Her feet hurt and her back ached, yet Jude still forced a smile. “Care for a bag?” Jude asked, picking up the sticky coins he’d probably pinched from his mum’s purse.
“Nah.” He unzipped his backpack, exposing graffiti-covered textbooks, and slipped his drinks inside.
As the only staff member on the floor, Jude gave a thank-you-for-being-patient smile to those waiting. The Manager was busy banging the Shelf-stacker in the storeroom, while the other checkout operator was outside smoking like a back-firing VW in the carpark.
“Care for a bag?” Jude asked the next customer.
The young woman blinked tears. Sniffed. Her lower lip quivered, unable to speak.
“Allow me.” Jude packed the large bucket of ice cream, a slab of chocolate, a Bridget Jones’ DVD, and held out a box of tissues. “Vodka’s on special across the road.”
“Thanks.” She tore open the tear-catchers, choked out a sob, and staggered out the doors.
The man in the business suit raked fingers through his bleached hair. It’s obvious he was in the middle of saving the planet, by closing the deal of a lifetime over his phone while buying bottled water, gum, condoms, a bunch of flowers and a packet of Tofu. He slapped down his cash on the counter as if placing a bet with his bookie. Snatched up his bag, winked and flashed his whitened teeth against a fake-tanned complexion and disappeared into the rays of sunshine glinting in the carpark.
Two workmen spilled chip packets, steak, a bottle of sauce, and a loaf of bread onto the counter in front of Jude. The store’s front doors opened and in walked a young female wearing yoga pants. Like whiplash the workmen’s postures straightened, chests puffed out, and guts were inhaled for that creative abs illusion. But it didn’t last long, as their heads tilted and their statures deflated while watching those yoga pants disappear down the aisle.
Jude sighed, realising she was born in the wrong era–hich should’ve been when they celebrated middle-aged spreads – during the Great Depression. “Next.”
A tight-lipped working-mother scanned over her list as she presented household basics for payment in their specific order. The teenage daughter took a selfie of herself at the counter for Facebook. Artfully rearranged the items at the checkout for her Instagram feed. Then tweeted the links.
“Ta.” The mother’s eye’s never lifted from her to-do list. She lugged off with her shopping bags, scanning her handheld note. While the teen-queen followed staring at her phone.
The young lad placed the store’s shopping basket on the counter. Stepped back. Shoved hands in his pockets, bunching his shoulders up to his ears. His squinted eyes darted around the store as he mumbled, “H-h-hi.”
“Hi.” Jude peeked into his basket, cocked an eyebrow while suppressing a grin. “Would you like to carry these?”
His face glowed a neon red. “I’ll have a bag, please.”
Jude packed the coloured packets. “Couldn’t remember your girlfriend’s brand?”
Held out his money head down. “For my mum. I got busted teasing my sister.”
Handing the receipt to the young man, Jude leant down across the counter and looked him in the eye. “Just think of it as being trained for helping out your future girlfriend. She’ll love you for it.”
He blinked, then blinked again as his posture straightened. “Thanks.” Smiling, he walked out the door swinging his shopping bag full of assorted tampons.
The chain-smoking offsider walked in, slipped her smokes under the cash register’s counter and adjusted her uniform. “What’d I miss?”
“Nothing. I’m on break.” Jude, on a mission, headed to the storeroom. Her plan? To bust the floor manager and the shelf-stacker, to guarantee her existence would have an impact on someone today.