Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Inner Strength (04/20/06)
TITLE: Clean up on aisle five
By Tiffanie Chezum
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“What-cha mean?” Randy slurped his root beer.
“Nothin’ ever goes my way,” he ran his hands through his hair until his fingers clinched behind his head. “I don’t know if I can hang. Old man Withers is puttin’ me on the late shift. He knows I got an early class in the mornin’. And my physics class …”
“Jus’ chill bro. College is tough some times.”
“I wan’na quit.”
“Quit the job?” Randy set his beverage on the table taking an interest in his friend’s comments.
“Everything, man. Pack up ‘n go. I ain’t cuttin’ it … can’t deal with it.”
“You can’t run an’ hide jus’ ‘cause things don’t go right. Tough it out, dude.”
“Clean up on aisle five,” the intercom echoed throughout the back of the building.
Jason pounded his fist against the wall. “I’m on break,” he grunted. “Prob’ly some dodderin’ ol’ geezer dropped a jar of prunes, or somethin’.”
“Jason!” Mr. Withers poked his head into the break room. “Some kid just puked in canned fruits. Get the mop and take care of it,” he disappeared down the corridor.
“Freakin’ great! I loose my break ‘cause some little brat hurled! It’s not fair, man.”
Jason swabbed the floor, leaving a smear of disinfectant and bile on the tile, “This is so gross!”
“I’m sorry mister,” a tiny voice uttered. “I didn’t mean to get sick.”
The young man turned to glare. The sight of a frail young child caught him off guard. She sat against the fruit cocktail display, her knees pulled tight to her chest. “No prob,” he smiled, trying to mask his insincerity. “Kind-a went heavy on the Cap’n Crunch, huh?”
“Nah, the medicine makes me feel real icky sometimes,” she pulled the floppy brim of her hat down the sides of her face. “And I get tired lots-a times, too.”
“Not feelin’ too good?” he plunged the mop into the bucket.
“It gets rid of the lumps in my stomach.”
Jason froze, numbness spreading through his innards. His blank stare fixed on the petite girl’s head. Beyond the edges of her loose, pink hat he noticed a light fuzz where beautiful curly locks belonged, “I … I’m sorry.”
“My name’s Jenny,” a smile lit her face. “Me ‘n Mommy are having a special day b’fore I go back to the hospital … I like shopping with Mommy.”
“The hospital?” stunned, he dropped the mop handle and squatted near the youngster. “That’s a bummer. Aren’t you scared?”
“Nah, Dr. Roy says he’s go’na take the lumps from me and then I’ll get all better.” She grabbed a delicate chain dangling around her neck and held it up, “He gave me this last time I was there,” a tiny angel glistened in the display light.
“That’s pretty neat. Bet your friends are jealous.”
“I only got friends at the hospital. And Dr. Roy gives everyone a special angel. I think it makes him feel good.” She dropped the charm and began tracing the flowers on her skirt with a finger, “Mommy says we’ll have a big party when I’m all better.”
“Doesn’t it bother you … being sick? Don’t you get sad?”
“It makes me sad when my mommy cries. I asked God to make her happy again.” Her emerald eyes met Jason’s gaze, “You look sad, do you want me to ask God to make you happy, too?"
“No … I’m okay.”
“You should talk to God, He can help.”
“Jenny,” a voice called from the end of the isle, “I hope you’re not bothering the man.” A wearied lady scampered toward us, “I am so sorry. I only went to grab some towels to clean her. I usually carry some with me.”
“It’s all right,” he stood up. “She’s nice. I’m sorry she’s …”
“The doctor says she’s a fighter,” she dabbed the moist towel on her child’s face, “I wish my spirit was a strong as hers.” She scooped Jenny into her arms, “You’re my precious gift.”
“You take care, Jenny.” Jason grabbed the mop.
The young girl waved, her head resting on her mother’s shoulder, “Bye bye.”
“Let me know when your havin’ that party, I’ll send you somethin’.” He wiped a hint of a tear from his eye, “Good luck … both of you. You’re very special.”
“Yes, she is,” she hugged her daughter. “We could all probably learn something from her attitude.”
Jason smiled, “I already have.”
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