It was Sunday morning and I was looking forward to drinking coffee from my “We Are Happy to Serve You” cup. The design is the same as the paper cups that are seen all over the City of New York, and someone had the brilliant idea of putting the design onto a ceramic cup. I only use this cup on the weekends because I want the weekends to feel different from the weekdays, when I drink coffee from brown or beige mugs that do not bear writing in an Attic font.
I was about to take a sip when my wife asked me if our flashlights worked.
“Flashlights?” I hadn’t used a flashlight since we were dating, when I would woo her with shadow puppets. I remembered that we had received a flashlight as a wedding present, from the Martha Stewart collection to match our sugar bowl and serving plate. But it had been some time since I’d seen it and I would have to google its whereabouts.
The flashlight did not work. I would not have expected anything less. I unscrewed the top and shook out the D-cell batteries. One of the batteries fell to the floor and just narrowly missed shattering my toe. Heavy things, those D-cells.
“I found the flashlight,” I announced to my wife, and, my work done, returned to my Grecian mug.
“Does it work?”
“Work? Of course not. The batteries are dead.”
“Well don’t you think you should get more batteries?”
“Does this need to be done today? There are a few odes I’m planning on reading after I drink my coffee.”
“Really? Are you not aware that there is a massive hurricane that’s supposed to be hitting us tomorrow? It’s supposed to be a once a century kind of storm.”
“Oh, like that storm they were waiting for in Point Break?”
“I think I’m reaching my point break.”
I placed my weekend jeans over my weekend pyjama pants and drove to the supermarket. Let’s get this battery thing over with, I thought, and then I can get back to enjoying my life. I found the wall of battery-packs. And looked. And looked. There were double As, and triple As, and those rectangular-shaped 9 volts that no one uses. There were microscopic batteries for hearing aids and batteries that looked like a triple A cut in half. But no D-cells. The metal hanging racks with little D-cell signs above them were gaping holes like its teeth were knocked out.
And then I realized. My greedy neighbors had selfishly cleaned out the D-cell batteries. I looked some more, hoping against hope. There were C-cell batteries that looked like D-cells during their adolescence.
I went to another supermarket, to convenience stores, to electronics stores, to the mall, to hot dog stands. Batteries, batteries everywhere, but not one D-cell in the land. I was in a waking nightmare. I could not go home and face my wife without a D-cell. I had been asked to slay the dragon and the dragon was still out there terrorizing the village.
I sat down on the curb by the hot dog stand, and looked up at the sky, praying for deliverance. I noticed a man walking, carrying a plastic bag. The bag had a bulge at the bottom, and from the shape and orientation of the bulge I just knew it contained D-cell batteries. I approached the man.
“Please, sir. Can you help me?”
“I already gave at the office.”
“No, no. I don’t want money. I need batteries.”
His face turned to even greater disgust. He started walking.
“Please, sir,” I said, “I’ll do anything. I’ll give you any amount of money. I just can’t go home without D-cell batteries.”
“And let me guess, you waited all weekend, with a hurricane coming, to buy batteries for your flashlight that you probably never test, and now all the stores are out of D-cells, and you’re going to be in trouble with your wife if you come home without any D-cell batteries for the flashlights. Is that about the long and the short of it?”
“You got it,” I said.
He smiled. A heartwarming smile, as if my tale of woe had brought back a cherished memory, perhaps a memory of his own first years of marriage, when he was young and poor and never tested flashlights until the storm clouds were getting off the exit. I could see I was working a change in him. My prayers had been answered. He was going to let me have the batteries. There was goodness left in humanity! I wondered if he was going to mark them up or would sell them to me at face value. I hoped he had change for a twenty.
“Awfully sorry,” he said. “Hope it works out for you.” And he walked away.