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Supermarket Blues

You may love going shopping at Christmas.  I don’t.  I’m also not fond of big supermarkets.  You may detect this a little in this story!  Christmas and supermarkets at the same time? Well!

The songs in this tale are one’s that are played in almost every shop in the UK during November and December.  Everyone one in the UK will know them.  (Unless they are a hermit or a High Court judge).  When you tell the story you can substitute the equivalent songs played in your place if you don’t know these.

Of course I owe apologies to 007 for this tale.  It goes without saying that when you are telling the part of the arch-bad-guy your voice should be suitably manic!  But I mustn’t give too much away.

The story was originally told in the first person, but I have changed it to the third so that it is suitable for anyone to tell.  ‘Ged’ is pronounced ‘Jed’.


1.  Entrance

Ged was in town the other day, just before Christmas.  He had been visiting his Ma who hadn't been well and he was trying to be the dutiful son:  doing a labour of love going round the supermarket with her to get the Christmas supplies. The parking lot was heaving with families with fractious children.  It was raining.  There was a tired looking Father Christmas standing in the entrance area giving away promotional leaflets for budget mince pies.  An over made-up assistant wearing floppy reindeer ears offered them a free sample from a plastic tray.  The pies tasted of cotton wool baked in polystyrene.  As they entered the supermarket they were hit by a wave of 'So here it is Merry Christmas, everybody’s having Fun,' coming through the loudspeakers.  By the time they reached the fruit and veg section by the entrance Ged had been hit by three trolleys and noticed a small child had pressed a half eaten sweet onto his left buttock.

2.  Down to work

But there was work to be done.  So Ged clenched his now sticky buttocks and walked towards the fruit.  There were piles of bright green apples all covered in wax and polished ‘til they shone.  They were all exactly the same size.  Ged and Ma spent five minutes trying to open a plastic bag and finally managed to put some in it.  The tannoy was now playing, 'Do they know it's Chrisssmass time at all?'  They picked up some unripe bright green bananas.  Ged walked past the bright green courgettes and other out-of-season bright green vegetables to the spuds.  But an old lady in a tweed jacket snatched the last bag of potatoes from his hand just as he was picking them up and disappeared up the aisles muttering 'Young people just don't have any manners!’

Ma and Ged decided to divide and conquer.  She would get the chipolatas and all the other trimmings and he would choose the turkey.  The tannoy now blared out, 'Chrissmass time, Mistletoe and Wine'.  Ged’s ears hurt.  Trolleys seemed to be coming at him from everywhere, driven by determined women and men, with miserable children following on in their wake.  They were all grabbing things and piling them into their trolleys.  He dodged between them, hunting for the frozen turkeys.  Slade came on again, 'So here it is, Merry Christmas…'  Ged began to feel dizzy.  Every family around him seemed to look the same.  They were all mechanically going round taking things off the shelves.  It really made him feel rather faint.  Then to his horror he noticed something hideous.  Some of the children didn't have heads!  What was happening?  What was going on?   What did this mean?  Gradually it dawned on him as he looked around me: each family he could see had 1.8 children!

3.  Taking Action

Ged felt sick and suddenly very angry.  The music was now stuck on Slade, '…Everybody's having fun'   He had to get out.  He had to do something about the bloody music.  He ran to the nearest door and burst through it, and was revived by the cool air of the warehouse.  A man called out, 'Sorry mate you can't come in here,' but Ged kept running through the warehouse, past rows and rows of boxes.  He saw what looked like a big office at the back and ran towards it.  By now two security guards were chasing him, shouting into their walkie-talkies as they ran.  Ged reached the office and found the door was unlocked and flung it open.  The first thing he noticed was a sound system and an empty CD case, 'Greatest Christmas Hits'.  He pressed eject, tore out the CD, snapped it in half and threw it at the security guards as they came through the door.

'The Chief Executive wants to see you mate,' said one of the security guards a few minutes later as they led Ged down some corridors behind the office.  They came to a large oak door bigger than the others they'd passed.  The guard knocked. 

'Come,’ called a hard voice from behind the door. 

The guard pushed me through the door.  There was large black leather chair with its back to me.  The walls were filled with monitors and computer screens showing different angles of the shop and warehouse, live share prices, images of tomatoes and courgettes being irradiated and even rows and rows of turkeys crammed in cages.

'So, Mr Duncan, you don't like my music?'

4.  The boss

How did the man know Ged’s name?

'I don't like your music and I don't like your shop!'

'But we give the people what they want,' he replied.  Ged could see he was stroking a white cat.  How clichéd.

'You tell the people what they want, until they can't think for themselves.'

The Chief Executive turned round.  He had no face at all.  Ged realised he was wearing a steel mask.

'You are right.  We don't like people thinking for themselves.  We don't want people to realise what we are doing.  Soon we will control everything:  where and how food is grown and sold, clothes, banking, insurance, drugs, petrol.  Everything will be in our power!  Everything do you hear?! Everything!  Until the whole world is in our power!  And nothing and nobody will stand in our way!  Especially not you!  Guards, guards!  Take him away!  Give him a number 9.’ 

The guards dragged Ged away up more corridors, until they reached a large sealed door.  They turned a wheel in the door, opened it and pushed him in.  The door slammed shut.  It was cold.  Very cold.  Very, very cold.  He wouldn't last long in here.  The room was full of frozen turkeys.  Ged tried to think, to consider how to escape, but already his mind was fading.  He collapsed on top of a pile of turkeys.

5.  Cold comfort

‘Is he all right?  He just collapsed and fell in.  We must get him out before he gets too cold?’ 

Ged opened his eyes.  The anxious faces of shoppers were looking down at him.  As he came round he realised he was lying in a freezer cabinet full of turkeys.  The shoppers helped him climb out.  It's embarrassing finding yourself in a freezer cabinet in a supermarket with half the people in the shop looking at you. 

'Er..I was just looking to see how heavy they were,' he muttered and slipped through the crowd. 

He walked towards the checkout, looking nervously at the warehouse door and the CCTV cameras as he went.  Dvorjac was playing pleasantly on the tannoy.

Ma was by the checkout with a full trolley of food.

'What happened to you?’

‘I…er, got a bit lost.’

'Did you get the turkey?'

'I was, shall we have goose this year?'


© Ged Duncan 2003.  All rights reserved*

 Storytellers are authorised to tell or perform this tale in private or at not-for-profit groups.  If you wish to tell this as part of a public performance please contact me.  There will not necessarily be a charge for community-based artists, but I would like to be credited and to know when the story is being used.

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