excerpt from novel
by Amy Platon
Yes, money was getting tight, but Jill had a family to provide for.
“Come on boys, we’re going to the grocery store!”
“Yes! I want to pick the cereal this time!”
They raced to the car and jumped into their seats.
Jill didn’t put on any makeup, just some deodorant and lip balm. Her hair was back from cleaning. She threw her Coach bag under her arm and they were off.
She tilted her rear view mirror as she talked to her sons.
“Boys, listen. You can have one item of your choice today. But that’s it. I will decide on the rest of the groceries. Don’t argue with me. Got it?"
They were too busy fighting over what DVD should go in the player, for the fifteen-minute ride, to have heard her.
Her patience was frayed to pieces. She felt pinned down by everyone else. She returned the rearview mirror to position and turned up the music. It helped. The kids grabbed their headphones and everyone began feeling a little better.
The begging began instantly even before Jill and her boys entered the grocery store. “Mom, we want the racing car buggy. Please!”
Jill especially hated the racing car grocery cart. It drove like a bobsled and it didn’t have enough room for large items. She felt the same way pushing it as she felt when her own mother bought a station wagon as the family car. All her dignity lost, as she pulled the seatbelt across her lap as her mom picked her up from school. Her friends chanting, “Jill’s got a grocery-getter, Jill’s got a grocery-getter.”
She gave in however, “Fine. Just get in.” After that, she felt a lot of no’s coming on.
At first they didn’t notice that she passed right by the Gatorade. She picked up the store brand apple juice instead. Then she headed to the pasta isle and stocked up store-brand style on that too. She loaded on the extra large bag of white rice. And then moved quickly on to the cereal section of the store.
“Boys look. You each can pick your own cereal but it has to be on sale. Got it?"
Their eyes lit up at all the colors. Rainbow-this and fruity-that, she felt them slipping away.
“Ok, listen I’ll give you the choices and you pick from there. OK?”
They were already gone into a what’s-the-prize trance. She appeared before them with two choices of sale cereal. Almost in slow motion, they began reaching out toward the shelves, simultaneously saying, “I waaannnttt thaaaatt onnne!”
She pushed their arms up with her elbows and darted to keep eye contact with them. She pleaded, “Pick one of these!”
But she knew in their head she was a silent picture, a puppet holding up not cereal boxes, but pom-poms cheering them on, go, boys go! What ever you want!
“Stop!” She shouted, bringing them to consciousness. “Stop! You get one of these!”
She was waiving two, not so colorful boxes in their faces. Her eyes piercing theirs, “One. Of. These!”
They looked at her in total defeat, “Whatta-you-mean?”
Her oldest boy crinkled his brow as if she was the enemy. And she was, at that very moment, according to him.
Her youngest was on the brink of tears.
Jill pressed her eyelids together at the thought of transforming into her mother.
She shook her head and rephrased her words in a way that felt more like her self.
“These are on sale. Those…” pointing to the wall of cereal bliss, “are too expensive.”
A voice popped into her head, “Hey, Jill.”
Jill spun around, “Tessa! Hi.”
“Doing some shopping with the boys?”
“Yup.” Jill positioned her bangs.
“Where’s Ben?” Jill asked, not because she cared but merely to change the subject.
“Oh he’s at my mother-in-law’s house until he leaves for camp. She wanted to spend some time with him.”
“Wow, it would be great to have one of my parent’s close by. You’re so lucky.”
“Don’t believe the hype. I’d rather pay a sitter any day of the week. They are just a little too close for comfort. You know?”
Jill envied how nonchalant her neighbor selected what she wanted from the shelves. In mid conversation even.
“No holidays or birthdays alone, just us. You know? It can be a burden, really.”
Jill daydreamed over her friend's perfectly sculpted hair, her impeccably placed jewelry, and her crisp ironed clothes. She realized that Tessa was not having any problems at all. Before, there was plenty about her friend that she wouldn’t trade, including having to sleep with her less-than-stunning husband, but now she just seemed to have it all.
