Table Twenty-Six: Joseph Suglia

You sally forth down Clark Street, toward the intersection between Clark and Division. You are compelled to see what there is to see. You must see. You must see what there is to see. And this is what you see.

To your left is a supermarket. A Treasure Island, America’s Most European Supermarket, 75 West Elm Street. The electronic door hums open. You enter softly.

You walk into the supermarket.

The supermarket is livingly present. It is vivacious. It is bristling with life.

You hear a rustling. The supermarket is shadowless—there is no possibility of an ambush. Everything is out in the open. You hear the howling, the lowing, and the bellowing of beasts.

You walk toward the refrigerated area of the supermarket.

A man runs slantingly before your vision, a roasted chicken in his arms. He hees and haas as he runs. Hee haa hoo.

As you approach the refrigerated area of the supermarket, you observe the predations of the mongooses, of a pack of mongooses that is squirming around on the diamond-tiled floor of the refrigerated area. Beside the mongooses, a coil of fretting ferrets. Beside the ferrets, a brood of meerkats is brooding.

See the mongooses gnawing open the boxes of Chicken Egg Rolls. See the mongooses burrowing their sleek heads into the boxes of Chicken Egg Rolls. See the slick mongooses sliding and sliming into the boxes of tiramisu.

There: the largest mongoose, the mother of the brood. The mother mongoose yawns, her tiny mouth widening. You look at the inside of the mongoose’s pink mouth. The mongoose snarls and curls her tongue.

You look to the left. They, the mongooses, are storming the freezer boxes everywhere. They are worming into the packets of Sausage Patties, swarming over the boxes of Mini Chicken Tacos, tearing with their teeth and claws into the bags of Breaded Chickenless Nuggets, crawling into the pizza boxes—boxes of Organic Wood-fired Sicilian-Style Pizza—slithering into the bags of Linguini with Clam Sauce, and squirming into the boxes of Chocolate-Covered Mini-Pretzels. They are weaving and weaving, one on top of the other, weaving a web of mongooses, a web of mongooses that is spreading over the freezer boxes.

Though they can stare into the sun, the eyes of the mongooses are unaccustomed to fluorescent lighting. The mongooses squint. Frozen pizza boxes they barge into now. They burst through the cardboard pizza-roll boxes. They taste the frozen egg rolls.

The cardboard boxes cannot withstand the long, digging claws of the mongooses. The Duck Nuggets cannot withstand their crushing teeth.

Their tapering grizzled grey tails lashing back and forth, they chew into the cardboard boxes and plastic bags. The freezers are teeming with mongooses.

Into the coolers, the weasels are slipping and slithering. The weasels are squeezing into the frozen asparagus packets and the frozen raspberry packets and the frozen corn packets and the frozen cauliflower packets.

Into the coolers the shrews are diving. Droves of shrews are diving into the coolers, ingesting the steak filets and the hamburger patties.

The lemurs are in the ice box, devouring the cheesecake, stuffing creamy balls of cheesecake into their mouths in an almost human manner.

Frozen pastries invading are the parrots now. Parrots are hacking, tearing, spearing, crushing, and sucking the crème brulees and cheesecakes with their slicing hooked beaks.

The hippopotamus snorts and shimmies its big black bulk and probes its bullet-shaped head into the ice-cream freezer. It is sucking the ice cream. It is gulping the ice cream.

Gamboling hounds are running for the sausages. They lift their heads to the coolers, arching their backs. The hounds are feeding on the sausages.

Aardvarks are gnawing open the white plastic containers and licking out the yogurt pudding slop.

Biting down hard on the chicken sausages, the coyotes are thrashing their heads back and forth.

You see African wild dogs digging their muzzles into the meat cooler, standing on their hindlegs, their fox-like heads bobbing and their fox-like bodies vibrating. Watching the African wild dogs feed, you see, very clearly, a manifestation of the impulse that lurks in every living creature: the drive to atomize and to consume. Their sharp pointed teeth splintering the Styrofoam, the African wild dogs are foraging for meat.

