I hate this stupid job. It’s bad enough when they dig a bunch of wrinkled coupons out when I’ve already stated counting out their change. Then there’s the screaming kids, and the old people who forgot to get their Ensure, and the ones with not enough money, so could I put back this carton of milk?
And then they make me train Cassie as a bagger. I knew Cassie in school, she was one of the special ed kids but she was in my art class. I never talked to her. But now I have to be nice to her even when she puts canned soup on top of the bread. My manager told me to be patient, but seriously? When it happened again, I had to send someone to get a new loaf of bread, and I muttered, “Awesome, Cassie. Just great.” Cassie didn’t even hear me, she was talking to the lady’s baby even though the groceries were piling up.
So I had to help Cassie bag them, but I shot the lady a look like sorry, not my fault. The lady just looked away and stuck a pacifier back in her baby’s mouth. She was probably upset with Cassie and I hope she doesn’t tell my manager because seriously, shouldn’t she be working somewhere where she just has to sort blocks or something?
I love my new job and Noelle my friend from school is teaching me. I’m learning good and it’s not too hard for me like math. I put the food in the bags but first I say paper or plastic and I like it when they say plastic because that’s easier because of the handles and it’s a smaller bag. And I’m supposed to put the bread on top because it will squish but sometimes I forget and put the bread on the bottom because it fits there more better but it’s okay because Noelle said awesome Cassie and awesome means I’m doing a good job.
There was this lady with a cute baby and I love babies so I played peekaboo with it and the baby was laughing it was so cute. And the lady smiled at me she was nice, and Noelle was done so she helped me put the food in the bags and that was nice too.
On the way home from the doctor’s office, I stopped at the grocery store for a few things. The stresses of the day had left me longing for comfort food: a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup while I digested the doctor’s words.
Dakota was awake the whole time, looking at me from her infant seat with those perfectly blue eyes.
I filled my cart; suddenly everything I saw looked delicious to me and I picked up things I haven’t eaten in years—peanut butter swirled with jelly right in the jar, ranch-flavored potato chips, boxed macaroni and cheese. By the time I reached the checkout I was ravenous, thinking of nothing but getting home to eat.
Noelle rang up my purchases. I know her a little bit from my niece’s soccer team; she’s always struck me as mean and spoiled, yelling at the girls who make mistakes on the field, storming off when the team loses a game. Dakota started to fuss, so I was fiddling with her pacifier when I heard Noelle say, “Awesome, Cassie. Just great.” I looked over at the girl bagging my groceries and my heart lurched.
There was something wrong with Cassie—not the obvious syndrome, but some other genetic anomaly that subtly shifted the planes of her face, clubbed her fingers, thickened her speech. Cassie stepped away from the bags and leaned toward Dakota, murmuring “Peekaboo, baby. Peekaboo.” Dakota smiled, but when I looked back at Noelle, she rolled her eyes at me and said, “Seriously, Cassie? Never mind, I’ll do it.” She sent another bagger for a new loaf of bread, then snatched a plastic bag and deftly filled it with cans of soup.
Cassie said, “Pretty baby.”
An hour earlier, the doctor had told me that Dakota would never be fully independent, but that she could live a happy and meaningful life. It was this news that sent me in search of comfort food, but instead, God sent me to this place, to these two young women. The one Dakota might have been. The one she may someday be, if God is gracious.
“She is pretty, isn’t she, Cassie?” I said. “Just like you.”
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