking and standing up.
NEW IN STORE!
the glowing sickly green sign,
FOR THE LOW (not low enough) PRICE OF . . .
and you look at your basket,
at Showering and Getting Dressed and Preparing Food and Brushing Teeth,
and you put them all back,
maybe tomorrow you can buy one of them,
and you take Being Awake
and it looks lonely in your basket.
So you are in your shop
and you stop looking at the shelves
and you try not to cry
because that costs far too much,
and you definitely can’t shoplift,
everything is monitored
and the punishment for taking more
is not being able to shop.
So you just shuffle up to the counter
with your meagre little purchases
like you always do
every single day.
Melanie McKerchar has been published in various literary journals and anthologies. She performs regularly at open mics, features, variety shows and literary festivals. She is an international slam champion and has performed in the NZ Poetry Slam finals.