This motherfucker, she thought. Really? Just frozen french fries? All of Jewel to pick from and that’s all you’re buying today. Doesn’t even justify the plastic bag that will get caught in the trees, break down, become the micro and nano plastics of our children’s children’s drinking water. Part of the flesh of the fish our grandchildren eat. “You have a number you wanna put in,” she asked him. He was all Oakley sunglasses on top of his head, frazzled and buying frozen french fries, his hair shooting in every direction like he’d woken up late afternoon and come straight to the grocery store. A KN95 mask on his face so she could barely hear his “No.” She pushed her own blue and purple-dyed hair out of her face.
“That’s four forty-nine,” she heard herself say, as if watching from above. She’d forgotten the man for a moment and her disdain for him. Soon it would be time to go home. An image of sitting on her well-worn couch watching Fixer Upper flashed through her brain. That Chip Gaines is a funny motherfucker and Jo is pretty. Too bad about them sending money to the anti-CRT school board candidates. Too bad they love Jesus so much.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Like the card reader was about to blow something up if that card didn’t come out soon. Take the card out, man! But she saw the confusion in his eyes then. The anxiety furrowed in his brow. I’ve been hard on him and he doesn’t even know it. Why do I jump so quickly to judgment and criticism? The customers are people too. That should be Jewel’s tagline, “Where the customers are people too.” She smiled to herself beneath her own KN95. She tried to smize at him, let him know she’d softened toward him, as she handed him his receipt. “Have a good night,” she said, as cheerfully as she could muster. Was it too cheerful? “You too,” he said. He said the same to John, the bagger’s, “Thanks. Have a good night.” And she thought, maybe I wasn’t just an automaton to that man. Maybe he saw my hair as something more than a sign of something less than.
She turned to the next customer. “Good afternoon. Paper or plastic?” This motherfucker with her kiwi, she thought. Like can’t you just eat an apple?