Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
by Jacey Nutter
My eyes grew three times larger as I saw it coming out of her bag.
“One gallon of milk nothing else” she reminded me. “No suckers, no cookies, no pop, nothing but the gallon of milk” she repeated. Still looking at the twenty-dollar bill I nodded my head as she stuck the bill out for me. I grabbed it with both hands and began making my way to the store.
Once inside the store I began looking around for where the milk was kept. I walked by isle after isle of potato chips, cleaning supplies, bread, and cookies looking for the milk. My tummy was beginning to let its pain known. It gave out an echoing growl that made me quake. I had been in the store several times in my life, but never was there with a certain task in mind. I noticed as I walked around how many little mirrors the store had connected to the ceiling.
“Those are to help the employees see people in the store” I remember my mother telling me. Finally, I had found the milk and reached in the cooler to grab it. The weight of a gallon of milk to just about anybody is fairly light, but to a young kid as myself it feels like I’m trying to carry a boulder. After several seconds of struggling with how I was going to carry the milk I figured it out and made my way to the counter to pay.
When I got to the counter nobody was there. I peeked around the corners of the isles, but didn’t see anybody. All of a sudden my stomach gave out another echoing noise. This time the noise was a ferocious roar just like a lion. As I walked around the store looking for someone to check me out I became overwhelmed with hunger. My stomach began non-stop to tighten like the knots of a rope when tension is added to it. It became so bad I had to stop walking and take a knee. I looked over my shoulder and something caught my eye. A king size Snicker bar! Not only were my eyes fixed on the Snickers, but my stomach was as well. My stomach began to cry out like a baby when it’s craving a bottle. I had never wanted a candy bar so badly in my life before. I knew I couldn’t buy it with the money mom gave me. Her words echoed in my head.
“One gallon of milk nothing else. No suckers, no cookies, no pop, nothing but the gallon of milk.” However, I needed the Snickers, it now felt like a matter of life or death. I had no money of my own with me. As much as I knew stealing was wrong my stomach gave a compelling argument about how it’s only a dollar fifty cent Snickers, it isn’t that big of a deal. Still, my mind wasn’t sure about the idea. It felt like a tug of war between my mind and stomach. Which one is going to win?
I began looking around the store again seeing if an employee was in sight. This time I wasn’t looking for one to help me check out. I was pleased to not see anyone around at the moment. I took a couple awkward steps toward the Snickers bars and gave the store one last observant look around. I checked the mirror on the ceiling to my right, then the one on my left, the one behind me, and finally the one in front of me. With nobody in sight I swiftly reached in front of me and grabbed the king size Snickers bar in my right hand. I quickly slid it into my pocket as I noticed my hands beginning to shake. With the Snickers in my pocket I began to try and calm myself down. My hands stopped shaking so violently that it was almost unnoticeable. The stop to the shaking didn’t last very long as I could hear an employee moving around by the checkout counter.
“Hello” they called out. “Anybody here?” With the snickers bar in the pocket of my black and white energy zone shorts and gallon of milk still in hand I stepped out from the isle I was behind into plain sight. The cashier was a woman who looked in her mid forties.
“Ah, buying some milk I see,” she said. Her voice in any other circumstance would be one with a very calming tone, but in this moment her calm toned voice brought my heart beat to a record pace. She just looked at me with a half smile on her face. Can she see the Snickers bar in my pocket I thought to myself? Is my false smile and twitching eye obvious? Could she see me take the Snickers in a mirror?
“I can check you out over here” she said and pointed to the checkout counter a few steps away. I began walking in the direction she pointed trying to use the milk jug to cover up my pocket with the Snickers in it. She began to ring up my order.
“That’ll be four dollars and thirty-nine cents,” she said with a look that seemed of disapproval. Did she know what I was doing? Her dark brown eyes were zeroing in my facial expressions. Her small rounded ears listening intently as she waited for me to say something. Listening for a confession maybe? I handed her the twenty hoping she didn’t notice my hands shaking like a powerful earthquake. I stood there waiting for what seemed like five minutes for her to get the right change back to me.
“Would you like your receipt?” she asked. I shook my head side ways saying no without having to actually say a word. I don’t know if I could’ve said anything without raising alarm so I didn’t. She handed me the change and told me to have a nice day. I had to force my nervous self to smile at her as I walked away toward the door my whole body shaking. Ten feet. Now only five feet to go then I’m out the door. I could almost smell the fresh autumn air from outside. I’m going to get away with it.
