A Fat Man in a Volkswagen with a Receipt

December 7, 2011
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Christmas might as well be changed to Stressmas. Artie snorted at his own joke. Ah, he could be a comedian one day. Possibly one of those stand-up comedians, the ones that presented in front of a crowd who was already too drunk to not laugh. Just as he adjusted his grip on the steering wheel, a car swerved dangerously in front of him. He swore. The traffic was horrendous. It was thick and congesting the streets. More importantly, though, it was annoying.

"Don't you dare mess up my car," he warned a nearby driver, even though the windows were up, and in the desperate howl of the wind, no one could hear anything anyways. Artie continued to steer his precious Volkswagen, his version of the family heirloom. Sure, it stalled and clanked. It felt a bit small sometimes when Artie came from his parent's house. They always cooked lots of food. Food was good. And sure, billows of smoke came from the hood occasionally, but really, what was smoke and noises compared to the love he felt for his car? Exactly. No questions needed to be answered after that.
   He passed a couple more intersections, more blaring horns that were most likely honking at him, more traffic lights, until he pulled over and fixed the button on his shirt, which tightly sat on his overly protruding stomach. It looked… stretched. And here he was, thinking the tailor has given him a discount and great service. Obviously, people were not meant to be trusted.
   While he was pulled over out of the rush and danger of the traffic, Artie turned and glared into the backseat. A receipt lay there, a contrast with the black interior. There was a giant red circle around it, but other than that, it was unmarked; untouched. A curse, it was, in the most unusual sense. That little piece of paper was the reason he was out on the road. He could have been safely back at his house, enjoying his eating and television time, but no. Instead, he was sticking his neck out and doing a good thing for his mom. What was that old saying?
   "The things I do for love," Artie muttered. Strangely, that made him feel better. Being cynical always made him feel better, you know.

He just had to overhear his parents bickering. He had been sitting in the kitchen that very second, eating his soup. No matter what, his mom always managed to make very good soup.

"I don't like the colour purple. It's ugly, atrocious! Such colour doesn't need to bother with existing!" his mother had said. He nearly spit out his spoonful of soup when he heard that. Because, low and behold, that's exactly what Artie had gotten his dear old mother for Christmas. A purple handbag.
   Now, that argument landed him here, in the middle of all things. In the middle of this traffic storm where all the drivers seemed to have forgotten how to drive on the darn road. The handbag was on the floor in the backseat. He couldn't bear to look at it now.
A few more traffic lights and angry shouts outside, and Artie found himself in the parking lot of Sampson's Pocketbooks and Attire. He had never been to the store except for now, and a week ago. He thought it sounded fancy enough, so they must sell nice handbags. He had been right.
    Artie squeezed out of his tiny Volkswagen and nearly slipped on the ice as he popped free. The ice had formed itself into slippery, conniving little cakes on the parking lot asphalt in the last couple of days. He strode across the parking lot, clutching the receipt in one hand, and in the other, the wide, enormous purple handbag. His armor. His stomach jiggled as he walked.
Noting with dismay the amount of cars he passed on his way, he formed exactly what he was going to say to the Customer Service people. Should he be nice? Rude? Surely they were more accustomed to rude-ness. It was the holidays, after all. And yes, he was in more of the mood to be grumpy. He wanted his dinner and relaxation! Was it truly the poor Customer Service person's fault that his mother didn't like the colour purple? No, but he wanted to blame someone. He was still making up his mind when his feet carried him over to the counter.
   "One moment, please," a lady said. She was clearly in a rush, and quite young by the sound of her voice, but she looked old. A hurried whirlwind of papers, and she was gone. Artie tapped his finger against the counter top. Waiting. It was also the first time he realized how foolish he looked with a handbag. Hopefully, everyone knew he was returning it. It wasn’t his!

It was several more minutes of dwelling on his silly appearance, and still... no sight of the woman. Maybe it was just him, but people were staring now. As they pushed past him with shopping carts full of stuff that their family would actually like, they stole glances at him. Artie was stuck at the counter, with his purple handbag, steadily growing more and more agitated. His face was slowly turning from red to purple, and back again. It was like a sunset, in a very poetic-person sense. It had only been mere minutes, but it had been long enough. Surely it had been one moment by now. This only further confirmed that no one was normal, no one held time in honor, except himself. What was he supposed to do? Just stand here, wait patiently while the lady did whatever she did in the back? No, of course not. That was not the Artie way.

He soon commenced with the 'Artie Way'. This consisted of him rampaging through the store, determination wrapping around him like a blanket. Trying to ignore the looks he got might have been the hardest part of the trip. True, the traffic and the unresponsive lady was annoying, but it wasn't hard. He was used to being ignored, and he knew how to drive. He didn't need his shyness to get in the way now, though. He firmly clutched the purple handbag in his hand. That might have been why they were staring.

As it turned out, the store did not have any more handbags. That was anticlimactic, in the simplest way. Artie's feet dragged themselves considerably as he walked out. His head was down, and the purple handbag trailed behind him, dejectedly. He clambered back into his car. The receipt blew away in a sudden gust of wind. Artie watched it go, morose painting his face a slight grey colour. He drove home. The traffic was just as bad, and annoying.

And that is how Artie ended up dashing around on Christmas day, cooking some kind of mush-thing for his mother while she sat there. He was sure she was complaining about something. Her mouth was moving rapidly, and he could catch her hand movements out of the corner of his eye. At the moment though, he wasn't listening. He never really did anyways. Not out of rudeness, but mostly to preserve his own sanity. As to the fate of the handbag, it would stay a secret from his mother. It ended up residing in Artie's precious car. Already, it had seemed to set another personality in there. He still hated it, don't get him wrong. He hated it's very presence, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to get rid of it. Maybe he would, though. Only time would tell, he supposed.

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