It’s after hours at a K-Mart,
or any large Mart,
and the store is deserted-
except for me and the octopus.
I’m running for my life down one aisle and up the next,
frantically searching for the charcoal briquettes
and tearing my shirt into small strands.
It’s hard to see because the industrial strength lights have been shut down
and only the occasional security lamp is on overhead
casting lonely spotlights onto shelves of hazelberry candles
and waffle makers.
I frequently trip upon debris from the shelves
the octopus has knocked over.
A fucking leviathan.
Like some B-grade Jules Verne movie prop
brought to extravagant life and dropped in
my midnight banal commercial Hell,
one night every month for years now.
I don’t know what I did to provoke the octopus and
make it my nemesis,
but I’ve no doubt it’s more than my match.
The octopus must be thirty of forty feet high
its head pressed improbably flat against the ceiling and
its tentacles flopping for meters on-end,
spastically tossing aside tractors and
gallon jars of stuff.
It smashes its pock-mark suckers down over shelves,
Crushing them and hunting for me.
And for all its slime and stench and muscular aggression,
It never makes a sound.
Not a cry.
Just the whisper of shifting muscles and crashing house wares.
And of course I’m crying as I run.
I have to whine.
Even in my adrenaline frenzy of feral fever
it comes out that way:
“I don’t want to be that guy who died by octopus!
I want to be the one who died of an orgasm or
drowning in a vat of white chocolate.”
But the subconscious is dementedly conniving.
Dorothy got Oz.
I got the octopus.
Now, I have a plan:
The torn shirt, the charcoal briquettes—
they are part of a mad dash and
a desperate measure.
I’ve raided the liquor section and
helped myself to some high-proof alcohol—
as a tentacle brushes a Martha Stewart bedroom set over my head
I hide under a kiddie pool
shaped like a pitiful turtle without its shell.
There, I stuff my shirt strands into the bottlenecks.
Grasping my cocktails,
I dive from under the turtle and dart between
the rows of merchandise,
fervently scanning the shelves for charcoal briquettes.
I figure matches are too small to spot,
and I’m dodging under a crimson-ringed trunk of
as it smashes the makings of happy homes all around me.
So I skid around corners and hold my thumbs over the
tops of the bottles,
keeping the rags in place
and search scour the isles for those
sandpapery large bags with distinctive color schemes of
BLACK ON WHITE
and WHITE-framed BLUE
knowing that wherever those charcoals are,
somewhere close by
is a match to light
And I run and I slide and I fall and get up again,
skid on the recently mopped floor and search with pathetic urgency for some
and the salvation it will bring me.