While accompanying my friend to the grocery store one day, I found myself being dragged through the health food section, which, I believe, is where all the hippies live. I sometimes meander through this aisle, laughing at the poor bastards who happily pay 4.50 a pound for "organic" apples. I wonder if perhaps these people are under the impression that the regular .99 cent apples are made out of plastic, cardboard, or other "inorganic" materials....But I digress...
As my friend Heather was filling her shopping cart with such delectable items like flax seed, bee pollen, twigs, and tree bark, my eyes scoured the aisle in search of interesting people to look at, like patchouli-drenched singer/songwriter chicks with hairy legs, middle-aged vegetarian men in tie-dyed t-shirts and sandals with their gray hair pulled into ponytails, and other local crazy folk who scanned the shelves for the latest New Age wonder-food made from ethically-harvested soybeans grown by Tibetan monks.
Down the aisle, standing next to the bottles of "organic" water, was a relatively normal-looking young woman who was flapping her arms in the air. Either she was trying to get our attention or she was trying out some new kind of pilates-inspired yoga moves. In the health food section of a grocery store, these things have been known to happen.
"I think that girl is trying to get your attention," I said.
My friend looks up, the two women make eye contact, and then run into each others arms squealing like contestants on "The Price is Right" who had just happened to win a lifetime supply of Rice-A-Roni in a hard-fought game of Plink-O. I assumed that these two women were long lost friends. Heather says to me, "I want you to meet a good friend of mine. This is the girl who used to babysit my neice’s second cousin’s step-brother’s sister."
"Wow, imagine that. Small world, I guess," I said, trying to be polite.
"Hi. My name is Brie," she said, introducing herself.
"Is that short for Brianna? Or Brianne?" I asked.
"It’s not short for anything. That’s my name. B-R-I-E. Brie." She looked at me as if I had just asked the most ridiculous question in human history. Brie? I thought to myself, "isn’t that a kind of cheese?" I wondered why anyone would want to name their daughter after a mold-ripened dairy product.
Heather and Brie chatted for a bit, and Brie mentioned that she was now married and had a six-month old baby and had a great career at the local winery giving guided tours through the vineyards. That part didn’t surprise me. Brie and wine do make a good combination.
A tall sandy-haired man came down the aisle carrying a small child, and Brie said, "This is my husband, Colby."
Colby? Isn’t that a kind of cheese as well? I wondered if I had stumbled into some kind of parallel universe where everyone was named after cheese. I looked at the baby and wondered if the couple had given him a cheese name too, like Gouda. Or Gorgonzola. I wondered if perhaps I had encountered a cheese family. Colby and Brie and little Baby Gouda, living a happy and perfect life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin with a Jack Russel terrier named Limburger and a parrot called Monterey Jack. I was amazed that such a family could exist. They were perfect for each other. It would be just like a man named Mackerel falling in love with a girl named Halibut.
I must have gotten carried away with my imagination because I soon found myself trying to stifle a laugh.
"What’s so funny?" asked Heather.
"I’m sorry," I said. "It’s just the names. Colby and Brie. It’s just so....cheesy."
"Yeah, we get that alot," said Colby.
"Well, it’s very ’gouda’ meet you." I said, unable to resist. "You guys are definitely ’nacho’ average family." Heather jammed an elbow into my ribs, her face reddening in embarassment. This, however, just made me more motivated. "Let me ask you something. When you have nightmares, do you dream about cheese graters or melting on top of someone’s pizza?"
"Enough with the cheese jokes," said Heather through clenched teeth.
"Yeah, we get it, we’ve got cheese names," said Brie, looking at me with a stare that could melt ice.
"I’m terribly sorry," I said. "I didn’t mean to be rude, I just found it very humorous. Just please don’t tell me that you guys named your baby Roquefort or I swear I’m going to piss in my pants."
"Actually, his name is Ethan."
We all stared at each other in awkward silence for a moment, and then Brie handed the baby to Heather, and soon everyone was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the baby as if he were the greatest thing in the world. I didn’t really see what the big deal was. It was just an average baby...a squirming, drooling, sticky little humanoid life form with an oversized cranium. A gorgeous girl who was passing through the aisle stopped to remark how adorable the baby was, and I was beginning to feel a little bit jealous and left out. Another pretty woman stopped to marvel at the kid, bending over and saying, "Awww! Ooga booga woogie woo woo?" The baby just laughed as though he had been told the world’s funniest joke. I was getting jealous. I thought that there was defintely a double standard here. The baby was drooling all over Heather’s cleavage and it was deemed "cute", yet whenever I drool on a woman’s cleavage, I usually get a knee in the groin. I studied the baby, noting the prowess he had with the opposite sex. I began to make mental notes, thinking that I could learn something from the kid. Obviously, this baby had moves. He was a pimp.
"Here, you hold him!" said Brie, thrusting the pimp baby into my arms. I wasn’t quite sure how to hold him, since holding babies wasn’t a field I had much experience in. Any woman can hold a baby and make it look natural, as though the proper way of holding an infant was an inborn trait, an instinct passed down through eons. I, however, did not possess that instinct.
"Oh, for Christ’s sake, Marlin. That’s not how you hold a baby," said Heather. "Bring your arms in a little. It’s a baby, not toxic waste."
I held the baby closer, and as I looked down, I felt something in my heart. He really was adorable. He clutched at my shirt with tiny little fingers and I soon found myself ooh-ing and ahh-ing and babbling jibberish like an idiot. Maybe I was wrong about babies. Maybe I would want one of my own someday. Just as I was getting used to the little goober, I detected a strange gurgling noise coming from somewhere deep inside of his little body. The gurgling grew louder and the baby began to squirm, and then he ejected a mouthful of a subtance that looked like cottage cheese. I must have been startled, because the next thing I remember was feeling the baby slip through my hands.
Now, let me just say that I learned an important thing right then: the same law of physics that makes cats land on their feet apparently doesn’t apply to babies. I blame it on their freakishly large heads.
Clunk! He landed right on the floor of the grocery store and began crying, and everyone within earshot came over and began scrambling to help the baby. Within a few minutes he was quiet, and no real harm was done. I, however, did not make out so well. I had baby vomit all over my shirt. It was a nice shirt too and I feared that it would be ruined. A few days later I sent Brie and Colby a bill for my drycleaning, which they, of course, refused to pay.
I felt bad for the poor kid, having such cheapskates for parents.