It was a partly cloudy Friday night in October around 8 p.m. There was a light breeze that stirred the multicolored leaves on the trees and ground in little whirlwinds. Big puffy clouds were floating lazily on by. The parking lot of the Bee and Jay Supermarket was shining brightly on the cars and people strolling about, either looking for their cars because they forgot where they parked or getting out of their cars to shop for Halloween goodies and costumes with their families. Once inside the “Market”, as the locals enjoyed calling it because it was shorter and easier to say, one realized he or she was in a store like Walmart, but this place was smaller. There were several ceiling lights that were always blinking on and off in the housewares section. Halloween music was playing on the store radio, sometimes scaring little children, making them cry. The floor was mostly clean except for a few spills here and there. Several store employs were restocking some shelves in three sections of the store: some frozen food aisles, the women’s lingerie department, and the toy department. Claire Delacroix was wearing her bright pink uniform, purple makeup, and black sneakers. She stood at her cash register checking customers out so they could return to their busy lives and celebrate the Halloween season in New Orleans.
Claire Delacroix stared at her cash register light and sighed. She reached up behind her left ear and tucked some of her short, maroon-dyed hair behind it. She hated Friday nights at the local Bee and Jay Supermarket on Bridgewater Street and Storm Avenue in downtown New Orleans. “This is not my forte,” she thought as she returned to reality and resumed scanning Mr. Scranton’s groceries: several bottles of regular V8 juice, three boxes of Rotini, and two loaves of honey wheat bread. She made small talk while she scanned his groceries, and he replied, all the while glancing at his watch because he was already an hour late to meeting his son, his son’s wife, and their three teenage children at Chili’s over on Westmoor Street for a small family reunion and dinner.
“Thank you, Claire. You are an awesome cashier. Please have a good evening and enjoy your weekend.” Mr. Scranton said as he slid his Visa card into the card machine and tapped his pin number to pay.
“Awe, that is so sweet of you Mr. Scranton. I will try to have a good weekend. You do the same.” Claire said as she loaded the last of the groceries into his metal shopping cart. She waved to him as he strolled away and out of the building.
“Claire! How are you doing, my beautiful godchild!” Mrs. Elizabeth Porter hollered in Claire’s direction, embarrassing her as usual. She had a cartful of groceries filled to the brim.
“I’m well, Mrs. Porter. It is good to see you. Oh, wow! Are you going somewhere this weekend? Those are beautiful dresses!” Claire said, peeking into her godmother’s cart at several silver sparkling dresses. The dresses laid on top of some frozen packaged Chinese noodles, four cartons of eggs, and three packages of frozen lasagna, her favorite food.
“Those dresses are for me because I am going to one of my coworker’s Halloween parties Saturday night at his house. Do you remember a Mr. Timothy Warner? He is going to throw a spectacular party as he normally does! Oh, Claire! I was wondering if you could babysit my two dogs this weekend. Please? You are the only one who knows how to take care of them properly.” Mrs. Porter said, silently praying that her goddaughter would agree.
“Oh, I had plans to visit my girlfriend during the weekend, Mrs. Porter. If I agree, would it be alright with you if I brought her along to meet your dogs?” Claire said as she scanned item after item and bagged it. She put the items in bags and hoisted some of the bags into the cart and returned to the cash register. She then loaded some wine bottles carefully into the cart and put them between the four loaves of bread and made sure they would not roll around in the cart on the way to her godmother’s car.
“Do I know her, Claire? If not, then no, I don’t want her in my house. I hope you understand.” Mrs. Porter said, digging into her oversized beach bag and brought out her pink wallet and MasterCard to pay. Her beach bag had an enlarged photo of her two dogs (a male Rottweiler and a male Pit Bull) sitting on the sand staring at their owner.
Claire stared at her godmother in the face and said, “No, you haven’t met my girlfriend yet, Mrs. Porter.” She scanned the last of the items, put them in a bag, and handed the bag to her godmother, who took it and placed it gently in the cart.
“Oh, maybe around four hours at least, Claire. The party is from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at his place. Does that mean you will?” Mrs. Porter said with a smile on her face. She clutched her wallet and then dunked it in her beach bag.
Claire leaned over the cash register and saw how long the line was growing. “Yes, Mrs. Porter. I will be glad to do that for you. I will bring my homework and some other stuff with me. And perhaps watch some of your movies with the lights out. It is, after all, Halloween season.”
“It was good seeing you, dear child. Oh, please tell your parents I said hi. Thank you for dog sitting for me tomorrow. Tata for now!” Mrs. Porter said and grabbed hold of her cart and sauntered off out of the store.
Claire glanced down the line forming at her station again, and she thought she would have to work well into the wee hours of the morning. She cleaned the cash register and took a few sips of her Diet Mountain Dew and then returned it to its place next to the small fan that was blowing on her left side. “This is going to be a long night”, she thought to herself.
Claire got off work at 4 a.m. on Saturday. She closed down her station and walked to the office in the back of the store. She saw her boss, Mr. Rafferty, typing furiously at the computer he was sitting in front of, crunching the numbers for the books. He quickly glanced up and nodded at her as she walked by him.
“Claire, wait. I have an envelope for you. In it is your ten-dollar raise. Congratulations. Please keep this to yourself. Have a good weekend.” Mr. Rafferty said as he handed the envelope to her. She couldn’t believe she received a raise at all. She smiled and thanked him before walking out the office door and into the early morning. The moon was shining its bright light in the black sky.
Claire took out her keys as she approached her car and unlocked it. She slid into the driver’s seat and turned on the radio, humming along to the random tunes that played, putting her in a good mood. She was about to back up when her cell phone rang. She grabbed it from her purse and stared at the screen and number. It was her mother.
Claire answered the phone on the third ring.
“Hi, Mom. How are you? I’m in my car. I had to work longer than I expected tonight. What is it?” Claire asked as she looked at her keys dangling in the ignition.
“I just wanted to know what time you were coming home, honey. I left the front door open for you. Oh, Tyler just asked me if you could pick up a few things from the store, but I just told him that you were on your way home and that he could pick them up himself tomorrow. I will be in the living room on the couch when you get home. I love you, baby girl.” Marina said into the house phone.
“I love you to, and thanks. Oh, I saw my godmother today. She wants me to dog sit for her tonight for four hours, but I tried to tell her that I had already made plans with Raven this weekend. But I agreed to watch those dogs. She says hi.” Claire said, yawning.
“That is so sweet of you, Claire. You might as well spend the night there. Have you finished all of your homework? If not, I would like you to bring it with you.” Marina said, snuggling up with her husband.
“I had already planned on that, Mom. I’ll be home in ten minutes. I’m so hungry. Would you please make me a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup? I didn’t get a chance to eat while I was working.” Claire said, closing her eyes for a minute and imagining holding that sandwich in her delicate hands.
“I’ll ask your Dad to make that for you. We love you and can’t wait to see you shortly, Claire.” Marina said.
“I can’t wait to see you guys either. I love you guys to.” Claire said, stifling an unexpected sneeze by holding her nose with her left hand.
Both Marina and Claire said their goodbyes and hung up. Claire eased slowly out of her spot in the parking lot, headed for one of three exits, and turned left onto Moonlight Way. She had to stop at five different intersections on the way home. She arrived safely and parked behind her father’s bright red Jeep. She smiled as she got out of her car, locked it, and went inside the house. She said hi to her family and spotted her meal on the table in front of the pantry. She sat down and ate slowly and then went to bed. She did not get up until about 10 a.m. to a bright and sunny Saturday.