A wolf lowers its head and dines on the sinewy pink meat, the slimy meaty pinkness. Yes. Rabid wolves are ingesting the meaty meat filets. Hyenas are consuming meat tubes: hot dogs and sausage links. Dagger-shaped canines, the hyena teeth are mangling the turkey bacon strips. Pinkish hamburger meat is ground in the cavernous mouths of the coyotes and the African wild dogs.

And there is a ferocious jaguar. The jaguar, camouflaged by itself, mouths a steak filet with its mouth, teething it with its teeth, puncturing and piercing the steak with its merciless jaws.

The hounds, the coyotes, the African wild dogs, the wolves, and the jaguar do not attend to your presence.

At the center of the refrigerated area, in a puddle of water, a clutch of alligators is ingurgitating slimy hamburger patties.

Packets of olive loaf and turkey sandwich meat hail to the ground, where they are ripped apart and consumed by the coyotes and hyenas.

Under the flaying hooves of a zebra fray, the Angus ground beef and steak filets are being trampled.

Swallowing the food whole, a hyena is ingesting the Sun-Dried-Tomato-Infused Chicken Sausages.

Smacking lions are snacking on meat snacks. Ravens squabble over scraps of Chicken Nuggets in the cooler. The freezers are crackling with rabbit. The ravens are cackling.

You advance alongside the perimeter of the refrigerated area, which is bathed in a blindingly white incandescence. You approach the dairy products.

A gazelle cranes its neck forward, pointing its muzzle toward the milk cartons. The Komodo dragons are digging their serrated teeth into the milk cartons, jerking their heads back and forth. Snakes are curving in the wispy white waves of Cool Whip. Driving its fangs deep into a block of cheddar, the yellow python is lashing its body-tail.

The elephant shrew prods its fleshy snout into the yogurt. Yogurt funnels into the slime-slickened gullets of the frogs and the toads. See the extrudable pink-and-purple tongue of the kinkajou as it extrudes and licks up the ice cream.

Hedgehogs are swallowing eggs, scooping them up from their torn-open cartons.

Look at the quail, look at the kurapatka.

A covey of quail is before you, quail that are pecking at a clutch of eggs. An egg carton is being pecked open by the quail. There: an orgy of cannibalistic quail, pecking at the chicken eggs, plucking at the chicken eggs, eggs that are breaking open, exposing their albumens, pecking at the yolks, shattering the eggs with their quail beaks, scratching the eggs with their talons.

Quail with curious eyes, precise-looking quail, clean quail, foraging for food, devouring the contents of the eggs, red-masked quail, black-quilled quail, brown-plumed quail, quailing quail, pecking at the chicken eggs, an obscene orgy of quail pecking at the chicken eggs, orange-beaked quail, brown-speckled quail, quail with spotted breasts, pecking at one another, placid quail, brownish-yellow quail, quail with azure breasts, quail with scale-like feathers, quail with whitish crests, eating the soft-bodied life-food, crescents on their breasts.

Dusky-feathered quail, chestnut-breasted quail, orange-feathered quail, reddish-brown quail, ocellated quail, quail with bluish breasts. Dark-backed quail, spot-winged quail, striped-faced quail, black-fronted quail, quail gulping down the translucent egg fluid, cannibalistic quail, tawny quail, black-mantled quail, obscenely cannibalistic quail—amid all of this profusion of life, there is the devouring of life.

Each quail could fit within the palm of your hand, but this mass of quail is enormous as if the entire covey of quail were but one fissiparous Quail.

(Fissiparous = capable of being broken down into small pieces.)

Aggressive cocks jolt and jut their necks. The cloacal glands of precise and clean Japanese quail are excreting whitish foam balls—that is their excrement.

Beaking down the egg food, the quail. Chestnut markings on their breasts. Within all of this profusion of life, there is life feeding upon life.

The gluttonous wolverine is sucking out the albumen from a quail’s egg.

You watch the mongooses sucking on chicken eggs, sucking out the yolks, standing up, erect egg-sucking mongooses.

The eggs are bursting open, the egg shells are leaking albumen, albumen spilling over the supermarket floor, eggs exuding sunlight-colored yolks.

In the Seafood Department you are now. The alligators are slipping down from the racks wetly and coming toward you. Avoid.

