Magazine December 20, 2021, Issue

Peanut-Butter Pieties

(Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Imagine a grocery store in 1966. Muzak plays from hidden speakers, a gauzy aural anesthesia. Bright fluorescent light bastes the aisles. Housewives push clattering carts with squeaky wheels, their nylons skirring as they stride. There’s the carillon of the cash-register bells, the occasional announcement on the PA system about this week’s specials. An ordinary American afternoon.

Two housewives, Barbara and Jeanie, meet in Aisle 4, gush hellos, compliment each other, inquire about the children, the husband — oh Bob’s wrapped up in the Johnson contracts, honestly, we hardly see him — and then one suddenly stops talking, and her face goes

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