Kelly shuffled forward in line at the Save-All Market and averted her eyes.
Directly in front of her, a woman with spiky hair and dangling earrings swatted a heavyset four-year-old as she tossed items on the counter.
The girl whined a long, high-pitched squeal.
The woman swatted again and flung an iPhone into the child’s grubby hand. Gleefully, the child tapped the screen, and suddenly a Disney movie theme blared.
Kelly’s gaze grazed the cashier’s face in the midst of an eye roll.
A young man wearing an orange uniform and carrying a sweeper stepped near. He waved at the little girl and grinned. “One of my favorites, too.”
The woman swung around and glared, one arm barring the child from leaning forward. “Get away from her, pervert!”
Kelly’s eyes rounded as she watched the young man back away, hunch his shoulders, and with grieved eyes, begin sweeping near the restrooms.
“Twenty-five dollars and eighty cents.” The cashier pushed her glasses up her nose and waited, her eyes fixed on the space above the woman’s head.
As Kelly fumbled to unload her purchases, her gaze meandered to the newspaper selection. On the left, bold headlines screamed: “Aliens Alive and Menacing on Mars!” Before she had time to consider the possibilities, much less the syntax, a man jostled her arm as he snatched a magazine with a full-color picture of a terrorist holding a severed head with the headline: “World War III Imminent.”
“Fourteen sixty-five.” The cashier considered the state of her nails.
Kelly slipped her card through the scanner mechanically as the woman and child struggled for control of the iPhone. She could hear their sharp argument rise to hypersonic pitch as she scurried her cart to the door. Another swat set off a long wail.
Maneuvering her car across the parking lot, Kelly spotted a disheveled man with long, stringy hair and a tattered coat huddled on the corner where she had to turn. Kelly’s heart raced. How fast could she pass him? Or should she stop and give him something? The man, in his forties maybe but roughly used, held a sign. “Out of work and going blind—Please help.”
Kelly knew she had a ten dollar bill in the front pocket of her purse, but it would take a lot of agility to get it out, steer close enough to hand it out, and not tick off the line of cars behind her. Kelly sped up.
Once on the highway, Kelly began to breathe a little easier. Then a series of red revolving lights caught her eye. She slowed and peered at a police officer waving traffic onto one lane. “Oh heck.” Kelly blew air between her lips and tapped the steering wheel.
As she navigated to the left, she glanced over and saw a smashed truck cab and a mangled tractor. An ambulance siren wailed nearby, and a woman sat on the embankment, her head in her hands. She seemed to be sobbing. Kelly’s attention snapped back to the road. The police officer waved her on.
When she finally picked up speed, Kelly darted a glance at her watch. She’d be late for class if she didn’t hurry. Her foot pressed the pedal nearer the floor. She upped the volume on her favorite music and lost herself in scenes from a horror movie she had seen over the weekend.
When she slipped into her seat, her professor waved to a large screen in the front of the room. “Today, we will focus on the oppressive state of our culture and how we are destroying our world.” Kelly tapped on her recorder. This would be on the exam—no doubt about it.
By the time she pushed her way through the front door late that night, Kelly’s shoulders drooped, and she had a splitting headache. A light shone in the kitchen, so she wandered inside.
Her mom, wrapped in a garish orange bathrobe, sat plowing through a quart of chocolate ice cream.
Kelly tossed her car keys on the counter and nodded.
Her mom nodded back. “Lousy day. You?”
Kelly shuffled to the cabinet, snatched up a rumpled bag of broken cookies, and grabbed a spoon out of an open drawer. “Nothing new. You know—same ol’, same ol’.” She plopped down beside her mother, poured the cookies on the table, and dug in.
Novels by A. K. Frailey
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Coming in 2018…
OldEarth ARAM Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)
Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00