Disney, Hollywood and a Russian - Jerome Teelucksingh - E-Book

Disney, Hollywood and a Russian E-Book

Jerome Teelucksingh

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Beschreibung

This novel is set in the Caribbean and United States. The characters are eccentric, unique and amusing. This fiction also deals with serious issues- the abuse of prescription medicine, illegal immigrants, inaccurate medical diagnosis and obesity.  There is also a focus on the noteworthy contributions and presence of Caribbean migrants in such states as Florida and New York. Their culture eventually becomes part of the society. 

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Jerome Teelucksingh

Disney, Hollywood and a Russian

BookRix GmbH & Co. KG80331 Munich

Receiving treatment

Chapter 1

 Receiving treatment

 

Jose Pico was a Guatemalan who wanted to be a novelist. He was an illegal resident in the United States. Two years ago he had written a novel but it was rejected by royalty-paying and self-publishing presses. This made him depressed and he began to hate the United States. He felt that if he had remained in Guatemala his work would have been appreciated and published in Spanish.

 

He regularly visited bookstores and spent hours browsing the new titles. He entered Chapters and began checking a shelf with non-fiction books. At the back of the store was a table with cheap books. The books were not arranged neatly on the table. He glanced at the books. These were publications that once stood on shelves gathering dust. The table was the graveyard for unsold and boring books. He read the front covers which had appealing pictures and words. The words would include- ‘by an international best-selling author’, ‘#1 New York Times Bestseller’, ‘International Bestseller’, ‘1 million copies in print’, ‘Now a major motion picture’ and ‘over 2 million copies sold.’ Self-help books had appealing words in their titles as ‘Power’, ‘Greatest’, ‘Best’, ‘Success’, ‘Leader’, ‘Rich’ and ‘How to….’ These words were clichés and the books would be purchased by gullible persons. Sometimes there would be a round sticker on the front cover with the words- ‘Winner of the Nobel Prize’, ‘National Book Award’, or ‘Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.’ On the back cover would be the usual praises from newspapers, obscure institutions and friends of the author. Fame and glory are only temporary. These unsold books would eventually be thrown into the garbage as space was needed for newer and more relevant publications. The bestselling authors never knew the fate of their books that would eventually be thrown into the expanding dustbin of Literature and forever be forgotten.

           

‘So how long have these books been on dis table?’ asked Jose.

           

The owner had a bored look. ‘The last owner had them there. Every two months I would add a few more. This is done to get more room for new titles.’ He regretted having books that were not being purchased. He wanted a fast turnover.

           

‘Do many people buy these books?’

           

‘Only a few persons who feel they are getting a bargain by buying cheap books with outdated ideas and irrelevant messages. Even if I offer these books for free, people would not take them,’ said the owner, ‘the problem is that too many people writing.’

           

‘Why do you feel people want to buy books that they would not read or enjoy?’ Jose had begun to feel like a news reporter who was conducting an interview.

           

‘Buying a book sometimes give the feeling of power. People want others to see them leaving a bookstore with a purchase. It says something about you. On the subway and train, people are listening to audio books or reading e-books. Having knowledge and desiring knowledge are still important for some people. They might not be able to understand what they read or effectively use that knowledge to help others. Despite this they still want to have the book.’

           

‘I realize that some people read self-help books but these books don’t help them. They really need medical or professional help.’

           

The owner smiled. ‘It’s true. They read but do not absorb the essential words and miss the arguments and advice of the author. It’s part of our changing culture. We expect to quickly find answers. We don’t have the luxury of casually reading a book. Everything is rushed. Some people only want a free book as a gift or if they borrow it. They cheap and hate buying books.’

           

Jose saw a clock near the store’s window. It was 1.10 pm. He had to return to work. He worked as a clerk at the counter of Continental Airlines at Terminal E of the George Bush International Airport in Texas. His job was to ensure the weight of each piece of luggage did not exceed the maximum limit. It was a monotonous job and lacked excitement. He felt it would have been more exciting to rummage through selected suitcases checking for contraband items.