Do you see the ripped-open bags of sugar and salt? Smashed and crushed soup cans. Where there is sugar, there will be rodents. Gnawing rodentia. Shrews and mice wiggle and wriggle over the sugar spill. A gerbil and hamster frenzy, a rodent fantasia.

You follow the humans with a not indifferent gaze as they return to the supermarket. Despite the superabundance of animal life within, the humans turn to the shelves and the displays, filling their backpacks, duffel bags, and purses with free nourishment and supplies.

Plunderers and spoilage everywhere. People are tearing the cereal boxes down from the shelves. Some of them are absconding with cartons of milk. What is the point of spoliating spoiled milk?

(To spoliate means “to steal in a forceful manner.”)

Snakes are sinuating and slithering across sands of sucrose. The shrews are in the brown sugar; the mice are in the salt.

Nothing is sadder than a solitary lemming—and there one is, crawling and scampering, scurrying with furry forepaws, an undifferentiated ball of cream, orange, and black fur, navigating its way through the fallen green- and cocoa-colored shampoo bottles. Gearing its small body toward the sugar desert.

There is a black rat. Avoid the black rat. The black rat jerks its head back and forth, left and right, its delicate ears catching unheard signals and sounds. Its naked nose, tapering and curious, probes the sugar. It swishes its long, hairless, scaly, worm-shaped tail.

Raiding the marmalade, the boars nose their snouts into the glistening jars and scoop out the viscous sap.

More rats in the supermarket you see. The rats are gnawing at the bags of flour. Their claws are ax-sharp bulbous digits. Their teeth, grinders and pullers, grind and pull.

You see guanacos, so many leaping guanacos—the guanacos are licking the sugar from the sugar boxes.

A wildebeest tramps through the candy aisle, its mouth smeared with marzipan.

A muskrat is scrambling down the aisle. The muskrat’s buckteeth are making clapping and smacking noises. Clicking and clacking. The muskrat’s fur is wet and knitted. It is foraging for food, swaying its vermicular tail obscenely.

Before your eyes, a springhare is jumping. Vigorously jumping up and down.

Leaping and loping, the springhare is electric, as if energized by a charge outside of itself, springing violently into the air, pausing impossibly six feet above the ground, and then falling again, its pointed ears reaching upward, its black eyes bulging, its hindfeet long and stringy, its face an expressionless mask, its tail acting as the third leg of a tripod, its forepaws stubby little diggers, digging little stubs, its nails black daggers. The springhare jolts and bolts, is jolting and bolting, electrically vibrant.

You see an otter, a creature with human-like locomotion and motor skills. The otter cracks open a can of anchovies by smashing it against the tiled floor. It tears open the metal lid with its hands and jaws.

You swerve to the right, down the nearest aisle, an aisle flanked with tall green ferns.

Before you, a middle-aged woman, wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and grey sweatpants, is grabbing chocolate from the shelves. Her face is smooth and epalpebrate.

(Epalpebrate = without eyebrows.)

You say nothing.

Voles and badgers scramble for the cereal boxes. They stand on their hindlegs, reaching upward. They will devour the frosted flakes and the bran flakes.

The wolverines are attacking the shelves, wolfing down the cereal flakes. Their incisors are chiseling through the cardboard boxes: Honey Nut Oats, Corn Flakes, Crispy Rice Cereal, Bran Flakes, Toasted Oatmeal Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Mango Passion Granola. The wildebeests are tackling the shelves.

Its body contorting in a volley of violent twists, the yellow python invades the shelves, propelling its body into the shelves, its body rocked by spasms, slithering around the cereal boxes, all fangs, gnawing at the cereal boxes, sending them down, boxes hailing downward.

The muskrats scurry into the ripped-open pasta and cereal boxes, chewing and licking.

Swilling the chicken soup that has spilled across the tiled floor, a lone anteater is sucking. A puddle of tomato soup is spreading. An ocelot guzzles the tomato soup at its northernmost edge.

Chimpanzees are quadrupedally strolling, knuckle-walking down the aisle, tossing cereal boxes from the shelves and squirting bottles of dishwashing fluid at one another. Rowdy and rude chimpanzees. The chimpanzees ramble past you, scrambling down the aisle.

