When in the Presence of Royalty
A Part of the “Berkel & Me” Series
By Jon Frangipane
I never used discount coupons to buy food at the grocery store because I
didn’t want to go through the trouble of cutting them out of the Sunday paper
and then holding up the line at the checkout counter, thereby becoming
one of those irritating, inconsiderate coupon-toting laggards that I hate with
all my being.
Since I picked up Berkel a few months ago at the local animal shelter, he had been pressuring me to buy premium cat food under the guise that he was a descendent of some cat owned by King Olaf, the Holy Martyr-King of Norway,
and that his body couldn’t tolerate normal cat food.
I’m not as gullible as I look, so I said, “Berkel, the papers I
received from the Humane Society never indicated any royal blood
running through your veins. In fact you were such skin and bones,
I doubt if you had any blood running through your veins. And
besides, you happened to be the only kitten left, the reason of
which should have been apparent to me at that time, but I was in
a weak state of mind and I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Well, I beg your pardon! Do you happen to see the little white
spot on the side of my precious nose?”
“Yes, but my insurance doesn’t cover cat nose jobs.”
“I wasn’t referring to a nose job, but for your information I was
referring to the fact that King Olaf’s cat named Desmond had the
same white spot in the same area of his nose and there is documentation
and paintings to prove it. You can check Wikipedia yourself.
“President Obama says we’ll have to make some sacrifices this
year until the country can get on its feet again, so just get used to less than premium food, buddy!”
“Well, I don’t see the president eating at Denny’s, or McDonald’s. If he
doesn’t sacrifice, why should I?”
“Because he’s the President of these United States, that’s why!”
“Oh, yea! Well, he also happens to be a servant of the people, so
if it’s a question of equality for all, I’d like to eat what President
Obama eats. When he sacrifices, I’ll sacrifice!”
“Listen, I’m on the way to the grocery store with the coupons
that I clipped out of the Sunday paper, so I can take advantage during
this economic turndown and time for personal sacrifice.”
“Oh my, how patriotic! Just remember who I am and that my
royal stomach may accidentally deposit some royal regurgitation
on your favorite chair, if that said royal stomach is treated unroyally.”
I pulled a fistful of coupons out of the kitchen drawer and left
the house without saying goodbye. My cat was treating me like a
dog. I was so enraged that I could feel my heart pounding like a
bass drum, and the vein in my left temple pulsating against my
It was good to get away from the big mouth fuzzball. King Olaf?
What a joke! He must think I’m stupid.
So, up and down the aisles of the supermarket I went for over
an hour, checking every price, reading every ingredient on the back
of each can and package, being sure that the bargain items were of
decent quality. I still was a little wary, but no products listed rat
hairs, so I felt somewhat relieved. I also find it disingenuous of
some food companies to add salmonella to their peanut butter. I
think the FDA has been downsized to only two people who check
out these things, so they’re bound to miss almost all 99.99% of
products produced in this country.
As I finally pulled my cart up to the checkout counter, my
pocket calculator told me that I was about to save $4.89. It took
me 45 minutes longer to shop. Further calculations told me that I
saved 10.86 cents for every overtime minute.
But I did feel a great feeling of accomplishment as I handed the
cashier my coupons. In less time than it takes Berkel to cough up a
hairball, the cashier told me that the coupons had expired and the
items would be rung up at the regular price.
“There must be some mistake! I distinctly remember cutting
them out and placing in the 2nd drawer of my kitchen cabinet,” I
“I betcha any money, if you go home you’re gonna find this
week’s coupons in the 1st drawer. I betcha any money,” said the
cashier, a spitting image of Nurse Hatchet.
“So, who’s going to know, lady. Who’s gonna know!” I said as I
felt myself losing my equilibrium.
“You’re asking me to be dishonest? said the cashier.
“Listen, I’m just a first-time coupon user, you could at least
show me some pity.”
I now felt a hundred eyes glaring at me from behind because I
had just become one of those irritating, inconsiderate coupon-toting
laggards that I hate with all my being. I felt myself shrinking
down into the tile floor.
“I’ll show you some pity, buddy, when people like you vote to
raise up my hourly pay. You must think I’m having a picnic here,
putting up with irritating, inconsiderate coupon-toting laggards.”
“No, no. I’m very, very sorry,” I said, as my voice began to crackle
and the vein in my left temple was about to pop open.
“You’re sorry?” Come home with me. I’ll show you what
sorry is,” she ranted.
“My house has no roof, I have no insurance, I’m seven months behind
in my mortgage, my husband wears a diaper, and if my septic tank doesn’t
stop overflowing, I’ll be up to my lower lip in some serious doo-doo!” screamed the cashier, as she threw my coupons in my face, pounded the cash register with both fists, gave me the finger and raced out of the supermarket.
I turned to the people in line and cried, “I’m not a laggard… I’m
not a laggard! I sounded like Jack Benny.
The manager came by and lead me out of the supermarket .
“What about my food,” I pleaded. “And I have a royal cat who’s
a descendent Desmond, a cat owned by King Olaf of Norway, so I
had to spend over an hour carefully looking at labels, deciding
what to buy and this is the treatment I get?”
“You are hereby banned from our supermarket for 6 months. I
suggest you get help from a reliable shrink.”
I returned home and entered. I was tired and confused. Berkel
met me at the door.
“You look tired and confused,” said Berkel. Well, where’s my
food? My tongue’s dragging on the floor.
“Well, you see, my coupons had expired and the cashier wouldn’t
accept them, and her house has no roof, she has no insurance,
she’s 7 months behind in her mortgage, her husband wears diapers,
and if her septic tank doesn’t stop, she’ll be up to her lower lip in
some serious doo-doo…”
Berkel looked at me like I was nuts and didn’t say a word. First
time I ever saw him speechless.
Berkel and Me, Copyright 2008 Jon Frangipane.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Lighthouse Point Magazine. Thank you, Jon Frangipane, for your mentoring and your good humor at all times.