The door opened and I immediately felt relieved. As I stepped outside into the store parking lot my stomach growled one last time to remind me of the reason I did what I just did. Or was it a growl of disproval? I reached into my pocket and pulled out the Snickers, which seemed to be growing every time I saw it. At the same time so was my guilt. I tore open its wrapper and quickly ate the Snickers. I walked home hoping the satisfaction of the bar would make the feelings of regret dwindle along with my hunger. The taste of the chocolate covered caramel and nuts quickly calmed all the ferocious growls and roars of my stomach, but at the same time it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I finished the bar as my house came into sight and was relieved to dispose of the wrapper in a garbage can located in front of our neighbor’s garage. I wasn’t just throwing away a simple candy wrapper. I was also throwing away any evidence of what I had just done. I had made it. As I walked closer and closer to my house I felt more distant from the wrapper and my feelings of guilt. I walked up the porch stairs and into my house no longer hungry.
As I closed the door my mother, covered in flour, came and took the milk from me.
“Only the milk, right?” She asked as she grabbed the milk. I looked up at her, smiled, and shook my head yes. “I’m proud of you! Just put the change on the counter, sweetie” she said as she resumed cooking supper. As I walked over to place the money on the counter a sense of relief and accomplishment filled me like the heat of a campfire on a cold night. That feeling was quickly replaced with the glorious aroma of steak, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. I nearly started drooling because of the smells. My mom had noticed my staring and told me to go wash my hands.
“It’s ready!” She yelled at me from the kitchen. I darted to the table and sat down in my designated chair. The food was passed around the table and piece-by-piece my bare plate was covered. I cut into my thick and juicy medium-rare sirloin. I drove my fork into the first bite of the juicy steak. In seconds I had the bite of steak in my mouth. However, something didn’t feel right. Why didn’t the steak taste as amazing as it smelled? As I forced more bites down I began to feel like a bloated balloon. I couldn’t eat another bite.
“What’s wrong?” Asked my mom. “Why aren’t you eating?” I just looked at her with the expression of pain in my eyes and told her I was full.
“Full? How can you be full? You’ve barely eaten anything.” She started at me with her head tilted sideways and a confused look on her face. I started to think about the Snicker bar. I looked at my mom, then at my barely touched plate of delicious food. Was it really worth it? One Snickers bar ruined my whole appetite. The aromas still swirled in the air around me, taunting me. The feelings of guilt had left me long ago, but the feelings of regret were just starting.
by Kyra Miles
These people stink, I thought as we scurried through the mass of people waiting to board the beat down bus that had been vandalized and painted over too many times to count. I envied them for being able to get on a bus instead of having to walk all over. We had been walking on old, uneven sidewalks all day and I had begun to wonder if my sore feet even had feeling anymore. My pink and black Nike tennis shoes that I had bought specifically for this trip because they were “the ultimate comfort shoe” had formed to my feet long before today and I swear the souls had disappeared which was causing my bare heels to hit the hard concrete.
It was a hot, humid summer day in the streets of New York. My group looked like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in our clover green 4-H polo’s and sand colored khakis. Not only were our outfits ridiculous, but as were (some of) our mannerisms. Three country boys behind me wouldn’t stop chanting “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” whenever they saw someone they thought was a little too far left on the political scale. They couldn’t grasp the concept of keeping their mouths shut if they saw someone in a tie-dye shirt. ‘Miss America One’ and ‘Miss America Two’ were captivated by the selfies they were about to post so they looked like twenty-one year old girls staggering home after a night on the town. My best friend, Hannah, and I were complaining about everything from the amount of people to the pace our guide was walking. Our guides hair was the color of newspaper. Not an issue fresh off the press, more like the article you find in an attic of an abandoned house. The out of style animal print tank top she was wearing and her khaki capris did not accentuate any of her curves. Unlike the rest of us, she was not wearing walking shoes. Her cinderblock sandals barely came off the ground with every duck-like stride she took, but that didn’t slow her down at all. She was moving faster than Usain Bolt in order to show us everything New York had to offer. You could tell by the excitement in her voice that she loved living in New York and bragging up its peaceful parks, gothic-style churches, and authentic buildings was one of her regular hobbies.
“And here we have one of my favorite streets in all of New York!” She said on what seemed like every street. “Can’t you just see the history embedded in these walls?! Think of the things these windows have seen!”
However, it was hard to hear her raspy, smokes-two-packs-a-day, voice through all of the other distracting noises.
