Thursday, December 25, 2008

'Back Through the Checkout Line'

David Turner negotiated a cart stuffed with gifts through the aisles of the department store, swiping his card or reaching into his wallet for cash. This was the first year he could buy little Sarah every gift she had pointed to or torn from the Sunday paper. It was a good feeling. I sure don't have to worry about money this time, he thought as he dropped a few more items into the cart.

A new job, a fat raise, and a bigger house had all been part of his success package this year. Turner paused to let another shopper pass him in the electronics aisle. He plucked a video game console from a shelf and somehow found room for it in the cart.

He made it through the checkout line and pushed his heavy cart of Christmas loot across the parking lot to the van. As he tossed the unwrapped gifts through the side door, he noticed a woman and a little girl returning to an old station wagon next to the van. He tried not to stare, but seeing the ragged clothes on the girl and the tired face of the young woman holding her hand, it was hard not to notice.

The woman gave him a polite smile and popped the hatchback on the old wagon. She carefully placed two small plastic bags in the back and began checking the contents. The little girl gave David a huge grin. "We're having Christmas dinner! Santa Claus is coming to OUR house!" She did a little dance and spun around, shivering a bit in the cold air.

One of the plastic bags split and rolled its contents onto the ground. David knelt down and helped the woman retrieve the items and put them into the other bag. He saw two cans of beans, a package of hamburger, and a couple of cheap toys from the discount bin.

"Thanks," said the woman. Their eyes met for a moment, and then she looked away. She took the little girl's hand. "Let's go, Jessica."

Turner touched the woman's elbow. "Wait a minute."

Another force, perhaps the Christmas spirit itself, grabbed him firmly by the scruff of the neck. He popped the hatchback on the woman's car. He transferred all the gifts from the van to the wagon and shut the hatchback with a bang. The woman stared at him in surprise.

"Merry Christmas," Turner said.

He headed back into the store.

The End
Source is a friend of mine on Newsvine
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