iconoclast

…one who strives to smash what is held to be holy, and undermine what are considered to be articles of faith

Oscar was not a natural forager, especially not when he had to forage with a whole lot of other people intent on foraging, full of the passion for foraging, and thinking of little else but the act of foraging, obsessed with the whole idea of getting out there into the overly complex modern world and have a good rummage around and to return home with the catch of the day – three bars of soap for the price of two, a nearly out of date lemon meringue tart and a half-price steak and kidney pie.

But there wasn’t three-of-a-kind-of-anything which Oscar needed – so the three-for-two-offers which were peppered liberally throughout the store did little else but mock him remorselessly. And as Oscar wasn’t a man of overly refined tastes, as he didn’t require foods which were overly exotic nor foods which was even slightly odd, as he didn’t seek after odd combinations of ingredients thrown together and cooked over a flame grill, he was confused by the profusion of exotic items and loud colours which poured off every shelf, and the buy-one-get-one-free offer on organic prickly pears. Oscar ate basic foodstuffs, such as bread and milk and four sausages. He was partial to beans, quite fond of ripe peaches and was a big fan of cereals (the advantages of which were numerous – cereal could be eaten at any time of the day or night, it demanded minimal preparation and it had all the appearances of something which might possibly be good for you).

Having just decided, after at least four minutes’ deliberation, whilst perusing the cheese and yoghurt isle, on a rather large block of Red Leicester, Oscar was hit with mind-wrenching doubts when walking through the freshly baked goods section. How the hell was he going to eat so much cheese before it was covered in a thick mat of green mould? It was impossible. So despite its relatively low price, the large block of Red Leicester in his basket actually represented a major financial loss and a very poor decision. Oscar quickly jettisoned the large block of Red Leicester, lightly tossing it onto a bed of economy white bread loaves – its journey from his hand to its resting place describing a gentle arc through the fluorescent-lit atmosphere of the supermarket, such that it had a certain beauty about it, a certain Red-Leicester-grace.

“You can’t do that!” a voice boomed quite close to Oscar’s left ear. “That’s not right!”

The thickness of the accent, the depth of the voice, the volume of the sound – all of these factors made Oscar wary at once – a sudden feeling of wariness which almost made him jump, as though his body was preparing itself for the onslaught of some ferocious animal. Maybe “wary” is the wrong word – perhaps the correct word would be “shock”. So – Oscar was shocked. But on turning around to face his accuser, he was presented with the less than impressive sight of a rather squat and ageing gentleman who had got himself red in the face at the drop of a block of Red Leicester.

Before Oscar could even mutter a sarcastic “excuse me”, the old man was almost jumping up and down (his feet didn’t leave the ground – he was pushing himself up on his toes) in pure and undiluted fury at what he had just seen. Jumping up (his feet for the first time leaving the ground) against the bale of economy white bread loaves, displaying an agility which further surprised Oscar, this rather elderly gentleman retrieved the block of Red Leicester and, once he was steady on his feet again, proceeded to wave it beneath the nose of Oscar, adding in a tone which was both very sharp and very accusatory – “Who do you think you are?”

There was little choice open to Oscar but to tell the elderly and irate gentleman to piss off, and make an about turn and go on his way, depositing various items from his basket in ill-fitting places. He managed to wedge his litre of milk between two jars of curry sauce, his peaches, which were far from ripe anyway, he took from the packaging and tossed into various receptacles – freezers, cooler cabinets, pick-n-mix bowels and boxes of carrots, his box of cereal he just about succeeded in balancing atop a pile of seven-foot high tins of condensed milk.

Oscar felt quite good about himself again. Having that morning suffered from an attack of angst – the only term he could think of to apply to his feeling of being no use to anyone else in the world and having no intrinsic value as measured on any scale he was aware of – Oscar was now filled with a certain sense of self worth. Oscar felt he had achieved something, something of which he could be proud.

And all the while Oscar had to keep to a quick pace, which made him feel purposeful, as he was assiduously followed by his accuser, who was becoming more and more vocal in this role, as well as (in Oscar’s imagination) more and more red in the face.

“It’s wrong,” the little old man shouted out. “That’s not right!”

Oscar imagined that this man was attracting quite an amount of attention owing to his very odd behaviour, but he thought it best not to stop and turn around lest that presented the old fella with an opportunity of pointing a finger in his face and so putting the spot-light on him. But what would this spot-light reveal? Simply a man going about his business in a supermarket, an innocent man, a man being hectored for little or no reason, a man standing accused of a crime which didn’t exist.

So Oscar stopped. He turned around. He faced the stiffly pointing finger of his red-faced accuser with a look made up of one part amusement and one part surprise, with not a hint of any feeling such as consternation, being ill at ease, or being slightly queasy. Oscar was on firm ground – the people of this world would back him all the way.

It was only at this point that Oscar managed to tune in to the whispers that were circulating around the assembled crowd – “milk in the sauces-of-the-worlds aisle” and “fresh peaches in the frozen vegetables” – but he couldn’t quite work out the tone of these whispered comments. Oscar decided that their tone must be one of mock concern, as how could these people of the world, the same world he occupied and made up a substantial part of, be in the least concerned by his recent actions?

The clicking of many tongues against many palates, the progressively deeper intakes of breath and the persistent shaking of heads which became more and more pronounced, soon informed Oscar that they took a diametrically opposed view of the situation –diametrically opposed to his own view of the situation, which he didn’t regard as a situation – i.e. they saw it as a situation. But what was the situation?

Having little choice but to feel like a pariah, or some such person, Oscar also had little choice but to attempt to defend what the indefensible – how could he defend himself against a crime which didn’t exist – the wilful disorganisation of stock on the shelves of a supermarket. But one has to try – “You don’t know,” Oscar called out down the fresh fruit and veg isle. “You’re all stupid, you are!” He turned and left after he delivered the only blow he had left in his arsenal – his basket containing nothing but a box of coco-pops sliding down the isle.

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