Price check. Price check. Aisle eight. Fuck, they’re slow today. Price check. Is anyone there? Priiiiiice check. Here they are. It’s the fucking bible basher from Dairy. Where’s the packer? Probably out the back having a wank. Price check. Heinz baked beans 415 grams.
Sorry mate. We’ve only got one other worker on today and he’s the one with the frontal lobotomy. Just let him out during the day, they do. Do you really want the beans? No. I’d go somewhere else too.
Hey Jesus. Come here will you? Can you spot my register? Yeah I’m going for a piss.
The shitter’s outside and down the stairs. This is some classy supermarket stuck out the back of Woop Woop. The fanciest stuff you get here is your Sara Lee apple pie for $9.95 – fucking rip-off that is. That pie must be out-of-date by now.
Pete’s down by the trolleys checking out some porn on his phone. His hand’s down his pants again. Says he’s got an ingrown hair. Mate, I know a porn scratch when I see one.
Pete, you paedo. Come here. He pulls his hand out like it’s hit a hot-plate and saunters over. He’s got his grey hoodie pulled up over his head and his pants are hanging off his arse.
I hold the door of the disabled dunny open. Pete’s not disabled but there’s not much up top. It’s hard to get a word out of him. I lock the door. Pull it out will you?
He pulls it out. That’s what I like about Pete. He does as he’s told. It’s huge. Cheech and Chong size – almost. I light it up and suck back hard. Another long toke and then I hand it to Pete. Fuck, this is good stuff.
Bang. Bang. Someone wants to come in. Fucking put it out, I mouth to Pete. I pull the deodorant out of my bag and start spraying like it’s a can of Aerogard and we’re in the tropics. I hold my finger to my mouth. Ssh.
Whaddya want? I call. A leak, comes a deep voice. I let out a deep breath. I thought it was the cops or something. Sorry mate, I’m gonna be a while. I gasp for air in the stench of Midnight Musk. I take the joint off Pete and light it up again. See ya tonight, I say, as I blow smoke into his face and then slip out the door. I spray some more deodorant over my uniform, my arms and on the top of my head and then pull out a chewy and head back to Alcatraz.
There’s Jesus standing at the register, straight as a post. Who stands like that? I laugh and he turns around. Hey Jesus. Won’t be long. I run down to Dairy. Margarine. Butter. Cheese. Babybels. No one’s here and there’s no cameras in this tight-ass supermarket. I rip open the netting and the red wax cover of the round little cheese and shove it whole into my mouth. Creamy cold gloop. God it tastes like heaven. I shove four more down. Fucking bitch customer comes around the aisle. I leave the Babybels. I’m still starving. I pass the freezer section and there it is. The fucking Sara Lee apple pie. I can taste the apple. Sweet and gooey. I’m salivating. Out it comes. I rip open the side of the cardboard and stick my hand in to pull the goddess out of its covering. I’ll just have a bit. I stick the frozen pie into my mouth and put the box back in the freezer, turning the ripped bit to the back. I’ve swallowed a fucking iceberg.
I hear Jesus’s voice on the microphone. Sherri Bung come to the register please. What a wanker. I head back pulling a packet of chips off the shelf. Salt. Crunch. Fingers. Lick. Suck. What are you staring at Jesus? So my whole fist is almost down my mouth but fuck that salt’s amazing.
You wanna go out with me?
To fucking church? I bend over almost farting out the laughter. Yeah. Yeah why not? I wonder what sort of bread and wine they have there. I think they do supper as well. At least I’ll get fed, unlike at home.
I stuff a few more chips in my mouth. It’s 5 pm. Hurry up electronic doors. The one thing the tight-arse owner spent money on. Electric doors that open and close all day long.
Here he is now. He always comes in to lock up and take the money. Does nothing else, the fat pig, lives up to his name, a right piggy bank.
Pete and I go over to his house. I invite him to church cos he needs a bit of saving, what with his ingrown hair and everything. He likes the idea of church. He wants to get his cat blessed. I have no idea why. He’s mumbling about some movie, a priest, a cat and a pirate ship. I told you he has a problem. I go along with it because he has dope. We walk to his house, a red brick number with an overgrown garden where this scrawny little white thing is sitting at the front door. She meows like a banshee. Pete scoops her up. He wants me to put her in my handbag. I like this idea. Makes me look a bit la-de-da. I can walk into church like Paris Hilton. Okay, she has a dog, and they’re like fashionable and everything, but a dog and a cat are pretty much the same thing. I have blonde hair too. Mine’s actually real. Well, not the colour, but I’ve got no hair extensions.
