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Madhouse on Aisle 12

I reach for a package of chocolate chip cookies.
"Partially hydrogenated oils," the cookies say. "Palm oil, even. Be quicker if you just stabbed yourself in the heart. Also, we've been sitting here for... gotta be eight months."
I throw the package in my cart and move on to the dairy aisle, grabbing a gallon of two-percent.
"Aren't you a little old for this?" the milk asks. "You really don't have the enzymes anymore. And anyway, you can see I'm in plastic. All those deadly PVC's leeching in. Although... maybe the Bovine Growth Hormone will cancel those out."
I put the gallon back, and reach for the carton of chocolate soymilk.
"I'm not really milk," it whispers, sounding embarrassed. "I'm juice. But who would drink chocolate juice? It even sounds gross to me."
"Nice tits," the chicken breasts leer, as I lean over the meat case. At least I know they're fresh.
"How are you feeling?" the wings ask. "Got a cold or the flu? 'Cause I'm stuffed with antibiotics. Good for what ails ya."
As I move on the ground turkey mutters a warning, "Watch out for the beef. It's mad, totally bonkers."
"We're not mad!" The hamburgers all shout in unison. "Why, we're not even beef!"
"I'm a giraffe," a tenderloin confides.
"I'm the king of Sweden," says a package of short ribs.
"We're baboons!" shouts a T-bone.
"Yes, yes, babooooons!" all the steaks take up the cry. "Hoowwwwwwl!"
"I'm not crazy," says a pound of ground beef, sitting a little away from the rest. "I'm certified organic and cruelty-free. I'm from a cow named Eloise, who romped through sun-kissed fields and ate nothing but fresh clover and sweet grass all her life. When she reached the slaughterhouse a string quintet played "Morning" by Peer Gynt as she walked onto the killing floor to be poleaxed. It was all very tasteful, as am I."
I draw closer.
"I can be yours for a mere twenty dollars a pound," it says.
I walk on.
"What are you doing?" says a pack of bacon. "Get away from me. I'm much too high in sodium, and anyway, nitrates give you cancer."
Cart wheel wobbling, I run the rest of the way down the aisle, the hysterical screams of the hot dogs sharp in my ears.
From a display of canned soup comes a series of timid raps. "Hello? Is someone out there? What year is it? Hello?"
"Che tragedia!" the spaghetti sauce says. "Sono pieno di sciroppo di mais."
"Between the corn syrup in the sauce, and the sugars and over-processed flour in me, it's a quick trip to diabetesville," the boxed rigatoni observes, not unkindly.
There's a political/socioeconomic debate going on in the coffee aisle.
"Think of the workers!" a bag of decaf shouts.
I don't linger, passing straight through to produce.
I reach for a bag of spinach. It's quiet. Too quiet. I pick it up and hold it to my ear.
"Some... sometimes?" it whispers, "at the processing plant? They... they don't always wash their hands."
I put the spinach back. The organic oranges all titter rudely, until a pineapple spoils their fun.
"They're not really organic," it says.
Angry protestations fill the air. A smaller one, covered in brown pockmarks, speaks for the group:
"We are so organic! Look how misshapen and small we are!"
"How much fossil fuel did it take to bring you here from Chile?" the pineapple asks.
The oranges fall silent.
"Of course," the pineapple admits, "given the havoc fruit companies have historically brought to the third world, I may as well be drenched in blood myself."
I look at my cart. So far, just the package of cookies. I put them back on the shelf.
"Wise choice," they say. "It's more like twelve months we've been here. And you really don't want to see the storeroom."
I put the cart back into its place and walk out of the store. At the little bodega on the corner, the bins of apples and pears whistle and jeer as I pass.
My stomach rumbles. I've still got a few packs of ramen back at my apartment. They scream something right before they hit the boiling water, but at least it's in Japanese.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 4th, 2015

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