Tassie Types is about growing up and growing older, facing the mirror, and laughing through it all. Here, you'll find stories of family and friends, courage and love, and laughing without fear of the future.

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Short Story

September 12, 2018

The Women of Walmart

I’m so excited to have my short story included in this amazing collection of prose and poetry centered around the theme, The End of Life in the Age of Technology.  In my story, a woman discovers she may not be able to save her marriage, but she can save her china and her sanity with a little ingenuity and a quick trip to Walmart.  Purchase your copy of The Ocotillo Review, Volume 2.2 HERE .

 

 

In the beginning, life was roses and chocolates and sunset walks on the beach, handwritten love notes.  Then it was smiling babies, one after the other, a home filled with happy laughter, honey-do lists.

“How’d I get so lucky?”  My handsome husband asked me every night before we fell asleep, one arm draped over my shoulder.

I was the happiest woman in the whole world.

Until I wasn’t.

He still kissed me goodbye every morning on his way to work.  We shared phone calls at lunch, talking about the kids’ schedules and what we would eat that night.  He was there, but not there, like a switch had been shut off, dimming the twinkle in his eye.  He walked around like a man who didn’t particularly care for the shirt he was wearing and couldn’t wait to take it off.

I broke down one day against my better judgment, certain I had the solution for a man flirting with forty.  “How about we buy that motorcycle you’ve been wanting?”  When that suggestion didn’t get his juices revving, I suggested counseling or a romantic getaway for two.

“You don’t get it.”  He shook his head, a miserable look on his face.  “I don’t want a getaway for two.  I need a getaway for one.”

He packed a small suitcase and promised he only needed a few days to get his head straight. I pretended nothing was wrong for the sake of the children, certain he would change his mind and be home soon.  If they thought it was unusual Daddy had been gone for days, they said nothing, absorbed in their elementary school world.

“If you don’t come home, we can’t work on this.  I can’t save us by myself.”  I screamed at him on the phone, begging him to come to his senses.  “You’re not just leaving me.  You’re leaving three children under the age of ten.”  I paused as a fresh wave of hot tears flooded down my face.  “How can you look at yourself in the mirror?”

“They’re fine,” he said. “I told them all about it over pizza the other night.”  He waited for me to stop shrieking in his ear. “I’ll be coming home tonight to pick up some things for my new apartment.”

I slammed the phone down.  Anger consumed me as I took a mental inventory of the house.  I considered changing the locks so he couldn’t get in, holing up in my bedroom indefinitely with the children.  I imagined meeting him at the door with a baseball bat and a rabid pit bull.  Not my Lenox Autumn china, Buddy.  Not my twelve piece set of Oneida Michelangelo flatware.  Not on your life!

Then suddenly, the solution became Waterford crystal clear.

“Kids!”  I called up to them and wiped my face with the back of my sleeve as the evil plan played out in my head. “We’re going to Walmart.”

“Can I buy a toy?” my youngest daughter asked as we piled in the car.

“Today we’re buying things for Daddy,” I said.  “I know he told you he has a new apartment.”  How dare he make that announcement without me there!   “We both want you to feel at home when you visit.”  Every other weekend when my heart will be ripped from my body. “We’re going to buy some stuff to help him decorate.”  So he’ll leave my things alone!

We parked and strode into the megastore.  A greeter smiled brightly, then frowned when he saw my grim expression.  Everywhere giant smiley faces, a sharp contrast to mine, grinned, inviting us to enjoy everyday low prices.  I grabbed a shopping cart and wheeled down the aisle, road rage pulsing through my veins in time to the piped in music blaring from the speakers.  I will survive.  As long as I know how to love, I know I’ll be alive.  I’ve got all my life to live…

“Daddy needs a lot of things.”  I slowed down in the bath section and fingered a selection of rough, thin towels.  I looked at my youngest daughter.  “Baby, which ones do you like?”

“Ooh, these!”  She chose four fuchsia ones and placed them in the cart then paused in front of a Hello Kitty shower curtain.

I caught my breath, imagining his bachelor pad after his little decorators did their magic.

“Hello Kitty!  Look mom, there’s a matching trash can and soap dish, too.  Can we get them all?”

I nodded and smiled, a woman confident her Pottery Barn bath sheets were safe and dry on their rack at home.  “Kitchen things next!”  Shopping always made me feel better and I felt the weight on my heart begin to lift.  I pointed to my older daughter.  “Your turn.  What do you think Daddy would like?”