Mongooses scamper across your shoes, between your legs, and down the supermarket aisle. A colony of low-slung, low-running mongooses.

A heron is manically pecking and plucking at broken jars of jam. Its marmalade-glistening beak stabs into the stacks of jars.

Engulfed by the hungry mouth of the black panther are the frosted and dried fruit snacks, the frosted flakes on which the great animal snacks.

Beneath the zebra’s hooves, shattered jars of tomato puree. The zebra laps at the flowing tomato puree, flowing everywhere. The zebra laps violently and noisily.

Spreading across the aisle is not a puddle the color of blood, but a puddle the color of Hawaiian Fruit Punch.

You squeeze out of the aisle.

You walk slowly to the Produce Section (to the right of the cash registers). The Produce Section is a magically growing garden. As you walk into the garden, the garden welcomes you.

Before you, bathed in fluorescent luminescence, is a rhinoceros. A fruit-devouring rhinoceros.

See the rhinoceros devouring the fruit, the fruit in the fruit display, tossing the mangos in its mouth, spooning up the apples with its flexible upper lip, absorbing the green and red grapes, inhaling the bananas, engulfing the rich and juicy papaya meat.

The rhinoceros blinks its weary eyes indifferently. Its eyes are black and shiny and beady and on either side of its head. Its tail brushes back and forth as it chews open the bag of limes and snorts and kisses its contents. Ingesting kisses. Consuming kissings.

Behind the fruit display cowers a cringing woman—she is thirtyish and is wearing brown yoga pants and a white sweatshirt; her hair is brownish-yellow and ponytailed. An iPod plugs her ears. She is gathering nectarines into a pink leather Gianni handbag. She scuttles away, toward the electronic doors.

Only the rhinoceros’s head moves, its rough, creased grey hide stiff and immobile. It chews with equanimity, unheeding of the human woman, heedless of you. Its head bows, though not in reverence. It bows to raise the Bartlett Pears into the rows of its rowing mouth.

The rhinoceros’s lips enfold the succulent peaches. The rhinoceros swallows the succulent peaches. You hear the smack and the suck.

The rhinoceros turns to the vegetable display. Rhinoceroses are nearly blind—they must squint one eye in order to look straight ahead. This is what the rhinoceros does. It becomes more animated as it sights and senses the spinach-and-lettuce display. (The mega-herbivorous rhinoceros, you remember, is not known to eat fruit. It eats grass and leaves.)

The hook-lipped rhinoceros purses his hooked, mobile lips and spoons up the avocados and bananas. Yes, the rhinoceros is male. The sex of the male rhinoceros points backward and that the female rhinoceros has udders between her hindlegs.

The rhinoceros quickens its movements—snorts, huffs, puffs, and roars—and lumbers toward the supermarket lettuce patch. It extends its prehensile upper lip, grasping a head of lettuce in its mouth, swallowing the head whole. Roaring rhinoceros. It ruminates over the spinach leaves. Now it absorbs the avocados, the mushrooms, the corn, and yellow squash.

You come closer to the huffing beast—the snorting, puffing beast—the ruminant beast as it ruminates over the spinach leaves, the hook-lipped black rhinoceros.

You place your hand on the rhinoceros’s hide. You palm the hide of the mighty rhinoceros. Its hide feels cool and hard, leathery and thick. You smooth the hide.

You run your fingers across the rhinoceros’s horn, which is bespattered with strawberry blood. Strawberry blood leaves traces on your fingertips.

There: An okapi. The okapi extrudes its black tongue. The tongue fascinates you, a tongue that can grasp whatever is in front of it. Its tongue plucks tomatoes from the tomato display.

Unleashing themselves into the supermarket, their new habitat, the orangutans and the gorillas tumble toward the vegetables and the fruit.

Clamping their teeth on the melons, their heads shaking and rocking, the gorillas dive into the divinely luxurious produce.

The gorillas chew and swallow. The orangutans champ and chomp on the mangos and on the avocados.

You gaze at the silky simians. The chimpanzees wallow in the vegetable and fruit puddles. You are studying the chimpanzees, the humanoid primates, as they consume the melons and the papayas.

