Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Give It Up!My weekly shopping moves slowly down the belt toward the gum-chewing checkout chick.
Leanne Grimes had chewed gum throughout the entire two years she had been in my class and, I had no doubt, she had continued to chew it through high school. And now here she was; a dropout who, if I remembered correctly, would be in serious trouble if the power ever went out and she had to add anything up manually. Not that she was stupid; merely unmotivated. And she was still chewing gum.
"Hi, Mr E," she calls cheerfully, jaws working enthusiastically at that gum.
I can't look her in the eye; The sight of those jaw muscles bulging and flexing like a mouse on steroids have got my attention.
"Hello, Leanne," I manage to get out.
The gum appears briefly at her teeth, blue, glistening and rubbery, and is quickly rounded up and whisked away by a galloping tongue.
She begins the arduous task of swiping my groceries over the scanner and placing the heavier items on top of the eggs. I should say something, but I'm hypnotised by the creaking, smacking, popping, squelching noises coming from her half open mouth.
"No beef or stuff this week, Mr E."
I snap out of my stupor and drag my eyes up to hers. "No, Lent starts tomorrow and I decided to give up meat this year."
She stops mid-scan and mid-chew. "No way! Me too! Only not meat."
I'm mildly surprised. "I didn't know you were a church-goer, Leanne."
She shrugs and resumes scanning. "Nah, didn't used to be. I just started a couple of years ago, but I really like it."
"I'm happy to hear that."
"Thanks." She glances around and leans toward me conspiratorally, "That's not all; I've been going to night classes and getting better at my writing and math. I'm going to do an Office Administration course. I don't want to be a checkout chick forever."
I am feeling more that slightly ashamed of myself. I change the subject.
"What are you giving up for Lent?"
She smiles and the gum appears between her front teeth. Now I am stunned and it shows on my face.
She laughs, "Do you remember when I was in your class? I used to drive you nuts with my gum?"
I feign ignorance. "Well, it was a while ago."
"Oh yeah," she continues,"I could tell and that was why I did it. Stupid kid stuff, huh?"
I smile weakly. "And you're giving it up for Lent?"
"Yep. I just decided when I saw you. I mean, I love the stuff, right? So why not give it up for Lent? Plus, maybe you won't be grossed out when you see me here?"
I feel like I've been slapped across the face and I am embarrassed. She sees that. I don't bother trying to deny anything to this insightful young woman who is no longer the mildly obnoxious child from my class, but I do try to stammer out an apology.
"No, it's OK, Mr E.," she cuts me off. "If there's one thing I've learned at church, it's turning the other cheek."
She finishes my transaction and we mumble weak goodbyes. I push the trolley out to my car and I am painfully aware that my former student has taught this old teacher a lesson.
I'm happy to say that you are never too old to learn.
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