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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)

TITLE: High Prices and Low Wages
By Pam Ford Davis
06/16/11


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If I hear one more complaint about high prices, I’m outta’ here!

Sues' feet were throbbing like a persistent wisdom tooth; swollen ankles spilled over worn-out sneakers and gravity played a game of tug of war with strained back muscles. The relentless clock on the far wall revealed she would not be off work for another two grueling hours.

“Find everything you needed okay?”

“Yes, can’t believe how high the price of milk is.”

Here we go again.

The stressed clerk faked a smile. “Guess there’s not much we can do.”

“I’m using less, no choice.”

Scanning bar codes and placing groceries in bags on the carousel were done mechanically with even less enthusiasm than concentration. The menial job did not make Sues' day; it made her creditors harass her less. Nameless faces formed a line half way to produce.

Why don’t they open more checkouts? This is ridiculous!

The assistant manager looked in her direction with a blase glance before leaving for coffee break.

Lot she cares! Knows somebody else can take my place

Sue needed the job more than she let the supervisor believe, had her pride, didn’t want management and co-workers to know the juicy gossip they passed behind her back had not even come close to the whole story. She worked her shift plus 4 hours overtime and clocked out at closing time.

Cigarettes, forgot to buy cigarettes.

She fumbled through her designer purse and pulled out a crumpled nearly empty pack.

Get me through the night .

The freed worker fingered a king size smoke, raised it to tense lips and lit it between trembling fingers, and with satisfaction inhaled slow and deep.

Gotta’ quit!

Her tensed body sank into the leather upholstery. She purchased the Lexus right after she wed her high school sweetheart. They had waited to marry until after he finished law school and secured a job with a prestigious metropolis firm; both justified the expense, agreeing they deserved a nice car for sacrificing so much.

She swerved into her parent’s driveway, fidgeting, the car-keys slipped out of her hand, fell to the lopsided floor-mat and she fell apart. Tears tasted like smoke mingled with the salt of the ocean they swam together on their Caribbean honeymoon.

How could he stop loving me?

The porch light brought her concerned dad into view.

“Sue, you okay?”

“Just tired Dad, I’m coming.”

“Suzie just fell asleep watching cartoons, tried so hard to wait up for you, carried her up to your room.”

“Thanks, I’ll tuck her in before getting something to eat.”

“Wait Sue, something you should know… she saw her daddy with his girlfriend at the mall. He didn’t see us, but she’s asking a lot of questions.”

Tears flowed again but this time they landed on her dad’s shoulder.

“Baby, it’ll all work out. God is not letting you go through this for nothing. He loves you both and the child on the way.”

They shuffled inside and her mother motioned to a place at the kitchen table. The weary divorce grasped an inviting glass of iced tea, kicked off her tight sneakers and thanked her mom.

“Rough day honey? Looks like you’re beat.”

“Yes, short on people for checkout lines and the place was slammed with people stocking up for the four-day weekend. Dad told me about seeing Jeff at the mall.”

“I was picking up some fabric at Sears to make curtains for the nursery. I didn’t see him, can’t say I’m sorry.”

“Any messages?”

“Yes, supposed to return a call to your lawyer, judge is garnishing Jeff’s wages for the back child support. You should get a lump sum soon, then checks first of each month.”

“Finally! I can pay the obstetrician and hospital.”

“Sue, your Dad and I’ve been talking. We want you to quit that job, at least till after the baby is born.”

“But, Mom…”

“We want to help you get back on your feet and then back in college.”

“I can’t afford school!”

“File for a grant. The government has special funding for single moms. Why not take advantage of it?"

Sue felt a smidgen of hope creeping up her achy back.

“Do you really think I could?”

“Yes, time for you get on with life and find a way to provide for your babies.”

“I love you Mom. How can I ever repay you?”

“You can begin by putting away those old sneakers!”


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This article has been read 422 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Nancy Bucca06/17/11
Wow, here's another story that tugs at the heartstrings. From beginning to end you have quite the masterpiece.
Bonnie Bowden 06/17/11
It is really hard to make enough money to survive in this down-turned economy,especially as a single mother.

I am glad the MC was given support from her parents, which unfortunately isn't always the case.
Jan Ackerson 06/20/11
I really like the way you helped us to get to know Sue by reading her thoughts.

A few apostrophe errors: outta doesn't need one at all, and for Sue's, it should be before the 's'.

Excellent title and characterization.