A troop of baboons is plucking oranges from the bunch and swallowing the pulpy fruit. Crested birds, yellow-crested cockatoos, are picking and pecking at the toilet paper rolls. Their mouths disgustingly wide, screaming, screeching, and shrieking gibbons are devouring the bananas.

An Australian false vampire—a ghoulish carnivorous bat—spreads its wings, ready to drop down on the filet mignon, hamburger, and ground beef below.

You are watching the playful romps of a pack of orangutans, playfully romping through the vegetable displays. They revel in the bananas and the apples and the papayas and the pears and the tomatoes and the limes. They suck and suckle the pulp.

Walking on its knuckles, the gorilla roves the shopping-market aisles in search of vegetables. The gorilla surveys you with eyes that are not ungentle. You see that this is a not ungentle beast, often violated but seldom violent.

Engulfing the mushrooms, the orangutans seem blissfully self-contained. They, the orangutans, are chewing up the yellow squash and the broccoli. They are devouring the spinach and Romaine lettuce.

You see the bobbing carapaces of armadillos, as the creatures snuffle and huff through the vegetable rubbish, battening themselves on confections of rotting bananas and rancid blackberries.

Butterflies flit among the peaches and plums. The apes howl.

Into the Baked Goods section you go. Into the bakery.

Soft antelope fawns stand grazing. In the Baked Goods section, they are grazing. On grass that sprouts through the diamond-shaped tiles. On food that was once designed for human consumption. You look at the scene contemplatively.

Fawn-colored antelope fawns are grazing upon the blueberry pies, the cherry pies, and the Viennese lemon tarts. Antelope are grazing upon the chocolate cake. There is a woman gazing at the antelope. She grazes her own cheek with her fingertips.

Nestled on the display table before you, a panda is licking a Strawberry Popsicle, insane panda.

Bubble head bobbing and bobbling, the panda pushes the Popsicle into its mouth and pulls it out again—again and again, it does this. Now the panda is fixing its gaze on you—or it seems to be, since you cannot see its eyes. The panda sits, lapping and nibbling on the Strawberry Popsicle. Its fur is a snowy black—a bear with the eyes of a cat, a cat-bear, the giant panda.

See the wild pigs. A tusker is tusking the cakes. The boars are courting the sows. The boars are nuzzling the anogenital areas of the sows.

A vulture sinks her hooked talons deeply into a birthday cake.

The tiger makes for the pastries.

Sinking its teeth into the chocolate mousse, the tiger engulfs the creamy stuff. Crushing the cakes beneath its clawed pads, the tiger roars.

A wildebeest pack is galloping solidly into the bakery. The wildebeests are zigzagging toward the baguettes and the patisseries de chocolat.

A Cyclopean pig, a pig with a single eye above its nasal ridge, is raiding the chocolates, the cakes, and the creams.

The capybaras lick the white frosting from the ridges of the four-tiered wedding cake. They protrude their tongues and worm them inside of the cake and suck out the cream.

Kangaroos are gorging themselves, digging their heads into halved watermelons and devouring cakes and crepes, ripping open boxes with human-like hands.

Looking like gigantic potato bugs or pigs with protuberant snouts in bony-plated shields, the anteaters are wolfing down the profiteroles, croissants, and frosted cakes.

Thrusting its snout into the anniversary cake, the boar feasts on the gooey frosting and feeds on the spongy cream interior.

The beak-like snouts of the solenodons wiggle forward, perforating the graduation cake in the display case.

The anteaters are in the bakery, hungrily spooning down, with their spoon-shaped pads, the baguettes and choux pastry balls and tonguing the challah loaves. Shrews and moles are eating up the crepes and the chocolate cakes and the crème brûlées.

As if demonically possessed, the swine shoot straight into the bakery and attack the tiramisus and profiteroles.

Spearing down the aisles, their fearful snouts wet, an army of wild boars looks for its slinking prey. The stinking pack of wild boars, smeared with ranch dressing, tomato puree, and strawberry jam, is gorging itself on whatever it can find.

An orgy of wombats is making short work of the hamburgers.

Look: Two rhinoceroses are fighting right in front of you, fighting in the supermarket, collapsing shelves into the aisles.

