Second-Chance Sammie


by Kevin Winter

Beep.

Here comes those bananas.

Beep.

That box of granola.

Beep.

That loaf of bread.

Brown bread, this is. Made with all kinds of good-for-yous, grains and seeds and seeds of grains, sticking up from the crust. Sticking up like hands raised up and and knowing the answer. Brown bread is rich man's bread. White bread's poor. As if everything is flipped ass-backwards in the places they make bread, wherever that is.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Those cans of beans come rolling down the conveyer, get caught at the end and just keep on rolling. Like loose logs spinning on a river.

They go in the bags, first 'cause they heavy. Then comes the light stuff, the breakables, the smooshables, like that loaf of seedy clean-you-out-rich-boy-style bread.

Just like they told him.

Good God let him do things just like they told him.

That smile, just like they told him. That bright blue polo. Those slacks, Good God don't go forgetting to iron out those slacks. That haircut. That nametag with his name on it. The one his momma give him. And that smile. Smile, smile, smile.

Just like they told him.

And speak, say something. Don't go forgetting to speak. While you smile, of course. Speak and smile. It makes the folks feel welcome and making the folks feel welcome is just like they told him. He looks up past the conveyer. All those beeping things. That smile, fake to his face.

And catches a flash of auburn. The lady's hair falling across.

He remembers...

He would ask but he knows what the answer would be. His momma always said to ask before taking something that ain't yours, but not this time. 'Cause he knows what she would say, the lady.

And wasn't she asking for it anyway, walking around with her face all prettied up and her hair that shade? Good God wasn't that his favorite?

So, he takes it like he thinks she asks. No questions.

She never sees him, standing outside the circle of street light, still as a stone.

Until he grabs her around the middle and they're on the ground.

A little pallet he made, tarp and an old balled-up t-shirt for her head.

Her face goes shocked ugly. All eyes and flared black-hole nostrils like a spooked horse. But that smell, Good God. That smell ain't never been ugly, ain't never gonna be ugly.

At first it's all he can do to stay on top and miss the knees and swinging arms. Her purse makes whooshing baseball bat sounds around his head. Then her sweater is bunched up under her armpits and those blouse buttons fly silhouetted against the sodium arc and everything else comes next.

His heart has never beat this hard.

Underneath her skin, her heart has never beat this hard.

When he does, it's the best thing. But it's also the worst thing. His momma had brought him up to ask, always ask before taking something, and he never said a word. And it wasn't like he ain't remembered. His momma's voice had been there with him, crouched outside the round pool of yellow light, waiting. Right up to the end, that voice had been there.

Her mouth hinges open and he never thinks it could be from the pain, but it is. No, he thinks it's to scream for someone, anyone. And best thing or worst, it makes no difference. If she screams, it'd make no difference. So he takes his arm and he presses down into that open mouth, muffling sounds she never intended. Soon his forearm runs with warmth as her teeth sink in. Such a mixing of colors, red and white and brown and her lavender sweater. But there in the shadows, you'd never know. The colors, they're just the crude joke of reflected light.

There are the jittering pinpoints of her eyes, the tear-streaks down her temples, her buttons on the concrete, and he buries his face into the streetlight sheen of her auburn...

...something.

He speaks. While he smiles, he speaks.

And finishes with the bread.

Lightest on top.

Just like they told him.


BIO: Kevin Winter lives and writes in Northern Mississippi. His stories may be found littered across the web in various and sundry places of at least questionable repute including Bartleby Snopes, The Battered Suitcase, The Medulla Review, Full of Crow, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Currently, he is completing work on his website, to be located at kevinwinterwrites.com and compiling a book of short stories to be titled A Place We All Know.