 

Whilst at work various questions often crossed his mind- How would he be remembered after his death? Would he make any worthwhile contribution to society? He did not feel that his talents and experience were being fully utilized. He often felt suicidal or had the urge to kill someone.

           

Mabel, Jose’s wife, was an Indo-Trinidadian who earned a postgraduate degree after completion of an online course in Psychiatry offered by Extra Academic University. It was an unaccredited institution. She had a Texan accent and suffered from shingles. She diagnosed him as being bipolar. ‘Jose you are bipolar but don’t be worried, I recently read that a few Hollywood stars are bipolar. It’s the latest trend.’

           

‘But I want to be normal like the rest of society.’

           

Mabel was serious. ‘The rest of society got their problems and we don’t know. It’s okay to be unique and different. Who knows maybe by being different you could be a trendsetter or something like that.’ He was satisfied with that answer.

 

Next day, Jose met his friend, Vladimir, who was a bathroom attendant for the toilets near Gate 30. Vladimir informed everyone that he was an illegal immigrant from Russia who arrived in the United States in 1992. He had a driver’s license and government-issued identification card. His job was to ensure that toilets were flushed, liquid soap containers were refilled, mirrors wiped and the floors mopped. He had two children, a daughter from his previous marriage and a stepson. He was diagnosed by a psychologist and psychiatrist as being a paranoid schizophrenic and suffering from depression. For the past three years he took two tablets on a daily basis to prevent mood swings and delusions. This effort to restore his sanity was only temporary.

 

Jose and Vladimir would usually chat during their lunch breaks. They would buy snacks at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and sometimes had tea or coffee at Nestle Toll House Café and Gloria Jean’s Coffees. For many immigrants, United States was a country where they could find a job and food was plentiful and cheap.

           

In Terminal C one of the bathroom attendants was absent because she had to undergo surgery. The supervisor asked Vladimir to fill the temporary position which was near Gate 32. For three months he worked in this new location. On mornings he would pass near the President’s Club of Continental Airlines. He longed to enter the room to use the facilities. During his morning break he would buy a copy of USA Today from CNBC News. He was always interested in reading the international news section. Sometimes he purchased a chocolate bar or nuts for his children.

           

During lunch-time, Vladimir ate tuna, beef, chicken or cheese sandwiches. These were prepared at home and would also be the lunches for his children, Nikita who was nine years and Ali who was twelve years old. Occasionally, he would buy lunch at the Urban Crave which boasted of selling authentic street cuisine. His favorites were braised tacos, classic burgers and chop chop salad.

           

During his cleaning routine, Vladimir pulled a small, yellow barrel on wheels. This barrel had mops, brooms, rags, toilet paper, liquid soap, floor deodorizer, aerosol sprays and toilet brushes. The barrel also had a small, portable yellow sign- Wet Floor. This sign would be placed on sections of the floor that were mopped. He would tell his children of incidents that he witnessed. This included stories of passengers who forgot their luggage or wristwatches in the toilet, passengers who would be reading in the toilet and who left with pieces of toilet paper stuck to their shoes. ‘Today there was a man from India who forgot his yellow turban in the toilet.’

           

Nikita laughed and doubted the authenticity of the incident. ‘You told us that already, two weeks ago.’

 

‘No, no, no. That was an Indian man who left his suitcase behind the toilet bowl.’  

 

Ali smiled. ‘Daddy we don’t believe you.’ Their father left the room and soon returned with the yellow turban which he found in the airport’s toilet. Both children had shocked expressions.

 

Vladimir’s wife, Sumintra Benn, was a Guyanese. She was employed as a maid at the Marriott and her job was to clean the guest rooms. Every morning, she was given a list of rooms that needed cleaning. She was short, fat and dark-skinned. She was a graduate of the University of Guyana. Her ex-husband was a Trinidadian and they had one son- Ali. She won custody of her ten year old son and they departed for the United States in 1999.