She picked out a four place set of forest green dishes with tiny ducks swimming around the rim, matching placemats and a set of utensils that looked like they couldn’t cut butter.

“Perfect!  Your daddy will love eating his take-out pizza off of these.”  I looked at my oldest.  My son had a better understanding of how our lives would change and my heart ached for him.  I took a deep breath.  “Now, what about the bedroom?”

We strolled over to the linens.  I gazed at the selection of sheets I wouldn’t be sleeping on, at the comforters that wouldn’t be comforting me.

“That’s the one.”  My son pointed to a display of a Star Wars bed.  A full sized furry Chewbacca lounged on the front of the comforter.  Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battled it out on the sheets.  “Look, Mom!  Their light sabers glow in the dark!”

As thrilled as I should have been at the prospect of my husband hosting adult slumber parties on Star Wars linens, I felt a twinge of sorrow.  I mourned not only the death of my marriage, but the demise of our family unit. I grieved for an entire generation living in a world where happily-ever-after was a fairy tale only half of us could believe.

Maybe I should just let him take whatever he wanted.  My home would never be the same anyway.

As we were walking to the cash registers I caught my reflection in a mirror for sale in home goods.  I paused to study the broken woman before me, her eyes red and swollen from nights of crying, dark circles pooled under them from lack of sleep.  The cheap glass distorted her slim body, making her look short and squat in her husband’s old sweatshirt. I wanted to give her a hug, to reach out to her and tell her everything would be ok, but I wasn’t convinced it would be.  I reached for the mirror and added it to the pile in the cart.

The kids ran off to look at magazines and I walked to the front of the store to pay, placing our items one by one on the conveyer belt.  The cashier, a Barry White double in a blue vest, smiled, the gold on his teeth glinting under the fluorescent lights.  He wore a nametag that read,  “I’m J.J.  Our People Make the Difference,” and I felt him checking me out before the first item reached his register.

“You’re beautiful.”  His voice was husky as he reached for a pink towel.

I picked up a National Enquirer and pretended I didn’t hear him.  Was this my destiny as a divorced woman, to be at the mercy of every Tom, Dick and J.J.?  An undesirable image flickered through my head of the two of us holding hands, taking romantic walks through the produce department after midnight.

He stared into my eyes as he scanned the Hello Kitty soap dish. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the whole, wide…”

I caught my breath, not sure whether to be flattered or horrified.

He drew out the next word.  “Walmart.”

I gave him a half smile and averted my eyes to the woman waiting behind me.  She was sporting a home perm and nude leggings one size too friendly and staring at me intently.  The pink rhinestone cowboy boots she wore told me this wasn’t her first rodeo.

“Honey, you can do better.”  She winked one blue shadowed eye at me.

J.J. told me I owed him $63.88 and asked for my phone number.  I started to say no, then thought better of it and scribbled some numbers on the back of a torn receipt.  A smile crept up the corners of my lips as I collected the kids and strolled to the car.

That night, my husband came over wearing a sheepish expression, holding empty trash bags.  “Just came by to pack up some things.”

The kids ran up to greet him with hugs.

“You don’t have to, Daddy,” said our youngest.  “We bought everything brand new just for you.”  She pointed to the bundles of blue Walmart bags lined up with love by the front door, a pink towel peeking out of one.  “I can’t wait to help you decorate our new apartment!”

He caught my eye, raised his eyebrows and nodded in surrender. “How’d I get so lucky?”

I pointed to the mirror we’d bought propped up against the wall.  “That’s for you, too.”

He picked it up and studied his tired, middle-aged reflection in the warped glass, scowled, and tucked the mirror under his arm.  He scooped up the bags and was heading to his truck when his cell phone rang and he pulled it out of his pocket.

“Who?  J.J?  I don’t know any J.J.”  He juggled the Walmart bags in his arms.  “Exactly WHY do you want to talk to my wife?”

A chuckle slipped out of my mouth as I shut the door.  Giggles erupted from my throat, then my belly exploded with glee.  I laughed until the joyful tears that ran down my face washed away a month’s worth of sad ones.

I wouldn’t say I was the happiest woman in the whole world.

But I was on my way to becoming the happiest one in Walmart.

 

Reading “The Women of Walmart” at the Houston launch party.

 

 

 

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