It’s Saturday morning, and you know what that means.
Well, if you’re a regular Costco shopper in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you do. It means we’re back—and we’re doing our level best to thwart the sanctity of the shared exercise of American free enterprise.
Come rain or come shine—come famine, plague, or pestilence—if it’s Saturday morning…Salem and I are heading for Costco. And we do so like clockwork, right after we finish eating breakfast with the gay husbands at our favorite, local diner.
Shopping at Costco isn’t something you enter into casually. Not in my world. You train for it. You plan for it. You take it on like an ascetic dons a hair shirt.
At least you do if you’ve ever gone shopping with Trent.
You have to understand…gay men take shopping seriously. It isn’t for the faint of heart. First, there are the fashion requirements. Not for us, of course. Our job is strictly to pass judgment on what everyone else is wearing. And on any given Saturday, there are an infinite number of permutations and combinations to discuss.
Our Costco journey begins and ends, as it does every week, at the Amarr and minivan displays. I mean…who wouldn’t want to sling a couple of solid oak garage doors and a shiny new Plymouth Voyager into their cart before heading off to the produce den for 64 firm heads of Napa cabbage?
It’s also important to know that once Trent and I cross the threshold of Costco, we cease being Trent and Ann, and become two other creatures named “Larry” and “Gladys.”
Don’t ask. It’s complicated.
Jason and Salem, our longsuffering partners, survive this water torture by roaring on ahead of us. They conduct the real commerce of the outing—each carefully testing and weighing the various merits and attributes of the wares. Along the way, they also pause to sample the tasty confections and appetizers that serve as mileposts along your journey through the maze of products.
The high point of the trip is always the moment when we reach the end-cap of the Colon Health aisle—conveniently located near the pharmacy. And this is precisely where last Saturday’s floorshow began.
Trent waited until there were half a dozen shoppers nearby—then he reached for an innocuous bottle of pills, and asked, in his loudest voice:
“Gladys? Did you say you needed more anal pinworm medicine?”
“Not this week, Larry,” I replied. “But we have talked about the fact that you shouldn’t be handling things until you’re sure you’re over that flare-up of Norwegian Scabies.”
“It’s true,” he said. “If only these symptoms would abate.”
“Explosive diarrhea is a bitch,” I agreed.
“Apropos of that—where are the spousal units?”
“Up there…sampling granola bars.”
“Of course they are. Like Jason needs any more fiber in his diet.”
“He’s probably just famished from bench pressing all those cases of seaweed on aisle nine.”
“I do love a strong man. Oh!”
“What is it?”
I looked in the direction he was pointing. “I don’t see anything. And what the hell is a ‘foam’?”
He gave me a withering gaze. “A FOAM…a Friend of Ann McMan.”
“Yes. Like it? Jason and I made it up.” He was still staring at the unsuspecting shopper. “Oh, yeah… Look at that big ole ring of keys and that flannel shirt. I bet she’s read all of your books.”
I rolled my eyes. “Then she’d be light years ahead of you, wouldn’t she?”
“I resent that remark…I read Dust.”
“You read about twelve pages of Dust…on an airplane. And that was only because someone had taken your seatback copy of Sky Mall.”
He wasn’t paying any attention to me. “There are FOAMs all over the place in here. You should do a book signing.”
“Right. Because the lesbian book concession at Costco is such a hot commodity.”
“Why not? You could ask some of those other authors you’re always talking about to join you…it could be a smash. You could have a panel discussion about vagitarian alternatives to the hetero consumer coma—and explain why lesbians are such big beef eaters.”
“What other authors?” I wasn’t aware I’d ever mentioned any other writers to him.
He waved a dismissive hand. “You know…R.E. Beers, Susan X. Radclyffe, KG Forrest…all those other ones who are always up on Facebook.”
“You should trust me on these things, Gladys. I have great marketing instincts—ask any of my customers.”
I thought about that. “You work for hospice.”
“So? That doesn’t mean they have no opinions.”
“Right…just no pulses.”
He grabbed my arm. “Look…here she comes.”
“The FOAM. She’s headed this way.”
“Maybe she needs some pinworm medicine…”
“Shhhh.” He shoved me to the side. “Let me handle this.”
“Handle what?” I just knew this wasn’t going to end well.
The unsuspecting shopper brushed past us, pushing her burgeoning cart. I felt vaguely like Lot’s wife. I was afraid that if I stared, I’d turn into a pillar of salt. I tried not to look, but the prospect was too tempting. I glanced down into her cart after she stopped it just ahead of us. She had a case of motor oil, four-dozen eggs, two 24-packs of Classic Coke, and a box of Swedish Fish that was roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Beside me, Trent cleared his throat. Oh no…
“Gladys?” he asked, in a booming voice. “Do you think they sell any of Ann McMan’s books here?”
I raised a hand to cover my eyes. The big woman in flannel didn’t flinch. She just kept pouring over a freestanding display of about fifteen different types of antacids. (With that many Swedish Fish in her future, I thought she should just roll the dice and try one of each.)
But Trent wasn’t finished. “Because I did hear that sometimes, Ann McMan actually shops here.”
I gave him an imploring look.
“I heard that Ann McMan and Salem West are BIG Costco shoppers. Last week, they bought an entire side of beef…”
I started making rapid slashing motions beneath my chin.
“I think they were making hors d’oeuvres for some CLIT-Con reception The Rainbow Reader was sponsoring.”
That one got her attention. She turned around and looked at us with interest. “Excuse me?” she asked. She had a voice like Chill Wills.
Oh, god…here it comes.
She pointed at some cans on the shelf behind where we were standing. “Would you mind handing me one of those?” she asked.
I reached behind Trent and picked up one of the units. It was a plastic-wrapped two-pack of Gillette Foamy.
“Is this what you were looking for?” I asked. Beside me, Trent was clucking his tongue. I had to resist stomping on his foot.
She took the cans from me. “Yep.” She dropped them into her cart and shrugged. “Spring’s coming.”
I nodded. “That it is.”
She swung her cart around and disappeared behind the end cap display of Colace.
I looked at Trent, who was still stifling a self-righteous laugh.
“Do NOT say a word.”
I took off down the aisle to find Salem and Jason, who had long since moved on, and were now sampling yogurt covered pretzels near the checkout lanes.
All that remained was for me to head home, get online, and ask R.E. Beers, Susan X. Radclyffe, and KG Forrest if they’d like to join me on a multistate Costco tour.
Spring is on its way, and the FOAMs are getting ready…