And so a month after they built the fifth Wal-Mart in our county, a little coffee shop opened just a few yards away.
My coworker Rick said it looked like a giant amoeba just waiting to absorb any surrounding properties.
“The coffee shop?” I asked.
“No, Wal-Mart is the amoeba.”
When I got back to my desk, I typed ‘amoeba’ into Google and realized that I had incorrectly pictured a centipede.
“Fuck Rick,” I thought. “I don’t need any more friends, anyway. I’m on friend overload.”
At dinner that night, the Wal-Mart came up again when my wife Diane mentioned how ugly it was to see another gigantic shopping center taking up space in our town.
“It looks like a giant amoeba just waiting to absorb that little coffee shop,” I said. “And then the coffee shop is like a centipede.”
“I don’t think amoebas eat centipedes. And besides, that’s the point.”
Diane went on to explain that the coffee shop, though legitimate and functioning by all measures, was really an art piece constructed by a group of private donors in response to the new Wal-Mart.
“The idea is that we’re intentionally not supposed to go to the coffee shop. That way, Wal-Mart customers will be forced to observe the gradual decay of a local business every time they enter the store.”
“Well, I’ve been going there all week,” I said. “I think the coffee is top-notch stuff. Plus, it’s on my way to work.”
“The coffee is supposed to be mediocre,” said Diane. “Keeping within the budget of most struggling businesses. It’s supposed to be virtually undrinkable.”
“Hmm…well I really like it.”
“Well, you can’t keep going or else you’ll ruin the project.”
“This is America,” I said. “And if I want a cup of mediocre, overpriced coffee, by god I will have it!”
Over the next several months, I kept drinking the coffee. Some days I even went twice. The quality of the coffee, I was told, gradually worsened as a result of my unwavering interest, but I never noticed and so I had no choice but to doubt the rumors.
My doubt remained intact even after overhearing a private conversation between the coffee shop’s manager and the cashier. I was standing by a tree and watching a teenager back his car into another car and I guess they didn’t see me.
“I know,” said the cashier. “I’ve tried that, but it’s like he doesn’t have taste buds.”
“Well, he’s single-handedly fucking up this entire thing.”
“So what then, poison? Would he even drink poison?”
“Now, that’s an interesting idea.”
“Stupid teenage drivers,” I thought.
In the end, they poisoned the coffee. I made it a month after that, but my failing eyesight and ravaged kidneys eventually left me bed-ridden.
“Well, they just opened another location,” said Diane. “Business is booming. I hope you’re happy.”
And I wasn’t happy, but I was somehow content and I thought about everything: Wal-Mart, art projects, even little amoebas crawling through the forest, one-hundred legs working beautifully in tandem.
“Nobody ever wins in these kinds of things,” said Diane.
“But if you had to pick a winner, you’d probably pick me because the coffee shop was on my way to work.”
Diane sighed and left the room. I dozed off and in my dream, they did pick a winner. They picked me and I was led over to a small stage to choose my prize: A brand new recliner or two new kidneys!
“The recliner,” I inquired. “How far back are we talking?”