by John Updike
How It All Goes Down
The narrator is checking groceries when he realizes that three barefoot girls in bathing suits have walked into the store. The leader of the trio, who has her bathing suit straps down, catches his eye. She walks like a queen through the store, never turning to look at the narrator or his coworker, Stokesie.
Queenie (as the narrator thinks of her) leads the other two around the store. The narrator has fun watching the shock of the other customers, who aren't used to seeing bathing suits at the A&P.
Queenie is buying a jar of "Kingfish Fancy Herring Snacks in Pure Sour Cream" (11). She gets in the narrator's checkout lane and prepares to pay him with a dollar bill that she takes from her bathing suit top. (Bow chicka wow wow.) Then Lengel, the manager of the A&P, comes in from outside, sees the girls, and tell them off for wearing nothing but skimpy swimsuits in the store. They argue with him, but he tells them they better dress right next time or not come again. Lengel tells the narrator, whose name is Sammy, to ring the girls up.
Sammy does what he's told, but then he tells Lengel he's quitting. The girls probably hear him, but they don't turn around. Lengel warns Sammy that quitting will ruin his life, but Sammy turns in his apron and bow tie and saunters out into the parking lot. If he was hoping to find the girls, he's out of luck – they're long gone. Sammy watches Lengel checking groceries in Sammy's lane. Lengel looks hard and stiff, and Sammy "[feels] how hard the world [is] going to be to [him] hereafter" (31).