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Tiki Torch Tributes

Tiki Torch Tributes

Patios aren’t patios unless they are surrounded by Tiki torches. For over two months, since the arrival of spring, I’ve walked through Wal-Mart, eyeing the bamboo-and-metal concoctions with an envious, intentful glare. Each time, though, I also eye the price tag and simply cannot justify the expense.

So I sit outside and let mosquitos nibble at my toes, my arms, my eyelids, any exposed piece of flesh until, at last consumed in a storm of red whelps and bleeding sores, I stumble back into the house, bathe in rubbing alcohol, and knock myself unconscious with benadryl. Thus was the routine of the summer until yesterday morning.

It really is simple: I only need Fabreeze-alike odor killer, paper towels, and washing detergent for the laundry. Rather than making the cross-town trek to Wal-Mart, I decide I will go to my friendly neighborhood Family Dollar. This is a store that is paradise for your every-day, on-a-tight-budget impulse shopper. Since I fall into this category, I have found my Valhalla and my hero is the polite little woman in the red smock behind the checkout stand.

“If ya need somethin’, just lemme know.”

Yes, ma’am, I will. I’m only here for Fabreeze-alike, paper towels, and laundry poweder today.

She knowingly smiles at me. She’s seen me before. She knows that I can’t resist the sirencall of the shopping cart, placed strategically within an arm’s reach of the door. I grab one and I think I hear her giggle sardonically under her breath. I turn to her.

Just gonna get my paper towels, my Fabreeze-alike, and my laundry stuff today. Too much to carry, I say. But I know she knows I’m lying. Too many times, I’ve come into this store and made nine trips from the counter to the merchandise and back to avoid getting a shopping cart. She knows the deepest goings on in my head and she knows I can already feel the tiny tentacles of torturous temptation creeping up and latching ahold of my medulla oblongata. Soon, I will have lost all control over my being and will be racing through the store, cackling gleefully as I dump useless item after useless item into my shopping cart. Please don’t let her say it! Please for the love of all things sacred and holy don’t let her say the five magic words. Those five words that someone in my position with my currently-eroding will power cannot resist.

“Feel free to look around.”

NO! No! No!! I can’t! Yet I’m off.

Down the isle full of delightfully tacky figurines. Nothing I can’t live without here….except perhaps a fake crystal bowl that is just the right size to hold a bag of potpouri in the music room. Now we’re off to the kitchenwares isle. I don’t need knives. At least not the kind I can get from Family Dollar. I think I’ll turn and–well isn’t that a lovely basket? I wonder if they still have the set of nesting tables I wanted last month. The ones with the wicker top that were only $15. Nope. Just the ugly, maple-fakes. Can live without those. But maybe I should go ahead and get that anyway? Or how about a corner-baker’s rack for the dining room? Would pressed-tin grape branches clash too harshly with the pottery, neo-modernist art, and African leather turtle plate? Probably so.

Hey! There’s something on this wall of cleaning supplies I needed. But what was it? OOoh! MINIBLINDS!

These are just the right width AND length to cover the windows in the doors of the living room. No more tying the curtain in a knot to let in light! But if I take down the burgundy things on the door, I’ll hae to take down the burgundy thing on the window too. Guess I need a white curtain of some type. Look a here! A WHITE CURTAIN!

Into the buggy goes the mini blinds and the white curtain. I wonder how long I’ve been here? Maybe I should buy a watch, I think. But then I shake my head, recalling the fate that met the *last* watch I purchased.

::BEEPBEEPBEEP:: it went, until I beat it silent with the heel of my Faragamo wingtip. Nope. No watch for me today. Maybe I need to get–OH my god, check out the lamp! Sold! Into the buggy.

I step out into the middle of the store, where they keep the seasonal items. And it is the season of festive outdoor group gatherings. Since September 11th, I’ve developed a peculiar sensitivity to the sudden outpourings of nationalist fervor.

Right after it happened, I could understand people flying their flags. However, as time wore on and people kept adding American-flag themed crap on their houses, their cars, their clothing, I couldn’t help but rebel against the movement of “Hey! I’m more patriotic than YOU are!” Cut me, and I bleed red-white-and-blue. I love my country and would gladly defend her if I thought we were under threat of invasion. However, all these Johnny Come Latelys to the party of patriotism were a step to far. And then it hit me as I was walking through the mall and could not escape the constant flowing and fluttering of the red-white-and-blue. There were flags in every business, on every purse strap, on every car. Everywhere I turned someone had found something else to drape in a flag. And I had seen this all before somewhere. Where was it? I couldn’t remember. And then up came the chords of a Beethoven symphony and BINGO! I knew. Suffice it to say, the sudden outpouring of nationalist fervor was enough to do me in on the Colors for a while. Yet here I was, in Family Dollar, in a sea of stars and stripes. Nothing here I can’t live without.

Except that green patio table. It matches the chairs I already have perfectly! And only $15!? Sold. Into the buggy, careful not to crush the lampshade. And the damnedest thing was hiding behind that table: tiki torches. An entire box of them, all marked $1.00 each. I bought four, went to the front of the store where my little, apron-clad cashier was snickering with the lazer gun, waiting to empty my wallet yet again.