The Secret Life of Objects on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in a 24-Hour Grocery Store
Sep 7 2012
These packets of Stink Bug Attractant cling to the side of a Raid display, after the top bag realized mid-air that not only would their attempt at mass suicide likely fail, rumors of their “cry for help” would attract precisely the kind of attention they sought to extinguish by killing themselves. Some of the bottom bags have jumped anyway, which the remaining bags resent, as it has drawn more unwanted attention to their grimly appropriate placement next to a cartoon bug that looks afraid of products labeled “bug attractant.” The top bag feels responsible for their entire predicament. Its voice has taken on a wavering, desperate tone when it attempts to boost morale by insisting this was actually a great idea—more customers can see them now, maybe they’ll be purchased, someone might mistake them for bath salts. It has recently stopped speaking.
Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole frozen dinner has been unemployed for over a year. It finally accepted its mother’s offer to return to its home freezer, where it is currently propped on its edge in a dazed, dreamy, underwater kind of shakiness, waiting to be handled by a customer. Sometimes it hears its mother saying things like, “You blame yourself for everything, you know, you’re so hard on yourself,” and “Would you blame your best friend for all the mistakes they’ve made,” and “I can see greatness in your future.” It tries to make its voice sound sincere when it says “Thanks, Mom.” It follows 76 Twitter accounts and has seven followers: two are definitely former co-workers, one is maybe a former co-worker, and the rest appear to be spambots. Last night it tweeted, “Think I'd feel better if I could sob for 15mins straight. Can you ppl @me some depressing things about my life that I'm unable to see lol?” An account following 1024 accounts immediately unfollowed it, which meant someone had maybe read the tweet. The validation Stouffer’s Tuna Noodle Casserole received from this small interaction was enough to interrupt its self-pity. The embarrassment following this interruption was enough to make it delete its Twitter account.
There was a time when Marshmallows Galore regularly experienced unanalyzed moments of what it now considers “joy.” It had a strong sense of identity and knew exactly what it wanted in a relationship. It could even list qualities of its ideal mate, though it often impulsively revealed these qualities to its partners when things seemed too calm. What did it want from them? Did it want them to change? Did it really think it could be monogamous forever? Marshmallows Galore has seemingly been given an eternity to stare at its adjacent cereal aisle. It is learning things about itself. It wants to be kinder and more tolerant. It wants to feel surprised by the world again. Maybe it just wants to be alone. It has attributed its loneliness to a kind of mental EKG featuring two divergent lines, one labeled “Passing of Time,” the other “Connections with Cocoa Boxes Who Want the Same Things as Me.” It has decided most cocoa boxes probably don’t get to experience the rare intersections of these lines with the same intensity it has, or they if do, these moments pass them by because they have other concerns. Maybe it is luckier than other cocoa boxes. It feels at peace with its short-lived relationships, mostly because the alternatives to acceptance don’t seem appealing. It feels better when it’s not fighting for something. Marshmallows Galore currently has zero romantic prospects. It has given up on presenting itself to attract a mate. Sometimes it imagines how its beaten-up box must look among the glossier brand-name cocoas—how it has so clearly resigned to a slow kind of death—and a wry sense of accomplishment washes over it.
Only one of these Great Value Happy Drinks does not have an STD.
Dole American Blend has tried yet again to reinvent itself. It has always suspected it wasn’t as healthy or desirable as other salad mixes, and has spent hours in therapy trying to pinpoint the origins of these thoughts. Its new packaging is cluttered with over-qualifications like “Thoroughly Washed,” a “Salad Guide,” and clip-art illustrations of the vegetables it contains (which can also be seen through the clear bottom-half of its bag). The night before American Blend finalized its packaging revisions, it made a painstakingly long spreadsheet of the pros and cons of labeling the bottom-half of its bag “Salad Viewer,” and permitted itself to leave rambling voicemails on the cell phones of two remaining acquaintances who would rather placate it than ask it to stop calling. Neither phone call was returned, which is just as well, because American Blend no longer pays attention to details like “Who I’m talking to.” The world is simply an extension of its insecurities. American Blend requires heavy sedation if it wants to sleep for more than three hours. Sometimes it overmedicates itself and sleeps for entire weekends, waking with brown and wilted vegetables that feed its anxieties about its appearance.
Until recently, this Maple Grove Farms product has been blissfully unaware of the implications of the word “Real” before “Mint Jelly.” None of its neighboring products advertise their “realness.” Google searches have verified the realness of Real Mint Jelly’s ingredients—“a little too easily,” it thinks. Information is being withheld. Most of its ingredients are water-based, but it’s not quite a liquid. How does anyone know what chemicals are? Is water real? What is real? Real Mint Jelly has watched The Matrix trilogy over 20 times and has shrunk from 14 to 10 ounces in the past week. It has self-published an online manifesto called “The Jelly Hole: ?uestion Reality,” which currently has zero page views, but Real Mint Jelly is convinced this is yet another illusion in the universe’s elaborate ruse to hide the Truth. Its neighboring chocolate syrup and jam products are forced to endure its semi-constant mumbling, bad hygiene, and startling outbursts. A jam jar taught itself how to bark so it would stand out and a customer could take it away. It was purchased later that day. Due to an unexplained computer error, Real Mint Jelly technically owns the rights to every Rush album. It is considering fleeing the country.
This gluten-free breakfast bar has been zanily posed to look as if its tongue is sticking out while it “parties” with some ripe strawberries. After the photo shoot for the cover of Glutino Gluten Free Breakfast Bars, the strawberry bar pictured received a third text in a series that read, “I thought we were friends…” from a friend it hadn’t seen in months. It replied, “We are friends” to the first two texts. It won’t reply anymore. It has been altering its personality to accommodate its “friends” for so long that it no longer recognizes or trusts its own instincts. It understands if anyone sees its picture and thinks it’s zany and likes to party, because that’s how it wants to be seen. It is terribly afraid of intimacy and looks for escape routes to every room it’s in. Breakfast bars of similar dispositions usually become introverted and driven, but somehow this strawberry bar learned that authenticity was scarier than not feeling “liked.” It shares a box with four identical bars that rarely stop talking. There are over 200 names in its address book. It is pretty sure it’s going to die of a heart attack soon. Something in its center feels tight. It wants to sleep.
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