El Nino was a dud, but Los Angeles still prepped itself for a few more showers. Like most, The Van Man headed to the grocery store to stock up for the wet weekend. He was tired from a long, hot day driving vehicles. Teamster work had its moments, but Van Man had yet to find them.
Van Man stood in the express check-out lane. The sign read twelve items or less. What happened to ten?, he thought. The young lady in front of him fiddled with her hair and swayed side to side. He gazed at the shelves of magazines. It was too much for his eyes. Bright colors and bullshit articles. Tabloid fuckery and moronic ideas all jammed together in thirty-page issues. The sight disgusted him. But what was a Van Man going to do about it? Not a damn thing.
The Young Lady played with her hair some more and kept swaying. She seemed twitchy in her mannerisms. Van Man assumed that she might have had a muscle-control disorder. His heart filled with sadness. She was too young to be damned with a curse of that nature. Miss Spasm scratched her scalp and twitched her head.
Van Man stared at her from behind. He was truly fortunate. No matter what he perceived to be a problem in his own world, at the end of the day, Van Man was a fairly healthy bastard. He was mentally sound, for the most part. Had not shit his pants for many, many years. And he did not shake uncontrollably. Van Man looked at the magazines again. What a twisted group of beings he belonged to. Only interested in the most base image of themselves.
Miss Spasm reached into her purse as the checkout clerk scanned her items. Six dollars worth of travel-size shampoo and gum. Pitiful. She dug even deeper.
"I have a card"
"Would you like me to enter your phone number?", asked the clerk.
"No, it's a gift card", replied Miss Spasm.
She could not find her only means of payment. She dug all the way to the bottom of her purse. Still nothing.
"If you step over there, you can keep looking. That way I can take care of these people", said the Clerk as he looked back at the growing line of customers.
Miss Spasm searched more vigorously and seemed to want to say something, but did not. She was embarrassed. Van Man could tell.
"I'll take care of it, put it with my stuff", said Van Man.
He felt bad for Miss Spasm. And he was tired. He did not have the energy to fight off the demon of sympathy. It was too easy to do a good deed. Miss Spasm seemed caught off guard by the act and thanked him. She smiled. Her teeth were gross. Large black circles surrounded her eyes. The thought occurred to him that Miss Spasm might have been a dirty drug addict.
Van Man paid and walked out into the cloudy evening. A woman with an oxygen tank sat in a chair outside the sliding doors. She begged for money with two nostril tubes shoved up her nose. He had seen her many times around town. It was an extreme gimmick, but it worked on many who passed by. But not him. Not Van Man. He strolled past Oxygen Tank Girl without even looking in her direction. He had been duped once that night. He was not going to let it happen again.
The van drove out of the parking lot. Damn, he was still capable of being a sap. Or, perhaps, Miss Spasm was the real deal and he was a kind person. For The Van Man, there was a thin line between being sweet and being a sucker.