Step Mother pushed the rickety shopping cart. This was her favorite time of the week, grocery shopping. Kids were at school, Father was at work, and she had the store to herself. Somewhat. She wandered up and down the isles. Picking up things she knew she didn’t need and things she didn’t know what they were and things just because they sat there. She read labels, smelt fruit, and compared two cans of frozen juice that neither she intended to purchase.
Shopping is her meditation time, her solace in life, her alone time. It was quiet (except for the typical Tuesday afternoon shoppers).
The cart flowed from one side to the next flawlessly, filling slowly with colorful cans, boxes of cakes, and promising tins of premade icing.
Step Mother filled the cart quickly with fresh snacks, packaged snacks. Sweet and salty. She turned the cart toward the checkout. One and two open. Line one had a half-asleep woman coughing and sneezing. Line two was longer, but the man behind the till seemed with it.
The cashier’s shirt caught her attention. Step Mother loved it instantly. Secretly wishing she could buy one, it was the store’s brand. She smiled when it was her turn, requested a ten-bag quantity, and began scanning. Step Mother dazed off between the magazine covers and the symmetrical rows of chocolate bars A sweet promise of chocolate and salty peanuts.
“2-0-5-4-3,” the young man stated aloud as Step Mother unloaded her cart to the grocery belt.
“52158,” half a second later. Ding. Ding. Step Mother’s bags filled up, and the clerk continued to state random numbers out loud. She smiled again, and he recited another string of random numbers (or at least what Step Mother thought was accidental.)
She glanced to isle two, and the young girl was frantically typing in the numbers as Step Mother’s clerk spoke them out loud.
“It’s faster,” he said with a crooked half-smile and a wink, “especially for product codes.”
“Ha!” Step Mother laughed, “I couldn’t imagine trying to remember those strings of codes.” Almost like computer codes to she thought, the memorization part of it anyway.
“I had nightmares,” his face suddenly looked sad, “for the first year working here. Nightmares and dreams of codes and broccoli killing each other.”