INT — PUBLIX STORE, CALADESI ISLAND, DUNEDIN — LATE AFTERNOON
A global virus has laid waste to a once supple planet. In order to obtain survival supplies, citizens must designate one family member to patronize the local supermarket, where new protocols rule the day.
AVERAGE SHOPPER enters through a post-apocalyptic glow. She wears a face mask and blue latex gloves.
CART BOY wipes down each shopping wagon. His fatigue is palpable. He is in charge of relaying the newest precaution introduced by Publix, the largest grocer in the Land of Corona.
We have one-way aisles. So you don’t get lost.
AVERAGE SHOPPER tries to thank CART BOY but her voice is muffled by the mask and it sounds like...
Strips of blue tape litter the linoleum, directing shoppers. But there are no arrows in the produce section. Citizens can roam freely here, crossing in close proximity. It confuses AVERAGE SHOPPER. She does a dance with MAN IN TANK TOP near the tomatoes.
MAN IN TANK TOP
Oh, sorry, I just...
Npoph, go maphed.
Overhead, music plays. (TRACK 1: BROKEN WINGS BY MR. MISTER)
AVERAGE SHOPPER enters “international and kosher” heading south. People pass on her left, breezing by closely. She feels their air as she grabs salsa. She sighs and wonders, is this really any safer?
WOMAN IN ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR approaches. HUSBAND is with her. They are irritated with each other.
Which way are you going?
WOMAN IN ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR reverses, the beep from her device echoing off the tahini and coconut milk. She heads backward into a crowd of one-way shoppers.
Please help up by staying 6 feet apart and following the one-way arrows. We’re all in this together.
AVERAGE SHOPPER heads into the bread aisle, tense. Her grocery trip used to be the highlight of the week. Now she must speedily choose items so as not to slow the one-way line. No time to compare prices or read ingredients.
NERVOUS SHOPPER stays three alligators length behind, impatient. WRONG-WAY SHOPPER pushes through with reckless disregard.
Tumult reigns in the meat area where there are no arrows. People gather around boneless chicken breasts.
AVERAGE SHOPPER tries to say, “Can I just scoot past you?”
Pahn I phust toosh fast phu
She smiles, but no one can decipher smiles anymore. Crinkled eyes framed by a forehead and a mask only appear hostile. She lowers her gaze.
Overhead, music plays. (TRACK 2: KISS ON MY LIST BY HALL & OATES)
In the paper goods aisle, shelves sit empty. The toilet paper was gone by 11 a.m. because in the Land of Corona, it is an icon of the resistance.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
AVERAGE SHOPPER heads to the register and assumes her tape line. She places a box of wine on the belt. Behind a sheet of plexiglass, CHECK OUT WORKER glances at her identification card, though her face is mostly obscured. CHECK OUT WORKER holds up a shallot.
CHECK OUT WORKER
Is phis a smallosh?
BAGGER loads supplies and steps back six paces. His eyes are weary.
Can I help you out with these?
AVERAGE SHOPPER shakes her head no. She knows she can’t accept. Sharing inane details of the day with a friendly BAGGER while he loads sacks into the trunk is no longer an option, not in the Land of Corona.
She pushes her cart into the haze.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them
UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits
CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus
BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.