At the check out

Aching. Her back, her shoulders, her joints as she picks up each item and slides it across the scanner. She has stood in this spot for five hours and seven years as life whirled around her, as her body aged slowly from the outside in, as her mind divested itself of facts and figures to make room for bar codes and shift schedules.

The clock is stationed mercifully fifty yards behind her, but she has learned to tell time in new ways. She knows she walked through the industrial-strength sliding doors at ten p.m. and that one a.m. slid past her in a flurry of big-chested women in pajamas with sleeping babies tucked inside their carts and loud-mouthed teenagers high on the freedom of sneaking past their snoring parents to escape into the dark wonder of a twenty-four hour store. She can feel four a.m. approach stealthily with work boots and dark blue coveralls that come with deep, booming voices that call her m'am or don't speak at all. And when six a.m. yells out, she is ready with her purse on her shoulder and a diet soda in her hand.

For now, she is standing in a bright, timeless agony mired somewhere in the middle of her shift. She picks one foot off the floor and stretches it inside her shoes. She rolls her ankle first one way and then the other though the action never soothes the dull throb. She gingerly puts that foot back on the floor and picks up the other one. This time she rolls her head at the same time, closing her eyes briefly and grimacing as she stretches her neck just a tiny bit further until she hears the faint pop.

When she opens her eyes, she sees an elderly man making his way into the aisle. She puts both feet on the floor and pulls her shoulders back to stave off the hurt. As the man piles dog food and ice cream onto the belt, she prepares to pick up each item and slide it across the scanner.


This post was written for the (W)rite of Passage challenge created by Mrs. Flinger. The challenge is designed to inspire bloggers to write, to hone their craft and tell better stories, rather than to chase page views and followers. The challenge is open to anyone, so join if it speaks to you!


  • Dawn

    Oh man, I'm blinded the fluorescent lights in my mind now :)

  • ~Ifer

    I really liked the way you described the passage of time in terms of the people she ran into. Well done.

  • Summer

    I like it! I used to work the night shift as a travel stop, you described it perfectly.

  • Dawn @ Heartbroken

    Godddd, I can feel MY neck pop, you wrote with such clarity!

  • Megan

    Wonderful! Love it.

  • MommyGeekology

    This is excellent - I simply love the descriptions of the people she sees during her nighttime shifts. This tells a great story.

  • Liz@thisfullhouse

    My favorite part:

    "The clock is stationed mercifully fifty yards behind her, but she has learned to tell time in new ways."

    I totally got that!!!

  • Brigid

    "She has stood in this spot for five hours and seven years..." Love this too. So many great details that bring it to life. I can hear the scanner beeping as she works.

  • Annie Anderson

    Tiny, yet great details make this story flow really well. And oh, I can so relate . . . LOL, although it's been a long time since I worked the night shift. ;-)

  • Jennifer

    Wonderfully told! I was able to really picture your character.

  • Amber Page Writes

    Great story! Makes me feel for her...

  • melissa

    i love this story. i can feel her plantar fasciitis and her aching shoulders.
    outstanding job!!

  • Pgoodness

    Telling time in new ways - so honest and true!!

  • Mrs. Flinger

    This is something we can all relate to. The menial task of the daily grind. But you took it one step further, in to her mind. I almost sighed on her behalf with the dogfood coming down the belt.


    P.S. I love the button you made. I have started a flair area (not up yet thanks to ning's outage) and would love to add yours to it if you don't mind?

    Love that you're playing along!

  • Patois42

    Having done the nightly grind for six months or so, I recognize your character. I was always amazed by the women like her. You've added so much flesh to her.

  • Kelly Miller

    Thanks everyone for the great comments. I keep thinking of more to add to this character and how to develop this moment into an entire story. I think this is the whole point of {W}rite-of-Passage and I'm loving it.

    Mrs. Flinger - feel free! I'm glad you like it!

  • Grace

    I love this. I can see it so clearly--the woman, the store, her customers. What a great snapshot.

  • secret agent mama

    Wow! Job well done. I've never worked in a grocery store, but I felt her job.

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