The cat’s called Thing. Pete, Thing and I go to the park. It’s not far from the church. The backyards of houses up here are pretty much parks, they’re so big. We don’t have a backyard. We live in the only unit block around. I’m not going back there to get changed. Mum’ll be totally pissed by now, if she’s home.
Pete pulls out another reefer. We smoke it on the swings. We laugh. We blow smoke in the cat’s face. I’m all for treating animals like people. They like a bit of fun too. The cat stops meowing and just stares with her red eyes looking out of my handbag. We swing back and forth, talking about our fat boss and then I remember the apple pie. I want to tell Pete. It’s so funny but Pete’s simple. He’ll tell the fat pig. He won’t mean to, but he will. I won’t tell Pete about the pie.
What time’s church? asks Pete. I look at my watch. Fuck, it’s already seven pm. We laugh at this. I pick up Thing and the handbag and we walk in a zombie daze, marvelling at the streetlights.
Jesus is waiting for us at the front of the church. His hair’s slicked back with Fructis Style Surf Hair Styling Paste at $7.46. It’s the only brand we sell. I can smell its frangipani essence from here. He’s looking back and forth, tapping his foot. Mate calm down. It’s like 7:30. We’re hardly going to miss the food. They always have it at the end.
He sees us stumbling up the stairs. What’s that in your bag? he says. Is it alive? Course it is, I say. I’m not walking around with a corpse in my bag. What do you think I am, a necro or something?
Pete’s giggling. So am I. You can’t bring it in, Jesus says. Like who are you to tell me? Jesus? That was it. We totally cracked up. I even pissed a bit in my pants.
You can’t bring that thing into church. How d’you know its name? I say. Pete and I look at each other and laugh again. Animals don’t have souls. Just leave it outside. You can get it later.
Nah. It’s coming in. How do you know animals don’t have souls anyway? I ask as we walk past him.
Pete and I walk up the front. Some guy in a T-shirt and jeans is reading something out. He doesn’t look like a priest.
We sit in the front row. Jesus sits behind us. You can’t sit there, he whispers. I just ignore him.
Welcome to our newcomers, says the guy in his ‘Voice’ T-shirt. Hey mate, I say. We’re close to him and he welcomed us, so it seemed fine to ask him the big question. Do you think you could bless our Thing tonight?
The guy holds his smile. I’ll talk to you about it after. I elbow Pete and smile and then turn around to Jesus and stick my tongue out.
We sing some songs. The plate comes around. I’m tempted to grab some money out of it because that way it can go straight to charity without all the admin fees. It passes too quickly before I can help them with their distribution. Then, finally, food.
It’s like a birthday party. There are four plates of cakes: chocolate cupcakes, some healthy-looking thing without icing, chocolate brownies and lemon slice. There are sandwiches, cheese, biscuits, chicken wings and sausage rolls. They should bloody advertise this to the homeless. I’m sure their services would be packed if people knew about the supper. Man, I am definitely coming back.
Pete and I feast and so does Thing. We peel some chicken off the bone. She loves that. We sneak some ham out of the sandwiches and then put them to the back so no one will notice. That’s her favourite, the ham. After we eat, I stick two cupcakes in my pocket and we head out.
Jesus ignores us at supper but comes up to us after we walk out. What the hell do you think you’re doing? he asks. This doesn’t sound like the Jesus I know. Must’ve had a bit too much of that red wine.
He’s clenching his fists and his teeth. I actually think he’s going to hit me. Instead he does something way worse. He grabs Thing out of the bag and throws her on the ground. Then he kicks her.
Pete screams. Get out of here you prick, I shout.
Pete and I run to Thing and pick her up. She has blood on her face. She’s quiet. Maybe it’s the drugs. I listen to her chest. She’s breathing. Pete gathers her up into his arms. We run back inside the supper hall. There’s only a few people there. We try to go up to them to ask for a lift but they just walk past us talking to each other, as if we aren’t there.
I try to find the guy who was doing the reading. We go back into the church but there’s no one. I’m thinking Thing really needs blessing as she may not be around much longer.
Pete and I go back outside. We’ll hitch a lift, I say and I stick my finger out. A ute pulls up. We don’t know the guy but he says he’s local. Looks like a surfer with his sun streaked hair and tan. We tell him all about Thing. He knows where there’s a twenty-four-hour vet. It’s not far.
