Monday, August 8, 2022

The Odin Chronicles • Episode 14: “Love and Groceries” • by Carol Scheina

INTRO: Welcome to Odin III, a grubby little mining world on the dark and dusty backside of nowhere. It’s a world where everything that’s worth having is already owned by Galactic Mining, and where people have come to squander their hopes and lives, working for the company and dreaming of striking it big. It’s also a world where some very strange and peculiar things have begun to happen, and it all started four weeks weeks ago, in a bar called Weber’s Place, when Ray Cornwall didn’t just warp the fabric of space/time, he completely bent it…

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine | Part Ten | Part Eleven | Part Twelve | Part Thirteen

“Love and Groceries”

by Carol Scheina

As Father Luigi stood in Shelley’s small gray communications office on the drab, rocky planet of Odin III, he couldn’t help but notice how Shelley’s sparkling brown eyes made everything seem brighter.

That’s why it hurt to meet her gaze as he gave her his news. “I won’t be doing missionary work anymore. No more wandering the caves trying to find people to convert. I want to be here, helping people, so I’m reaffirming my vows with the Church.”

“Does that mean we’ll get to see each other more often?”

“Yeah, I’ll be in town, but… Father Francis told me he doesn’t want me seeing you.” Luigi felt the rip in his heart. He knew he could do good things in the Catholic Church, but he also loved being with Shelley. Priests could date and marry nowadays, but only with a dispensation from a senior Church leader.

Shelley looked puzzled. “But we’ve been already hanging out together for a couple of months now. What’s changed?”

“I’d like it to be more than just hanging out with you. Shelley, I think you’re the best woman on Odin III.”

Shelley’s cheeks turned pink. “And I think you’re the one guy here who makes the world so much bigger and better.”

“But Father Francis thinks I shouldn’t have distractions right now. I swear, I’m trying to convince him otherwise.”

“I can be non-distracting.” Shelley smiled hopefully.

Luigi flushed and finally looked into her eyes. He just had to convince Father Francis. “I’ll talk to him again.” Luigi mused over the priest’s schedule. “He’ll probably be in the deli right now. He always does his lunch and shopping at this time. He’ll be back at the church in about an hour.”

“Why wait? Let’s go now!” Shelley was already heading out the door, glancing back at him to follow. 

Luigi squared his shoulders. He could be a priest and date Shelley. He could make Father Francis understand. The young priest followed Shelley out the door.

*   *   *

The deli always struck Luigi’s nose with the sweetness of fresh-baked bread alongside undercurrents of salty meats and cheeses. The scent usually made him hungry, but right now, all his focus was on Father Francis. They found the older priest tapping his foot impatiently in the deli’s bagging area.

Francis frowned upon seeing them. “If you’re here to talk, I don’t have time right now. I’m supposed to meet Popov in a few minutes and the bagging robot isn’t functioning properly.”

Luigi noticed a wisp of smoke coming from the bot, which appeared frozen with a wheel of gouda in one metal hand, a mesh grocery bag in the other. He gave it a little kick, and it shuddered to life.

“Father Francis, I want to prove to you I can date Shelley,” Luigi announced.

“I won’t be distracting,” Shelley added.

Francis’s mouth opened to reply, then stopped.

Luigi turned and saw the bagging bot squeezing the gouda, which oozed between metal fingers like it was dripping from a grilled cheese sandwich. It then grasped a bag of tomatoes, its metal fingers clenching. Red tomato bits exploded into the air like slimy confetti.

The three jumped back. 

Ray, the deli owner, walked up. “Is there a problem?”

The bot reached out and grabbed a foot-long ham-and-sauerkraut sandwich. Squish! It stepped forward with a clunky step.

“Not the sauerkraut sandwich,” Ray moaned, looking at the mess on the floor.

“Should someone turn that off?” Shelley asked.