 

She desperately wanted citizenship and was a fugitive from the Department of Homeland Security. She was willing to buy a fake green card and be part of a sham marriage scheme. She contacted the Very Professional Services Preparers for legal and financial assistance. However, the fee of US$8,000 was beyond her reach. She became optimistic when she received a letter in the mail. It was from Publishers Clearing House informing her that she could win US$50,000 weekly for the rest of her life. She began to daydream of the clothes and electronic items she would buy at Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales.

 

She met her future husband, at the airport, during one of her visits to Guyana. She had mistakenly entered the men’s washroom and he smiled and told her it was the wrong place. The short conversation resulted in the exchange of telephone numbers and emails. She married him believing that she would become a U.S citizen. However, Vladimir lied about his resident status so she would marry him.

           

During work she collected newspapers from the tables and bins. She neatly folded each one and placed them in a green plastic bag. ‘This is for recycling, I’m trying to save the environment.’ Other maids did not seem to care about her efforts.

 

Her boss was impressed. ‘I’m very glad to see that you are concerned with saving the environment.’

  

Sumintra was not concerned about the environment. She collected newspapers and circulars for the coupons. During the nights and weekends she would force her children to cut coupons for discounts from nearby stores. She often stole flyers from the postboxes in her neighborhood and other communities. During the nights she encouraged her husband to assist with the clipping of coupons. He would begin cutting and after fifteen minutes would complain he was bored and wanted to sleep or watch television.

 

Jose needed professional treatment from a psychiatrist. However he could not afford the high fees for treatment and costs of medication. Additionally, he was an illegal immigrant and could not access health care benefits. ‘Sometimes I am happy and then suddenly I feel sad and suicidal. I do not know about these feelings.’

 

Vladimir nodded. He felt he understood this mental state. ‘You could be paranoid schizophrenic like me. I am using some tablets and could give you some until you are cured.’ He looked over his shoulder and saw a man watching him. 

 

Jose was overjoyed. ‘I will be glad to use it, once it is not illegal like cocaine or meth because that will get me in jail.’

 

Vladimir laughed. It appeared as a confident laugh but he was afraid. ‘No, of course it is not illegal. These were prescribed by my pharmacist. Also you need to watch cartoons and the Comedy Channel. Learn to love life and laugh more.’ He paused and had a serious expression. ‘Listen, don’t turn around quickly but I believe the man seated near Terminal 3 is a U.S. agent who has been hunting me down for two years.’

 

Jose checked but there was nobody who fitted the description. ‘Are you sure?’

 

‘Look at the man in the blue suit and sunglasses.’

 

‘Yes I see him.’

 

Vladimir began to panic. ‘I believe he is after me because he thinks I am a Russian spy. I have seen similar scenes on the television series- Person of Interest. I have read about this in newspapers as the Weekly World News. All this is true like stories on the existence of UFOs, conspiracy theories, abduction by extraterrestrials or that Elvis Presley is still alive. You have to see the movie Conspiracy Theory. These things make me suffer from paranoia and hysteria…I cannot trust anybody.’

 

Jose raised his eyebrows and began to sweat. ‘Okay calm down. Have you been taking Prozac, Zoloft, Chantix or Ambien?’

 

‘Those sound familiar but I’m not sure of the names for these. Look, it’s some green, blue and yellow tablets. One of these is some sort of anti-anxiety tablet and the others are antidepressants.’ He slapped his chest and tapped his head. ‘It is supposed to make me normal. Look I’m healthy, ordinary and normal.’ He had a confused and frightened expression.

 

‘Look the man in the blue suit has boarded a flight!’ said a relieved Jose.

 

Vladimir was still convinced the man was a government agent. ‘He will be back. I’ve seen a scene just like this in the movies- Enemy of the State and The 6th Day. It’s a ploy to allow me to believe nobody is following me.’ He became worried and glanced over his shoulder.

 

Jose bid him farewell and told him to go home and relax.

 

The next day Vladimir gave fourteen tablets to Jose. ‘This will last you for two weeks and then I will give you some more.’

 

After five days, Vladimir and Jose met during their lunch-time. Jose was upbeat and positive, ‘These tablets are amazing. I’m sleeping good, have a lot of energy and excited to come to work. Mabel would be arguing with me and this no longer bothers me. The children will be shouting and fighting and I am calm.’

