Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Game of Life (09/11/08)
TITLE: Many a Tear Has to Fall*
By Martha Ford
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With nothing but a high school education it was clear that childcare for three children would cost more than she could make. She couldn’t go to work: her work was at home.
Armed with an abbreviated grocery list based on what the children had to have she stuffed the usual abbreviated cash amount into her purse and headed for the discount grocery. Let him stay with the kids for a while, she thought, cleaning after them and arbitrating their arguments.
She slammed the rusty car door harder than required. That was unfair, she allowed as the peace and quiet inside the car soothed her. He wanted to work but just couldn’t find anything paying more than minimum wage. Her heart knew he’d take any job right now. The rumble in her stomach made her self-centered, a luxury she couldn’t indulge. What had happened to their plans? A tear lubricated her eye.
They wanted to marry young. She agreed to postpone her education so they could start their family. “We will still be young when the kids are grown,” they had agreed. “We will have the money to travel and play as much as we want.” A simple dream, but so far very elusive: they had no money, just debt. She squeezed her wet eyes to prevent tears running down her make-up free cheek.
She pulled into the store parking lot, a little ashamed of her old car. Her reflection in the glass, automatic doors as she entered the store shocked her. Is she really that tired and haggard looking? She wiped a tear and chose not to look at herself.
The only available cart had a gimpy wheel. “My luck, as usual,” she voiced to herself. Anger kept a tear from falling.
Prices seemed to increase in tandem with her fears: would her cash cover her needs? Each purchase was a debate over whether she could afford it or do without it before it ended up in her deformed cart. One thing she didn’t scrimp on was the children’s nutrition.
The more aisles she shopped the more demoralized she became. Then, it hit her.
“Oh, no!” Panic spread over her face as she realized that in her anger she had forgotten her coupons. “I don’t believe how stupid I am!”
Slamming her purse back into the seat that usually held a child, she began rummaging through the cart for things she could put back on the shelves. It wasn’t her style to leave the loaded cart and walk off.
“Was there something wrong with your choice?” A helpful stock boy inquired, making her jump as though he’d caught her trying to steal the item.
“Just decided to try something else,” she whined as she slinked away, feeling guilty for not buying!
Her next stop allowed her to replace several canned goods. When she reached to reshelf the first can she noticed a coupon laying there, a coupon for the very item she was replacing. She grabbed it. It wasn’t out of date! A quick glance revealed no one saw her take it.
There were coupons in the next spots for the other cans she thought needed replacing. She grabbed them and they were good! In fact, nearly everything she planned to return had a coupon sitting in its old spot. This time she didn’t stop the tears rolling down a smiling face.
She uttered an audible prayer, “Thank You, Lord.”
As she passed the coupons to the clerk she had to ask, “Do you know I found most of my coupons today right on the shelf?”
“Oh! So the “coupon lady” struck again.”
“There’s this elderly lady that apparently clips every coupon she finds. Since she rarely needs to use them she places them on the product so someone else will find them and use them. She says it’s her gift for young mothers too busy to collect them even though they’re the ones who need them the most.”
“You saved almost $10.00 in coupons today,” the clerk told her.
“And my sanity!” She went home with a few dollars to spare.
*It’s All In The Game; Tommy Edwards song.
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