He had been married eleven weeks and kept keenly aware of the Greater Good and the Bigger Picture. These were the linchpins of his 20-week Life Plan 20/20 Workbook he had followed near-verbatim since the fall. He had insisted on taking his marriage seriously, and this constituted the first of what he thought would be many serious postnuptial decisions.
His deep-down predilections were that of a boy’s, however, and his curiosity for the more illicit side of temptation ended up toying with lesser motivations.
On that eleventh week, he decided to stow away his half-smoked pack of cigarettes under his box spring before driving to the hardware store. It was there, in the parking lot, where he subdued his lungs with the smoke and sediment of what he decided would be his very last non-emergency cig.
He had kicked around the idea of the sacrament for twenty, maybe thirty seconds while tying his boots, in his coat room, minutes earlier. He enjoyed the cigarette and, feeling satisfied with the ritual, ashed the remains atop the potted plant, frozen, on display outside the automatic doors.
Tapping the slush from his boots, he wove through the columns of clearance shelves and display pyramids that lined the entrance, only stopping once to check the expiration date of the deceptively priced Value brand Small Dog: Complete Nutrition Dog Food formula which boasted a product code linked to a printable coupon that, to his limited knowledge, was uncalled for given its reduction to a seven kilo zipper bag.
Seeing as there was, in fact, no posted expiration date, he carried on toward the back where they housed the electronic equipment.
He realized he was still carrying the bag of dog food. Embarrassed, he put it down deviously among the swimming pool chemicals. For a moment, his cunning redeemed him.
He turned back around to grab a cart, then thought better of it. He didn’t need one, he thought.
At the rear of the store, he found a cabinet wedged between two tables. Each table held transparent gallon jugs with a generic white label spelling out its viscous fillings and its expiration.
VEGETABLE GLYCERIN USP 99.7% VEGAN AND KOSHER FRIENDLY BB 2019 MA 13.
The wall unit had pristine glass doors whose sheen was telling of the contents’ newness. The doors were padlocked, and an emboldened sign above the handles pictured a smiling sales rep.
A visibly pubescent sales rep came over and unlocked it after checking his ID. He helped him pick out a marked down Taiwanese device and a doubly more expensive kit of required ancillaries: e-juices, replacement coils, a sub-ohm tank, a regular tank intended for what was described to him as “throat hits”, and two jugs of vegetable glycerin.
He went back for the shopping cart. He used the self-service checkout and left.
A smoker was idling outside. The cherry burning between her middle and forefinger dour like a candlelight vigil for his ashed companion.
The pavement was freshly salted on Monday morning but its smell lingered even in the car, even in the driveway. It was there that he thought maybe it wasn’t the salt.
Lugging his things inside, he sat down on top the hood of his deep freezer. He kept it in the hallway because living space was sparse and its installation made for shorter grocery trips as the kitchen was still a-ways down the hall and carrying grocery bags becomes an odious experience when performed as drunk as he often liked to be when he bought groceries.
Even when he wasn’t drunk he found it made for a seat preferable even to the leather furniture his roommate’s parents had bought for the living room. He enjoyed the humming sound that it made, and how it would rattle against his hanging feet.