 

Vladimir recalled one of the advertisements on cable television and decided to warn him. ‘These tablets are not for everyone. Talk to your doctor if you have high fever, confusion, high blood pressure, seizure, blurred vision, shortness of breath, bleeding gums, trouble swallowing, impaired judgment and dizziness.’  

 

‘Yeah okay.’ It was not the advice Jose expected.  

 

In the evening, Vladimir said goodbye to Jose and his friends. This was his last day at work. Next week he would begin a new job at the JFK Airport in New York. He and his family would be renting a three bedroom apartment on the sixth floor.

 

New York was hectic but Vladimir soon got accustomed.  The apartment had a small porch. He opened the sliding door and stepped into the porch. He felt the evening wind blow through his hair. The pet hamster moved in its cage. It was hungry.

 

Sumintra was seated on the kitchen floor cutting coupons. She regularly boasted that she saved hundreds of dollars every month at the grocery. She had a scab on her left arm. This was due to a cut from broken glass which she received whilst digging in a dumpster searching for old newspapers. She asked neighbors and relatives for their old newspapers. Every morning before Vladimir departed for work she reminded him to check tables and seats for unwanted newspapers.

 

Each room in the apartment was slowly transformed into storage areas for products bought with coupons and food stamps. There were 608 tins of Campbell’s Chicken Soup under the four beds, the kitchen had 407 Gillette razors, 495 tins of sardines, 125 packs of Chips Ahoy cookies, 120 packs of diapers, 202 boxes of Pop-Tarts, 986 bars of Cadbury chocolates and 179 packs of Viva paper towels. In the kitchen were two refrigerators with 16 containers of expired milk, 21 packs of hot dogs, 15 frozen pizzas, 43 small bottles of orange juice, 119 packs of drumsticks and thighs, 117 packs of hamburger patties, 14 containers of eggs, 79 slices of cheese and 29 packs of strawberries.

 

In the living room there were 189 bars of soap, 140 bottles of Kraft Salad Dressing, 435 packs of Orbit Gum, 367 bottles of Shout, 789 boxes of Tylenol, 206 boxes of Cracker Jack, a loaf of bread, 217 bottles of ketchup, 274 bottles of shampoo and 152 packs of dental floss. These food items were behind the television, scattered on the ground and under the two couches. The bathroom had 323 packs of carrots, 248 packs of macaroni, 118 bottles of dishwashing liquid, 123 bags of rice and 610 glass bottles of seasoning. The porch had 602 cans of Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Sprite and Coca-Cola. The family enjoyed these soft drinks. Also in the porch were 434 Oral-B toothbrushes, 346 bottles of mayonnaise, 262 packs of Voortum Cookies, 122 cans of Lady Speed Stick deodorant, 108 combs, 853 rolls of toilet paper, 98 large bags of Purina dog chow and 786 cans of Friskies Dry Cat Food.

 

Sumintra felt that she could be more effective in cutting her monthly household budget. She read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, attended seminars and watched motivational videos. She carefully placed coupons in separate, labeled folders. After cutting coupons, she would give the newspapers to Jose who enjoyed reading the outdated news.

 

One Friday evening, she spent six hours buying five items in The Food Emporium located on 49th Street and 8th Avenue. She slowly read labels of products, compared in-store deals and double-checked prices. She also spent considerable time seeking advice from aisle attendants and other shoppers. She placed a 12-pack of beer and two packs of salmon fillet in her cart. She was hungry and wanted to buy a muffin but decided it was not economical because she did not have a coupon for a discount. Ten minutes later she decided the salmon was too expensive and returned both packs to the frozen food section. She placed two bags of dog food in her cart and moved to the next aisle. She stopped and checked her coupons and took eight bottles of Beech Nut Baby Food, two packs of baby diapers, two bags of Purina Puppy Chow, seventeen cans of Friskies Dry Cat Food and two bags of Hartz Cat Litter. She stared at a bottle of 7-Up and remembered that last week she had purchased three soft drinks. After twenty minutes of indecision she finally decided to get the bottle of 7-Up. She hurried to the shelf, grabbed the bottle and headed for a cashier. She opened her purse and gave him coupons, food stamps, and the Bonus Savings Club card.

