God Bless America says the bumper sticker on the racer-red
Rascal scooter that accidentally cuts me off in the Walmart parking lot
after a guy in a tricked out jeep with rims like chrome pinwheels tries
to pick me up by honking, all before I make it past the automatic doors
waiting to accept my unwashed hair, my flip-flops, my lounge pants.
The old man on the scooter waves, sports a straw boater banded in blue & white,
and may or may not be the official greeter, but everyone here sure is friendly—
even the faces of plastic bags, which wink yellow and crinkle with kindness,
sound like applause when they brush the legs of shoppers carrying them
to their cars. In Port Charlotte, a woman’s body was found in a Jetta
in a Walmart Parking lot. In a Walmart parking lot in Springfield,
a macaque monkey named Charlie attacked an eight year-old girl.
I am a Walmart shopper, a tract-house dweller—the developments
you can see clearly from every highway in America that’s not jammed up
on farmland or pinned in by mountains. I park my car at a slant in the lot,
hugged tight by my neighbors’ pickups. I drive my enormous cart
through the aisles and fill it with Pampers, tube socks, juice boxes, fruit.
In the parking lot of the McAllen Walmart, a woman tried to sell six
Bengal Tiger cubs to a group of Mexican day laborers. A man carjacked
a woman in the parking lot of the West Mifflin Walmart, then ran
under a bridge and disappeared. Which is to say that the world
we expect to see looks hewn from wood, is maybe two lanes wide,
has readily identifiable produce, and the one we’ve got has jackknifed itself
on the side of the interstate and keeps skidding. The one we’ve got has clouds
traveling so fast across the sky it’s like they’re tied to an electric current.
But electricity is the same for everybody. It comes in the top of your head
and goes out your shoes, which will walk through these automatic doors.
In the Corbin Walmart parking lot a woman with a small amount of cash
was arrested for getting in and out of trucks. A man stepped out of his car
in the Columbus Walmart parking lot, and shot himself. I get in the checkout line
behind a lighted number on a pole. The man in front of me jangles coins
in his pocket, rocks back and forth on his heels. The girl in front of him
carefully peels four moist dimes from her palm to pay for a small container
of honey-mustard dipping sauce. In the parking lot of the LaFayette Walmart,
grandparents left their disabled 2 year-old grandson sitting in a shopping cart
and drove away. Employees in the parking lot at the La Grange Walmart
found a box containing seven abandoned kittens. I am not a Christian or
prone to idioms, but when the cashier says she is grateful for small mercies,
I nod in assent. Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison. The Latin root of mercy
means price paid, wages, merchandise, though now we use it as
compassion shown to a person in a position of powerlessness,
and sometimes forgiveness towards a person with no right
to claim it. God is merciful and gracious, but not just.
In the Walmart parking lot in Stockton, a man considered armed
and dangerous attacked his wife, beating her unconscious.
A couple tried to sell their 6-month-old for twenty-five bucks
to buy meth in the Salinas Walmart parking lot. We who are in danger,
remember: mercy has a human heart. Mercy with her tender mitigations,
slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, with her blue employee’s smock
emblazoned with How may I help you? Someone in this place have mercy on us.
Read the Rumpus review of Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls.