Checking Out, Part 3

Neighbor. Hearing this word, spoken by Ariana as he moved the last of his family’s items from the shopping cart to the conveyor belt , made Rex realize he had become the topic of conversation.

“Across street.” Rex turned, saw Ariana pointing to him, a broad smile across her round face. She was speaking to a woman wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses, her shielded eyes following the line made by Ariana’s arm, and when her gaze landed on Rex with an almost physical impact.

“You live in that trailer, don’t you?” Rex nodded, and when the cashier asked him how many protein bars were in the box she was now scanning, he turned to her in relief.

“I give ride, on shopping day.” Ariana’s voice retained its pleasant tone. “They, no car. Mother sick.”

Rex tapped his right foot as the cashier continued scanning his family’s items. “It comes and goes with her.” He didn’t bother turning in the direction of the women behind him. “Some days, are good. Most, usually. Winter, that’s usually when she has most of her bad days.” His mother usually came with Ariana on these shopping trips, but that simply wasn’t happening this week.

The cashier switched from scanning to bagging, and Rex reached into a pocket on his coat’s breast, and retrieved a plastic card.

“Is that a SNAP card?” Rex flinched at the question from the horn-rimmed woman, then ran the card through the register’s terminal. “You’re on food stamps?”

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