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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)

TITLE: Dangerous Dish Soap
By Tammy McConnell


After depositing my husband’s paycheck, I drove almost recklessly to the Walmart near the bank. My pantry was showing the strain of nearing starvation and had desperately screamed for relief. ‘I hate that he only gets paid every two weeks. I’ll just grab a few things we need and get right back’, I thought. My seven-year-old wasn’t feeling great when I left; but I knew her big sister could take care of her for a short period of time without too much trouble. “I’ll hurry!” I had promised.

I stood checking off things on my list in aisle 10, patting myself on the back for cruising through the store so quickly. I only purchased the “necessaries” this time, a feat seldom achieved in my adult life. “…transmission fluid, Kleenex, notebooks…all I need now is dish soap.” I always do that…talk out loud to myself in the grocery store. I rounded the corner rather quickly; I was on a mission.

Thinking back, I’m surprised he caught my attention at all; I was in such a hurry. Down at the end of the aisle, where the dish soap was, there was a man kneeling, with his face very close to the floor. “How odd!” I thought. “I wonder what he’s doing?” Then he looked up at me. The distance between us was practically the entire length of the aisle…but his face seemed to zoom in, so close I could barely breathe. I stood frozen. Somehow, I willed my hand to reach for something on the shelf. No time to determine exactly what I had just thrown into my cart, I spun around and exited the aisle swiftly.

As I screeched into the next aisle, my cart slid sideways to rest (amazingly without noise) against the shelves of paper products. “Not possible God! How could you allow this to happen? Where’s that hedge of protection you’ve had around me for seventeen years?” I debated with myself, quietly this time. Did he see me? Did he recognize me? I am a good forty pounds heavier than I was then. Oh Lord, I didn’t even shower this morning. I barely had a chance to drag a comb through my hair. Surely he didn’t know it was me.

Incredulous at my own vanity, I wondered if the shouting in my head could be heard by the lady standing near the end cap. She was looking at me strangely, as if I had three heads or something. It maybe had something to do with the fact that I was still leaning on the paper plates, practically hyperventilating. “Are you okay mam?” Unable to speak, I nodded and waved. She moved on.

Okay, pull yourself together. It can’t possibly be him. Little bursts of my past zapped sporadically in my mind’s eye. ‘Where did you get that bruise?... How could you leave your job?... Where are you going to go?’ My brother’s face… ‘I’ll kill him. Nobody does something like that to my sister and gets away with it!’ “Oh Lord, how? Why?”

As I pass by a rack of sunglasses, I glance at the mirror. I can’t believe how white my skin is. I thought it would be flush…I’m perspiring. The cashier asks if I’d like help out with my groceries. I grunt some foreign noise that she somehow understands as “no” and sprint to the automatic doors that will release me to the parking lot. I run my cart SMACK into the doors! Embarrassed, I look around at the door greeter. She just chuckles, “Have a nice day!”

Back in my van, I ponder. The man was heating the corner of a tile on the floor and blowing on it before it was to be replaced. That was his occupation; he installed flooring. But, that was 17 years ago. Could he possibly still be doing that? He was from the south. And now we both end up in Mid-America, at the same time? I thought God had put all that space between us so I could be protected. Now, in one shopping trip…my space has been invaded by my past.

I used the drive home to ask God a LOT of questions. A utility van pulled up beside me at a red light. The passenger was the man from the store. It was NOT him!

As I reclaim my God-given space, I arrive home to a sink full of dirty dishes. I never bought the dish soap!

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Member Comments
Member Date
Gini Branch02/01/06
Glad that wasn't him. Odd how the past jumps up and gets us one more time. Just when we least expect it. Is it more about protection or space though.
Teresa Hollums02/02/06
I enjoyed your interesting event. You write well, to me. We can be very glad that God often gives us glimpses of the past and lets us be glad of today.
Sarah Soule02/03/06
I really liked the details in this article. I could picture exactly what was going on. I would have liked a little more description on the ending, though. Good story.
Shari Armstrong 02/03/06
Well done - I could feel the anxiety (and have had one of those momments when I thought I saw someone that turned out not to be who I thought it was) It can totally throw you for a loop!