Jessie stared wide-eyed at the freckled face of the checkout operator whose hair was as green as a florescent frog on high beam. She took a deep breath, reloaded her shopping trolley and headed to the back of the store where she plonked down the leaking carton of milk and retrieved a replacement before wandering along aisle after aisle until she felt ready to face another checkout operator.
The older woman wore a badge with the name Heidi printed in bold lettering. She was pleasant and the process went more smoothly than her earlier encounter. ‘How was your shopping experience today?’
‘It went OK,’ Jessie lied. ‘Thank you for asking.’ She tapped her credit card, loaded the grocery bags into the trolley and returned to the basement parking area.
After loading the boot of her SUV, she sat in the driver seat before bursting into tears. ‘I didn’t need that. I didn’t deserve that.’
It wasn’t until a car full of teenagers pulled in beside her that Jessie started the engine and reversed out of the car space. Taking a deep breath, she drove home.
‘Colin?’ Jessie asked over their evening meal, ‘am I grumpy?’
Her husband of four years looked up; a surprised look on his face. ‘You mean in general or this evening?’
‘Well…either, I suppose.’
‘Not to my knowledge. You seem quieter than usual but I didn’t think you were grumpy. Why do you ask?’
‘Today was a trying day at work and I left late. I still needed to get the groceries on the way home. I must have caught every traffic light red and I had to drive around the car parking station for twenty minutes looking for a parking space. It really didn’t take long to collect the items I needed but I hadn’t realised until I unload the groceries at the checkout that the carton of milk was leaking and dumped a third of it’s contents on the conveyor belt.’
‘That would make me grumpy,’ Colin chuckled.
‘I did groan a little. I asked the cashier if someone could bring another carton and perhaps something to clean up the mess.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Now that’s the part when I almost lost the plot. She said, I quote: “I’m the checkout operator, not your maid and don’t get grumpy with me or I’ll call security”. I found myself just staring at her bright slimy green hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a month. I just put everything back into the trolley, including the milk and went back to the dairy section.’
Jessie continued the story while Colin sat opposite and listened quietly. He reached across the table and took her hand. ‘That was just plain rude. You should have reported her.’
‘What good would that do.’ She sighed and a tear ran down her cheek. ‘I won’t be going through her checkout again, that’s for sure. The worst of it is, I think I convinced myself that I must have been grumpy.’
‘I don’t think so Jessie, you shouldn’t either.’
She poked at her food for a few minutes before speaking again. ‘I feel like I’ve been stabbed through the heart. I hear her words in my head over and over.’
‘Well, let’s change them.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Jessie, you are too sweet a person to be called grumpy. I think you should stand up to those nasty statements.’
‘How? Do I go back and tell her she’s a freckled face, slimy green frog? That’s not me either.’ She paused. ‘That would get security onto me,’ she added with a chuckle.
They both laughed at that.
‘I could tell her, and my head, that I’m not grumpy.’
‘How about: Don’t call me grumpy. I’m not grumpy.’
‘OK. Don’t call me grumpy!’
They smiled at each other before finishing their meal.
© Chrissy Siggee – January 2020
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Archived in: Short Fiction