Saturday, March 2, 2013

#Slice 2013: 2 of 31

For the month of March, I am joining up with many bloggers and committing to daily writing, participating in the daily Slice of Life Challenge. I have written a longer story today, one that I was inspired to write from a story that I hear on NPR. The ending doesn't make me happy, but I'm thinking about it and I will re-visit it, I'm sure. I'm also sure that I won't be writing such long entries every day, but it's Saturday morning and I have both a story and time. Thank you so much to Jen and Stacy at for hosting the event. You can link up to their website and see what other bloggers have written for the day, as well.

As we approached the registers at the grocery store, my mother scanned the lines to try to figure out which one would be the shortest. Even though I know that she enjoys skimming through the current People magazine, I also knew that she was rushing because she had to pick up my sister and make it to a meeting.
“Let’s get in this line,” she said and guided the cart into register 4. I recognized the woman who was ringing up the groceries.  She was usually friendly and wore a nametag that said Nancy on her shirt.
I don’t think that Mom had paid attention to the woman who was ahead of us in time. She was old and she definitely was not moving fast. Mom realized this too late because another person came right behind us in the line. Our cart was stuck and we were staying in Line 4.
Mom looked at her watch and her list.
“I forgot the Special K,” Mom said. “Clare, can you start unloading and I’ll be right back.”
There was not much room on the counter for any of our groceries because the old lady was still taking her items out of her cart.
A box of corn flakes. On to the counter.
A small container of cream on to the counter.
A container (small size) of blueberries.
A muffin.
A frozen bag of peas.
Cat food. There still wasn’t room on the counter and she still had a few items in her cart. You can actually tell a lot about a person from what they buy at the grocery store.
“How is your cat, Willa?” Nancy asked.
Willa smiled and stopped unpacking. “She's old, too,” she answered. “She still jumps up on the counter when I’m not watching, though.”
Nancy stopped ringing and laughed. “Mine does the same thing,” she said. “I end up with paw prints on my counters that I’m constantly wiping.”
“These are the best sponges for wiping the counters,” Willa said. She reached in and pulled out her package of sponges. They were the same ones that my mother usually buys.
My mother came back, squeezing past the cart behind us and she placed the box of cereal on top of my pile. It slid down on to Willa's side of the groceries.
"Here you go," Nancy said, placing the cereal back on our side. She went on ringing.
 Mom looked again at her watch. She must have been wondering why I had not put our groceries up but she was figuring it out.
"Can I help you with your groceries?" Mom asked.
Willa looked at Mom and smiled. "Aren't you nice," she said.
I smiled, pretending to study the rows of gum. Yes, Mom was being nice, but she really wanted to just speed things up. She wasn't too effective because Willa and Nancy took the opportunity to really start talking now.
"My Lily loves my cat," Willa said. She pulled out a picture of a toddler and held it out to Nancy.
"She's adorable." Nancy took the picture and held it up closely. "How old is she now?"
She continued to look at the picture and then the next one that Willa handed to her, asking questions and making statements. Nancy did not seem to notice the pile that was growing at the edge of the grocery divider. "Where does she live?"
Mom had unloaded the rest of Willa's grocery and Nancy looked up at the pile.
"Oh, dear, Willa," she said. "I need to ring and get on to the next customers."
Willa smiled. "You do," she agreed. "It was so nice talking to you, though."
Nancy helped Willa put the bags in her cart and then called for one of the high school boys who was working in other aisle to come and help Willa to her car.
"I'll tell you what," Nancy said. "You look out for me. I'll be over later and you can finish the story about Lily."
Willa looked ten years younger. She looked like the type of lady who was going to go home and bake scones and set the table with an elaborate tea setting.
Once Willa left, my mom helped bag as Nancy rang. We were going to be late to pick up my brother and I hoped that her meeting wasn't too important.
"Is Willa a neighbor?" she asked Nancy, packing up the eggs, the item that she always saved for last.
"No." Nancy shook her head and smiled without showing her teeth. "I just met her now. Her husband died last week and she is lonely. Such a nice person, but lonely."
My mom paused, almost seemed to freeze for an instant and I wasn't sure what she was going to say. Then, she surprised me.
"You are a lovely person, Nancy," she said.
She signed the slip and we left.
"Are we late, Mom?" I asked.
"A little," she said, "but no worries. Let's take your brother for ice cream before going home and unpacking."


  1. Such a beautiful and poignant story. I feel like I could have been the mother; so busy with my life that I might have overlooked the need of the person in front of me! I will try to keep my eyes open today!

  2. You have a very powerful voice. Your story made me stop and think/ Those few minutes impacted so many people. You mentioned that you are dissatisfied with the ending. What about it bothers you?

    You captured the intensity when you named off the items going up on the counter with exactness. I was there I could picture it.

    I look forward to reading more of your writing.

  3. Wow, beautiful. The world needs more people like Nancy.

  4. I love how you started with "I have a story and time" such a perfect description of Saturday morning. Powerful story, this is. My eyes teared up when your Mom freezes for a moment--that flicker of guilt I know all too well. Thank you for reminding me to be on the look out for those moments and to get outside of myself and realize that what I might see as an aggravation could be someone else's saving grace.

  5. I knew lane four was going to be a problem, I've been in lane four. If in a hurry one must scan not only the groceries on the belt, but also the cashier and customer before committing to a line.
    You said this was inspired by an NPR story, so it didn't really happen to you, right? If that is true, then you did an amazing job recreating the setting and characters and bringing it all to life. If it did happen to you, you captured a great moment and everything I said still stands true. Loved it!

    1. No, it didn't really happen to me, although I have frequently been the impatient one needing to get through the line in less time than it takes. NPR was doing a special on good deeds/ acts of kindness and someone called to just tell the story. THe caller wasn't in a rush at the store--she was just impressed with the kindness of the cashier. I just imagined my own self and the rush I'm frequently finding myself in. I'm a nicer person when I'm trying to fit less in.

  6. I love this story. It is such a small snapshot of something that we all have experienced, yet you make it so powerful and poignant. I love Nancy and I love seeing how the mother reacts when she finds out why Nancy had taken a few moments longer with Willa. It is a wonderful reminder to slow down and live in the moment without judgements and rushing. I also think that the story is so much more powerful because it is told in the voice of a younger person observing the action.

    1. I debated about whose perspective to take but really, my easiest writing is from the perspective of a child. Maybe someday I'll grow up. I think it takes the pressure off of the writer to make the big statements. Children just provide information--we grown-ups do the analysis, maybe.

  7. I'm embarrassed - but maybe shouldn't be - to say that tears welled up as I read the last bit. Your slice is beautiful and could have been taken out of the pages of my own mother's book of life. Like Willa, she lost her husband, my father, last February, and luckily she has several Nancy's in her life. Thank you for such moving words.

    1. Thank you, Mardie, for such a moving response. It was an easy piece to write because I really liked all of the characters. They might have to reappear. We all have stories, don't we?

  8. Such a beautiful story and so beautifully written.The time you took setting the scence made the ending so much more impactful. Thank you.

  9. What a lovely story. It's very moving. We need more Nancys in the world.

  10. Thank you for your story. I think the ending is just right.

  11. Melanie, this is well done, poignant & I think you reached us all-time on a Saturday for a life's lesson-slow down & be kind. Beautifully (I guess) re-told-strong voice.