The shop was underground, a cavernous space of exclusivity for the chosen few who trail home from the office, dressed in the kind of suit that a culchie would be garbed in for their funeral.
There was a corpse like quality to the beings that haunted the isles. Each one a spectre of loneliness, absorbed in haute-cuisine meals for one – the antithesis of Sarah’s idea of what a meal should be.
Normally she would shop in Lidl, or Aldi, and their fancy stuff was enough for her. Lobster bisque for €1.49, truffle oil for €1.79; it adds a bit of luxury to the most banal of dishes, rescuing a meal reflective of her poverty from the deepest of doldrums, and, in truth, making her feel a bit special. As if she was worth it, as that advert for the hair product said.
In every single aisle was a collection of plastic dressed single-serving pre-prepared sadness. She had a new job, and dressed like the others in here, but did they feel as lonely? Luxury mashed potato. Pre-prepared couscous. Chicken Kiev with gruyere.
How the hell is mash potato ever luxury? How can life get so bad that someone sees couscous as hard to cook?
Chicken-fucking-Kiev? If I consume these things I will change.
He was greasy, a sign of overwork, small, and had the look of being forced to feign concern 8 hours a day, every day. Why is he talking French to me in Dublin?
“May I be of –”
“Listen very carefully pal”, she was surprised at her coldness, as if she was transforming into that bitch Melissa from the office, “I need you to do one very simple thing for me right now.”
“Fuck. Right. Off.”
Tears involuntarily flowed down her face, hitting her smile-lines and taking on a life of their own, like the water of the Liffey when a strong-breeze hits it. It was as if a fist had been catapulted into her stomach. She lurched over, unable to scream.
Luxury mashed potato. Chicken-fucking-kiev. The words pulsed through her brain. Became images. The front of her head pounded, and collapsed in on itself, becoming reformed. Reformed meat masquerading as organic. She had transformed.
“Sacré bleu!” exclaimed the pretend-Frenchman. He had seen it before, of course.
The transition of class before one was ready. It had nearly happened to him when he had just begun this job. It formed a part of the contract that one was responsible for one’s own change.
On the floor lay a Chicken Kiev, on a bed of luxury mashed potato. She still moved, or at least attempted to.
The floor was an alabaster cream, and it casually absorbed the footfall of single-serving consumers seeking a simple, yet higher quality serving of life than others.
Woe be to those who shop on lesser floors she murmured sarcastically.
The now redundant chicken kiev and mash were picked up, their burst packaging rendering them useless to the world of contented cuisine. The luxury mash still had that distinct buttery yellow colour to it, along with a whiff of finest English cream and just a hint of thyme.
I should have went to fuckin’ Aldi she thought, I should have went anywhere but here.
Eva Kozłowski, who had worked on the till for two years, later happened across the spoiled packaging in the staff room, and put it into her bag to eat on her return home from work.
She was grateful, as payday was not for another three days and she was interminably broke.
Sarah let out a muffled cry, as visions of the hell-fire of a microwave blanketed themselves around her.
Illustration by Mat Hedigan.