 

‘Good evening marm.’ The cashier smiled and glanced at the items in the cart. ‘So how are your pets and babies?’ He swiped the card and returned it to her.

 

‘Oh, the babies and dogs and cats are fine. Just buying the usual food for them.’

 

‘You must enter them in our Pet Contest next month.’

 

She nodded. She had coupons to get fifty cents off Blue Diamond Almonds, one dollar off Sun-Maid Raisins and sixty cents off each bottle of Comet.

 

He checked the coupons and food stamps and passed a hand-held electronic device over the bar codes. The machine beeped and the cashier smiled.

 

‘That will be $9.74 marm.’

 

She expected a lower price and reluctantly gave him ten dollars. She waited for the change and receipt. Before entering the subway station she counted the coins to ensure the cashier did not make an error. After exiting the station she purchased a chicken sandwich at a deli. She complained that the sandwich was too expensive. The food attendant smiled but did not reply. When she returned home she quietly entered the kitchen and hurriedly ate the sandwich. This was a common trait because she did not want to share food with other family members.

 

Next day, Vladimir was in the kitchen. He had a bowl and container of milk on the table. He opened and closed cupboards. ‘Dear do we have any cornflakes or Quaker Oats?’

 

She was using a hairdryer and did not hear him. He banged on the door and repeated the question.

 

‘Not sure. Check in de porch or living room.’

 

He cursed and slowly headed for the living room. He checked under the couches, behind the television and then went to the porch. He moved the food items hoping to find cornflakes or oats. ‘No I’m not seeing any. Did you buy any Trix, Total, Frosted Flakes, Sugar Crisp or Cheerios recently?’ He remembered the cornflakes that he ate when he was younger- Sugar Smacks, Ranger Joe, Cocoa Puffs, Fruit Loops and Sugar Pops.

 

She shouted, ‘Check in the bathroom for a box of Wheaties, Rice Krispies, Banana Nut Crunch, Corn Pops, Cap’n Crunch, Special K. If you don’t find any, try some Cracker Jack. I think I bought some last week at Walmart.’ 

 

He then decided on a tuna sandwich. He liked Starkist Solid White Tuna in oil. However, he realized there was no tuna. He went to the porch and saw two large bags of Kibbles n’Bits and three bags of Purina Pro Plan and Beneful. He reluctantly opened one of the bags of dog food. He took two handfuls, smelled it and then carefully placed it in a bowl with milk. He slowly stirred it with a spoon. His arm was trembling as he placed a spoonful in his mouth and began chewing. He felt nauseous and swallowed. He suddenly realized the taste was agreeable and had another spoonful of dog food and milk. It was crunchy and reminded him of cornflakes. He also enjoyed the dog snacks- Meaty Bone and Scooby Snacks.

 

During the next month, for breakfast, he would have dog food and milk. His friends felt his hair looked glossy and shiny. And, he no longer suffered from constipation. He read the ingredients of Purina Beneful and saw it had ‘real beef and wholesome grains’ and Purina Pro Plan had ‘wholesome rice and high levels of antioxidants.’ He felt this was nutritious and quietly encouraged his two children to eat the dog food and dog snacks. It seemed to have a positive effect on Ali who no longer needed Ritalin. Both kids also took special vitamins- Lil Critters Gummy Vites.

 

One evening, Vladimir agreed to prepare dinner. He boiled pasta and opened a can of mixed vegetables. He searched for tinned tuna or salmon but realized there was none in the apartment. He was frustrated and annoyed and wanted to dump the pasta. He saw two tins of Friskies and a bag of Catnip. He read the ingredients and shook his head. Friskies had thirty vitamins and minerals and was supposed to have ‘high quality protein for growing muscles.’ It seemed healthier than the sausages which he enjoyed. After twenty minutes he decided to open two tins of cat food and added it to the pasta.