We tell the guy about the supper at the church. You think that’s good, he says, check out the Catholics next week. They have chocolate crackles.
Oh God. Chocolate crackles. I’ve always wanted a birthday party with chocolate crackles. It’s called mass, he says. It’s different to this church. Aren’t the priests paedos? I ask. Nah not here. There’s been paedos of course but out here, don’t think you’d get away with it. Too many men with guns.
We wait at the vet’s. Pete’s in tears. Little Thing hasn’t meowed. I tell Pete about the apple pie. I know I shouldn’t but I have to cheer him up.
We get in to see the vet. He’s really nice. He looks like the one from the TV but he’s not. I know because I ask him. His name is Josh and he smiles and picks Thing up gently, patting her and talking to her. He asks us what happened. I tell him. Pete’s too upset. Josh listens to Thing’s heart with his stethoscope. Then he looks into her eyes and prods his fingers softly around her body.
He looks at me hard like he’s summing me up and then turns to Pete. I’ve got some bad news. Thing’s not in a good way. The kindest thing to do is to put her down.
Pete’s sobbing hysterically now. I put my arm around him. I don’t know what to say. You have to pull yourself together Pete, for Thing, says Josh. We’re lucky we can do this for animals. They don’t have to suffer. She’s a pretty little thing. She’s had a great life with you, I can tell.
We have to be strong, I say to Pete. We’ll hold her paw, one each while Josh does it. She can’t see we’re upset.
Tears and snot are all over his face. Tissues are over there, says Josh. He puts Thing on a pillow and we each hold a paw and give her pats. The needle goes in. Thing won’t feel a thing, says Josh. He looks distressed too. He could definitely be on TV.
We say we’ll take Thing and bury her. The receptionist is packing up. Her shift’s over. She offers us a lift. We’d really like to go to the Catholic Church. Do you know where it is? I ask her.
We can bury her at the church I tell Pete. She’ll definitely go to heaven then. We get dropped off at Our Lady of something weird and go through the gate. The path is dark but there’s a figure in white in the garden up ahead. I look closer. It’s a priest. I know he’s a priest because of his robes. There’s a ginger cat purring into his legs. He stoops to pat it.
Hi, I say. I tell him what happened. His name is Father Roland. He has an accent. His hair is dark and his skin is tanned and when he smiles his eyes crinkle at the sides.
You can’t bury Thing here in the church ground, he says, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll bless Thing and then you can bury her in my backyard.
Pete’s holding Thing. He strokes her body when Father Roland says this. He’s not smiling but I think this makes him happier.
Pete digs a hole in Father Roland’s yard. It’s next to the church. Father Roland has got some holy water in a little flask. When the hole is deep enough Pete places little Thing in there.
Father Roland chants:
O God, as we have taken care of Thing in life, we ask that you watch over her in death. You entrusted Thing to our care; now, we give her back to you. May Thing find a happy new home in your loving embrace. Amen.
He does the sign of the cross over Thing and sprinkles some water on her. Pete seals up the grave with the dirt and tears. I pick a small branch with leaves from a tree and lay it at the top of the grave.
We’ll go and light a candle for her now, says Father Roland. Inside the darkened church, I see Pete smile as Father Roland lets him light the candle. We bow our heads in silence until Father Roland leads us outside again. I ask him about the chocolate crackles. Yes. We have chocolate crackles but you know my favourite is Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. I didn’t know what the hell that was and I was too scared to say. It was hard enough not swearing in front of Father Roland but whatever it was, it sounded fucking amazing.
That Father Roland’s a great bloke. Pete and I are definitely going back for the chocolate crackles and Lolly Gobble Bliss whatever next week. He had a talk to us about going to heaven and how telling the truth was really important if you wanted to end up there. I’ve decided to tell Fat Pig about the apple pie but I’m also telling him about James. I’m never calling him Jesus again. Jesus would never kill a cat.
Fat Pig’s not happy about the apple pie. He’s taking it out of my pay. I’ve got a warning never to do that again. I’m telling you I won’t. It was like having a friggin iceberg stuck in my throat. He’s livid when I tell him about James. Fat Pig has two cats. One of them was about to get neutered but the vet said she was pregnant. Fat Pig’s promised Pete his choice of the litter. I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing James again. Fat Pig just put a sign in the window. It reads, Casual wanted – Sundays. I hope the newbie likes chocolate crackles and I’m sure as hell they’ll have to like cats.