In this way, Becky controlled her life.

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photo by L.C. Stair

There are two things that matter to Jessica: being pregnant and wishing she wasn’t. Her focus on these things gave her a deadpan expression as she cursed out loud. Shoving the test into its box and the box into the bottom of her purse, she walked out of Super Walmart’s ladies-room. Her mother worked at this Walmart. She scanned the cashier lines for her mother and found her on #8 tossing behind the register with bags that hung on the carousel contraption. Jessica could tell the customer was annoyed by her mother, causing Jessica to feel an embarrassment and walk out unnoticed.

Her mother, Becky, constantly complained about the manager’s wanting her to speed up and stop taking to the customers. Becky is scheduled to work 20 hours a week, even though she asks for more. Her schedule is always just under the number of hours that would require the company to provide health benefits. If her mother had been informed of her daughter’s pregnancy, this very injustice would have crossed her mind, but since she was deprived of knowing, there was no need to evaluate her current lack of health insurance. Instead, she doubled-bagged in preparation of as shit load of dog food cans. After which she scanned a a cold gallon of milk.

The customer asked her if she could bag the milk. Becky hated this request most of all. “It has a handle,” she would inform Jessica later that night. For now though, she placed the damned thing in a wasteful bag. Day after day Becky slides items along a piece of glass and hits plastic buttons so a machine will provide her the taxed total. When she takes hold of cash, food stamps, and credit cards, she feels the strain of the repetition on her back and it is as if she’s tuck in a time trap.

She’d long ago come to consider shopping as a privilege. Sometimes, when the store was slow, she would watch the shoppers in ladies  apparel. She’d marvel when she saw women put clothes into their metal carts without looking at a tag. That kind of shopper was rich. She would never have that luxury, there was no other way around it. When shoppers came with familiar purchases as her own – such clearance and generic items – she couldn’t help but begin a friendly conversation, making rich women next in line wait longer. In these ways, Becky controlled her life.