 

‘Nikki come and set the table.’

 

Nikita entered the kitchen and opened packages of plastic spoons, paper cups and plates. To avoid the task of buying and washing dishes and cutlery, her lazy mother bought disposable cups, plates and spoons.  

 

The entire family enjoyed the meal. Sumintra licked her lips. ‘This is a great meal. One of the best you ever made!’

 

‘Yes dad, it tastes like you added some exotic spice,’ said Nikita.

 

Ali added, ‘Yes, compliments to the chef! Daddy you are a great cook.’

 

Vladimir smiled but was angry that the apartment was stocked with items that they did not need. He sternly said to his wife, ‘Listen, I said it before but you need to buy food and items we need. Look how much dog food, baby food and cat food we have!’

 

‘What wrong with dat?’ asked Sumintra. 

 

‘We don’t have a cat or dog! We have no pets! And we don’t have any babies!’

 

This did not bother her. ‘But we can buy a cat and a dog. I suppose we can adopt a baby.’

 

‘Adopt a baby? Honey you cannot even care for the children we have and you want to adopt! Look last week the hamster almost died of starvation,’ her husband continued, ‘cut down on the time you spend on cutting coupons and help with the children’s homework. Go and pay some of the bills. Look AT&T disconnected us because we did not pay.’ He stared at the two tattoos on her arm- a rose and her name. He never understood why persons would want to have their names tattooed on themselves.

 

‘Mummy, listen to daddy he is right,’ said Nikita, ‘look we have no fabric softener, ketchup, salt and foil paper. The cable bill has been unpaid for four months.’

 

Vladimir continued, ‘And you need to slow down on buying. I usually get sick from drinking milk that is expired. Use those food stamps wisely. And I feel claustrophobic amidst all this food lying around the rooms. The eggs are discolored and look as if they are ready for hatching.’

 

Sumintra smiled and casually dismissed their concerns, ‘You always making jokes about stale or spoilt food. Okay I will make some changes around here and will monitor the use of the food stamps. Let’s enjoy this delicious meal and give thanks that we have food. Think of all the starving, poor, skinny children in Africa and India who cannot get a decent meal like this.’ She continued eating and avoided eye contact with her children and husband. The rest of the family remained quiet. They doubted that positive changes would occur.

 

Next morning, Vladimir began making sandwiches for lunch. The sandwiches comprised mayonnaise, chopped celery, garlic and cat food. He found these sandwiches were tastier than the hot dogs and cheese sandwiches.  For dessert he would have a small bottle of Gerber’s baby food. A routine annual blood test revealed reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure. This made him believe that the cat, baby and dog foods were responsible for his improved health. He did not mention this to his wife because he felt she would buy more of these foods. On Fridays, he shared the cat food sandwiches with Jose.

 

Cockroaches and rats began attacking some of the foodstuffs that were stored in the apartment. Sumintra decided to use some of the coupons to buy bug sprays, rat bait and cockroach traps. She also gave some of the traps to Jose who also had problems with cockroaches.

 

She visited Food Plus supermarket in Queens. It had West Indian foods and she bought a container of aloe juice. She laughed when she saw a carton of goat milk and a can with callaloo. She was accustomed obtaining fresh goat’s milk and callaloo in the Caribbean. Two shelves were lined with different varieties of pepper sauce. She chose Red Rooster hot sauce. There were trays with mangoes and each one had a small sticker that said- ‘Hecho en Mexico.’ Nearby trays had bananas from Yucatan and the avocadoes were from Guatemala. She did not buy these fruits because she felt the prices were too high. She rarely went to West Indian supermarkets because there were few discounts and no coupons for the items she wanted.

 

The cashiers at Food Emporium were accustomed to her antics and her thick folders with coupons. Trips to the grocery needed careful planning and were tiring but she felt victorious. She felt more of her time should be devoted to couponing. During the subway ride to her home, she always considered resigning from her job and spending more time collecting newspapers, cutting coupons and shopping.

 

She frequently discussed the idea with her husband but he did not approve. His replies were usually consistent. ‘Why? We have enough groceries to last us for two years! We don’t need any more food items. We need two salaries to help pay the rent.’