We had just walked under the rusty, metal Chinatown sign and people were already trying to get me to buy anything from t-shirts to refrigerator magnets. The rank smell of fish and spoiled meat hung in the air like vines in a forest. I was clutching my teal purse tight enough to turn my knuckles white.
“You want to buy? Cheap shirts here! Cheap! Cheap!” I look to my left and see a market with something crawling through the vegetables, meanwhile on my right someone was buying, what looked like to me, poodle on a stick. The heavy steam coming out of the buildings ventilation shafts stuck in my hair like gum.
“Come! Come look! We have lots what you want!”
Each vendor had something I needed but for a better price than the last. My palms were sweaty and my breaths were getting more rapid. I couldn’t believe people would be immensely aggressive trying to sell souvenirs when I was clearly not interested. Couldn’t they tell I didn’t want anything since I was ignoring them?
I started out polite, “No thank you, not today,” but halfway through I couldn’t take it anymore. One of them trying to sucker me into 5 t-shirts for 10 dollars touched my arm and I lost it.
“I do not want to buy anything from you right now! Can’t you see I’m not interested?!” I snapped.
The vendor didn’t seem to acknowledge what I said, he simply moved on to one of the three boys walking behind me with the same lines and the same amount of excitement he had used with me. I was overwhelmed. I felt like the new toy at daycare that everybody had to play with until it either breaks or they get bored of it.
I finally made my way through the group over to our chaperone, Mrs. Gass, and told her what happened. She was composed. Big blue eyes, a soft smile, and a sweet voice that could always calm you down. With short sandy hair and pristine posture, one could mistake her for Maria from The Sound of Music.
“That is the way people in this culture work, they don’t mean to violate you, they are just trying to sell you their products,” she said, “just try to ignore them and stay with the group.” Due to the fast paced walking, the ocean of people, and my tired aching feet, I had gotten completely overwhelmed.
Eventually we got into a neighborhood with family owned restaurants with classical music playing in the background and the sound of children laughing while at dinner with their parents. The shops in this neighborhood didn’t have people bargaining with you as you walked by. We stepped into a shop with souvenirs covering every inch of the walls. It had bells, shot glasses, t-shirts, hats, bags, you name it. I bought two shirts that were as low in quality as they were in price and I don’t think the cashier spoke English.
“Is it anything like you were expecting it to be like?” asked our newspaper haired guide.
“No, not at all” we responded.
I was expecting to see cherry red lanterns covered with bright golden dragons adorning the streets, men in Kung Fu outfits playing the drums in perfect harmony, and little kids running around with cream colored cloth dolls that have buttons as eyes, and red stitching as mouths. Little did I know, there would be no kids, the streets would be covered in crumpled up pretzel wrappers and old McDonald’s bags rather than lanterns and more crowded than Target on Black Friday, and half of the people there wouldn’t even be Chinese.
“Hey Mert” I said as I stepped onto the air-conditioned bus while giving him the usual fist bump and grabbing one of the last bottles of water sitting in the big green cooler.
“Hi Kyra, how was it? Are you gonna move to New York anytime soon?!” he asked.
“Most definitely not” I said, “this isn’t exactly what I call my happy place!”
“Well then I better get you back to Nebraska so I can see that pretty smile of yours again!” he said with a sparkling grin.
I had never been around other cultures before, and if I had, they were always the minority. Today, I was the minority and I didn’t like it. As I looked out the hand print covered bus window at Chinatown fading away I saw the true beauty of people getting along no matter what culture they grew up in. A little girl with blond braids and a sticky-handled lollipop in hand was standing next to her mom while a simple, old Chinese man entranced her with a traditional Chinese toy. Who would have thought that experiencing Chinatown would teach me that something can be learned from each and every one of the different cultures and customs that are present in the world. I just wish I had realized it before we walked under that rusty welcome sign.
After everyone gets settled into his or her unofficial assigned seats, we number off flawlessly. By this time we all have it down to a science, like clockwork. Our guide began talking faster than the spokespeople do at the end of commercials to get all of the necessary information in before they run out of time. I should listen to what she has to say, I thought, but truthfully the only thing running through my mind was: I can’t wait to get out of this clover green polo, it stinks.
by Shane Young
The wind whispers, the leaves change
Brittle air blows in your face
The cement is no longer simmering
The sun is now hiding
But beauty is all around you
From green to yellow to orange to brown
From flimsy to delicate with audible sound
Soon coveted by blankets of snow
Quickly enough, the seasons may go
But beauty is all around you