Luigi reached out and toggled a switch on the bot. It shuddered and smoked and stared at the humans, making Luigi feel they were nothing more than meat the bot wanted to shove into a mesh bag. For the first time, Luigi noticed the bot’s eyes were very red, and its cylindrical body was very large, about twice the width of a human.

Everyone stepped back.

The bot moved to the checkout scanner, its large body filling the aisle. Metal fingers squeezed, sparks flew, and the scanner shattered into wires and metal bits.

“We should get out of here,” Ray said.

“It’s blocking our exit,” Luigi pointed out.

“Can someone help us?” Father Francis called toward the deli door.

“I don’t think anyone can hear us,” Shelley said.

The bot clunked closer, its smoky smell rather reminding Luigi of grilled cheese. Or it could’ve been the cheese and tomato bits on the bot’s body.

Metal arms knocked over a barrel of pickles, sending a wave of brine into their feet.

Ray groaned. “It better not touch the liverwurst. That stuff’s impossible to get out here.”

The red eyes didn’t look at the liverwurst, though; it kept clunking toward the humans.

Luigi gave a quick glance around the deli. In front of them was the destroyed check-out area and the exit. Behind them, the store had one large refrigerated area for cheeses and meats, along with neat rows of shelves displaying various food items. As best he could tell, they were the only customers, which was good. The bad thing was they were being herded into the bread shelf—a dead end.

Luigi looked at Shelley. He wanted to spend the rest of his life with that woman. He looked at Francis, who was wiping tomato seeds off his cheek. The priest was giving him another shot at the clergy. After messing up with so many jobs in the past, he was finally going to make something of himself.

Except it seemed like now, he was going to get squished by a bagging bot. Luigi frowned. No, he wasn’t going to go down like this. The young man grasped a foot-long loaf of five-grain bread from the shelf behind him and hurled it at the bot. “I’m going to distract it. You make for the exit.”

“Luigi, I’m not sure—” Francis started to say, but the young priest didn’t listen.

“Hey, Picklehead! Over here!” Luigi hurled a loaf of genetically modified pumpernickel next. It struck the bot right between the eyes, which seemed to glare back.

Slipping along the shelves, Luigi made it to the condiments section. He hurled two glass containers of Odin Specialty Sandwich Sauce. The red eyes were fully on the young priest. The immense metal body moved forward, and all Luigi’s grasping hands could find on the shelves was extra-spicy mustard in a brown glass bottle. He hurled it as metal fingers reached forward to squish him as easily as a tomato.

This was it. He was going to meet God.

Mustard dripped down the bot’s face as it gave a shudder. Something inside it clunked, and its eyes went dark.

Luigi let out all the air he’d been holding in. “Did I kill it?”

Ray, still in the store, bent over the bot. “Looks like its actuator burned out. It was probably going to fall apart soon, anyway. I’ll need to order a new one.”

Shelley ran up and threw her arms around Luigi. “You saved us!”

Francis stepped forward and patted Luigi’s shoulder. “That was a brave action, my son.”

Luigi faced the older priest. “I can do this. I can be a priest. But I also love Shelley. I can balance it all. Give me a chance to prove myself.” He bit his lip nervously, but stood tall before the older man.

Francis paused, then nodded. “Very well, I’ll let you prove yourself.”

Luigi’s heart did twenty backflips as he looked at Shelley. “I can date you!”

“You can kiss me,” Shelley grinned.

Ray muttered amidst the spilled pickles and pumpernickel. “At least the liverwurst’s safe.”

Luigi didn’t even notice the mess of mustard and gouda as he took in the sight of the woman he loved. The world was as bright and as beautiful as Shelley’s eyes.

Right then and there, he gave her the best kiss of his life.


Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author from the Northern Virginia region. Many of her stories were thought up while sitting in local traffic, resulting in tales that have appeared in Cossmass Infinities, Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, and other publications. You can find more of her work at

Coming Wednesday: Episode 15 of The Odin Chronicles, “No Place,” by Pete Wood.



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