For the first time Jill started to hate her. She heard the cattiness in her voice, and the bitterness about her life. Jill had to wonder, what she was actually complaining about. Tessa had it her way. She had it easy.
Jill’s mind drifted in and out of conversation with Tessa. The voice in her head pointing things out. Look at her cart, all name brand cereals, meat, and two gallons of milk. She thought. Each neatly positioned in her standard shopping cart; that looked almost like an accessory on her. Her manicured nails and long fingers wrapped the cart handle as it hoisted her three-carat engagement ring.
No, there was nothing that Tessa could say that could make Jill sympathize with her. She didn’t even have to go grocery shopping with children….
“Well, I’ll let you get back to shopping.” Tessa smiled. And almost as if she had some sort of conciliation prize to offer Jill, she joked, “See you ‘round the hood.”
What the hell? The hood? This woman is oblivious. Jackass. She flew around. Her voice held her children responsible for her mood, “Boys, pick one!”
They grabbed a box each and threw it into the cart basket.
After the cereal incident, the boys treated their mom like the traitor she was. Everything they saw they begged to have, from the PEZ dispensers to soda, to tooth paste and tooth brushes. They even begged for chew toys for the dog.
Jill stayed strong and stuck to her list, mostly.
By the time they checked out, her cart was full. She figured there was enough food for the week. She finally felt like she had accomplished something. She felt for a moment like she out smarted whatever got her into this hole.
“Boys get the groceries on the belt please.” It was a job they never seemed to mind doing. She could tell it made them feel like grown-ups.
As they piled everything on, in no particular order, Jill remembered that she left her reusable grocery bags in the car.
The cashier recited, “Paper or plastic, ma’am?”
“Neither.” Jill said as she fumbled through her purse looking for her keys. She looked up as her fingers located what felt like her keys, “I left my bags in the car, so I’ll be right back.”
The boys unloaded the cart and the cashier continued ringing it all in. The groceries piled up in the boarding area just pass the scanner. And the bagger was left with nothing to do until Jill got back with the bags. The boys took that opportunity to add some candy from the rack.
Jill hurried. And when she got back, she gave the bagger her bags, and he got started. She considered apologizing for the wait but chose not to, when she witnessed the put-out look on his face.
“What? That can’t be right.”
The cashier sighed and pushed the printer tape out so Jill could review the receipt. Everything looked right, until Jill got to the candy bar part which sent her rummaging through her pile of groceries. Jill glared at the cashier, “Did the boys put extra stuff on the belt?”
The cashier lifted her shoulders.
Jill sifted through the food; “Take this off, this off, this off…a DVD?”
“Maybe you shouldn’t have left them here while you went to your car.”
Jill held up the Spider Man DVD for the cashier to remove, “What did you say?”
The cashier just looked at her, and continued to delete the items.
Jill handed over her check card.
By now the boys were jumping around and playing pirates behind the bagger. Jill didn’t care what these people thought of her at this point. She just let her boys poke that bagger in the butt with their finger sword fighting.
“Here’s your receipt.” She squinted and pushed her lips up at Jill.
Jill shook her head. She could have marched right over to the manager’s desk, but she didn’t have it in her. She couldn’t fight any more battles.
Jill loaded all the groceries into the back of her car. Of course the bagger didn’t offer to walk out with her. But once she and the boys were all in, she started the car to get the air going. They all jumped at the loud music that blared from the stereo before Jill turned it down.
As she started to pull out of her parking space, she saw Tessa leaving the store. Jill couldn’t help but notice that her cart was full of plastic bags.
Jill waived. She had to. Recycler or not, Tessa was on the HOA board after all. Jill thought, you don’t want her kind on your bad side. Jill pulled her car out of the parking lot thinking there was something not quite right with the half hearted smile she got in return.
Perfect Circle (Bingo Night)
Perfect Circle (Ultimate Void)
Confessions of a Housewife