The birds are in the nests of fluorescent lighting, and they swoop down to pick and peck at the dashed contents of ripped-open frozen pizza boxes. Vultures and cormorants sweep above the aisles. Looped around the ceiling beams, the yellow pythons dance.

A tribe of wayward human shoppers is patrolling the aisles and stripping the shelves, emptying the shelves into their shopping carts and shopping baskets. They are wearing large sunglasses and are unsmiling unsmilingly.

A pair of giraffes ambles toward the shoppers. Licking and nuzzling the faces of the suburbanites, the giraffes are playful.

There is a Tasmanian devil, its open mouth chewing the glass of a Blueberry-Flavored Sparkling Beverage, teething the glass.

Galloping down the aisles, a pair of ostriches streams past you through the automatic doors, clutching pizza bagels in their beaks.

Zebra are biting the cereal boxes and kicking over the display tables. Emus are pecking at the apple pies. An orangutan is guzzling down a bottle of Ranch Salad Dressing. The moose are licking up the chocolate mousse.

Shopping baskets at your feet. Every shopping basket is an overflowing bucket of mongooses. There are mongooses in the tomato sauce. There are mongooses in the potato chips. There are mongooses in the steak and in the cheese and in the milk. There are mongooses in the yogurt.

A cobra raises its hood. A massive cloak of serrated skin umbrellas the small head of a frillneck lizard as it raises its small head and hisses through its sucker mouth. Rattlesnakes are hissing and shaking their rattles.

The ferns swish in the air conditioning.

Red antelope as big as cattle, with goat horns and bright yellow legs, are lapping up the Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Topi—that is what they are—chewed open the plastic bottles and are scooping the carbonated brown water. Kudu grazing over the cauliflower and cabbages in the vegetable stands. Squabbling hens are quarreling in the cereal.

Bristles raised, the hogs batter-ram the shelves—the boxes and cans topple and hail down.

Swilling the Blueberry Cream Soda, the hogs are licking it up.

Quarrelling boars, fighting with each other over the cakes, collide their intrusive heads.

The opossums move rat-like, swerving away from you, through the store aisles, scavenging ginger cookies and pickles, scoffing the apple sauce and crunching the dry noodles.

You walk through the supermarket like a ghost. Luxuriant ferns curl at your feet.

You look out the front window. Crassulent humans are pressing their palms against the glass.

(Crassulent = obscenely overweight.)

They are pressing their cheeks and their noses against the glass. They are pressing their lips against the glass until their lips resemble balloons. Disgusting primates, these human animals.

Whizzing past you, a shopping cart bristling with tiger cubs, servals, and ocelots, pushed by a bipedal orangutan.

Over the cash registers and conveyer belts, there are tangles of vines. Rubbery green leaves proliferate over the profiteroles, proliferating everywhere and over everything. They shoot up through the linoleum. Toads and squirrels radiate in all directions, frenziedly.

African Wild Dogs bound through the door, into the supermarket. On a hunting foray, they stream by in a creamy streak. The African Wild Dogs, happily hopping canids, are leaping toward the Produce Section. They are leaping into the spinach leaves and lapping up the smeary tomato sauce.

Coyotes and hyenas jump through the electronic entrance. They leap inside. They cover the ground in seconds, rushing toward the back of the supermarket, rushing for the turkey bacon snacks, their lips smacking noisily. A coyote is padding toward a lost iPad.

The crocodiles are sauntering through the aisles, as if they were members of some kind of deranged militia, their slow tails undulating. They are gearing toward the refrigerated concourse. They will attack the egg cartons, freeing the shattering brown eggs from their cruel containers.

At the check-out counters, snakes are coupling. Sprawling over the conveyer belts, vipers and vipers, pythons and pythons, cobras and cobras, and rattlesnakes and rattlesnakes are kissing one another.

You walk nervously toward the exit. A pack of tigers is waiting for you outside. Tigers, massive felids, are swatting the windows with their terrible paws.

The electronic door opens its mouth.

Sliding toward the exit.

You are out in the open.

As you tread out of the supermarket, filled with holy dread, you see a lone man smoking a cigarette beneath the tangerine awning, and you see the pack of tigers.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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