Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Soul (07/13/06)
TITLE: Bernie Goes to Big Lots
By Lisa Vest
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“Come on sweetheart, we’re going to Big Lots” Merna cheerily announced.
“I know how much you love Big Lots and they’re having a great sale. I just got this flyer in the mail today.” She picked up the flyer and stuck it under her arm.
Grabbing her purse, car keys, and the mason jar sitting on the kitchen table, she headed to the car.
Merna chatted endlessly with her husband all the way to the store.
She pulled into a handicap parking space, picked up her purse and the jar and walked with a slight limp into the store.
“Oh sweetheart,” she continued, “look at the great selection of pillows they have on sale. I know you want to get over to the car maintenance department. We’ll go over there in a minute.”
Merna picked up several pillows, feeling their texture and admiring the different designs. She finally decided on one and placed it in the basket.
With wrinkled hands tightly holding the shopping cart handle, she strolled over to the car maintenance department.
“Look Bernie, they have windshield fluid on sale, buy one, get one free!” Merna placed two bottles in the cart with the pillow.
After looking around another ten minutes or so, she headed for the cash register.
She began placing the items on the counter, as the cashier checked her out.
“Ma’am, can you hand me the other item in your cart there?” she asked, pointing to the mason jar in the top of the cart.
“Oh no dear, that’s my Bernie, my husband. He came with me. He loves Big Lots.”
The cashier’s eyebrows furrowed and she quickly beckoned her manager. The manager sauntered over from a register two aisles down. As she whispered in his ear, a look of anger and disgust took over his countenance.
“Ma’am,” the manager spoke directly to Merna, “is that your husband’s ashes in that jar?
“Why of course, I can’t come to Big Lots without my Bernie, you know he loves Big Lots, it’s his favorite place.”
“Ma’am, I don’t want you to ever come back here with your husband’s ashes again. It could be disturbing to the other customers and it’s just plain weird.”
Merna sheepishly handed the cashier the money she owed and quickly exited the store.
Back in the car, she held the mason jar to her chest, a tear trying to make it’s way down her face.
“I’m sorry Bernie, I don’t know if I can take you to Big Lots anymore. I know the real you is not here anymore, but I just somehow feel close to you this way.” Her heart still burst with pain when she acknowledged this dark reality.
“Oh Bernie, I know you’re in heaven and your joy must be absolutely complete, but mine is so incomplete. I know I have our memories, but there’s no replacement for your wonderful, joyous soul.”
She hugged the jar tighter, looking in the mirror, barely recognizing the old woman that stared back at her. “Bernie, all I have is our memories and this, the former shell of your wonderful soul, and the hope…no…the absolute knowledge that I will see you again someday, but some days it doesn’t seem like enough.”
Merna wiped her tears and gained her composure. Placing the mason jar securely beside her, she put the car in gear and began the drive home.
“We’ll come back to Big Lots next week, Bernie, but I’ll have to move you to the Christmas cookie tin.”
A smile spread across her wrinkled face.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Believe it or not, this story is based on a true and actual events.
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