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.