 

She shook her head. ‘My job is boring and I receive little pay. It would be better for our budget if I stay home and focus more on cutting coupons. We have to be more economical.’ She pointed to a 6-pack of Cottonelle Double Roll Bath Tissue. ‘I got those for fifty cents and this was because I had my coupons. But I could have gotten six of these paper towels for FREE if I had more coupons. I got one dollar off the salad dressing but could have gotten a discount of four dollars if I had more coupons. I wanted to buy canned vegetables and canned tomatoes but I had no coupons.’

 

He realized that she would not change her mind. ‘Okay, go ahead and do what you feel is best.’

 

That evening she submitted her resignation letter. She stopped to buy ten Powerball lottery tickets. She saw homeless persons on the sidewalk sleeping on old newspapers. Some of the homeless persons used newspapers to stuff their clothes to keep warm during the nights. She desperately wanted the coupons from these papers. She patiently waited for three hours until they fell asleep and then stole their newspapers. 

 

She entered a small ethnic grocery. At the back was a shelf which had soft and damaged fruits and vegetables, expired drinks and stale pastries. She checked the price of the package with three rotten kiwis. It was sixty cents. She smiled and felt this was a great deal. She carefully placed two packs in her cart and then selected a soft cantaloupe, two packages of bruised strawberries and deformed blueberries and three sickly-looking apples with scrapes and black spots. Packs of black carrots, damaged pears and soft peppers also went into her cart. Her final selections were stale Kaiser dinner rolls and expired yogurt. Every night she would check websites such as couponsuzy.com to check the latest discounts and then she would use a calculator to check that her receipts from the grocery were accurate.

 

She wanted to eliminate money being spent on cologne, mouthwash and deodorants because she felt these items were too expensive. That evening, during evening she had a frank discussion with her husband and children, ‘Instead of using deodorants and colognes, it would be more economical if we spray our bodies or clothes with air freshener.’

 

Vladimir stopped eating and began to laugh. ‘You joking, right? You not serious? We now living worse than rednecks.’

 

‘But mummy nobody else does do that,’ said Ali, ‘even poor people does use deodorant. Why we cannot use it?’

 

She had a stern look, ‘Ali stop being rude. Only geniuses like myself are able to think of these ideas to cut costs. We have to save money, I want to carry the children to Disneyland. The air fresheners have a nice smell.’ She briefly left the room and returned with two bottles of Febreze. ‘Look I am able to get these two bottles for less than five dollars because of my coupons.’ Ali was sad. He ran to the living room and sat on the couch. His sister was watching his favorite show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  

 

Next day Nikita returned home and proudly said, ‘Mummy, my friends at school saying I smelling like fresh flowers.’

 

‘See I told you it would be nice, you remind them of Spring,’ said Sumintra. She opened a bottle of Mr. Clean and sniffed it. ‘Hmmm what a nice lavender scent.’ She poured some in a bucket of water and began to mop. ‘I’m also going to cut down on the money we spend on desserts. No more money on chocolates, ice-cream and cake. These are also not healthy, too much sugar and saturated fats.’

 

‘What will we have?’ asked Nikita.

 

‘I’ve noticed that snacks for dogs are cheaper. We are going to start eating Dingo Roos, Munchy Stix and Smokehouse Lamb bone, knee bone and rib bone.’ Sumintra stopped mopping. ‘The water bill is too high. We need to cut down on flushing the toilet and washing wares. I think we should forever use disposable plates.’

 

Nikita and Ali grimaced. Vladimir smiled. ‘So how will we reduce flushing toilets?’ He knew this madness would never end.

 

‘I am glad you asked. The children will have to pee outside and also will have to bury their shit in the yard.’

 

‘No mummy I don’t want to poop outside like an animal,’ said Nikita.

 

Vladimir wanted to change the topic. ‘So tell me about the beaches in the Caribbean. What time do the beaches close?’

 

Sumintra laughed. ‘Close? Love, beaches don’t close dey open all the time.’