Tackles and Tears

I grabbed my gym bag, and trudged out of the locker room, with my head
hanging low. My team had just lost its third consecutive football game.
Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best mood. I passed my coach on the way
out, and we made eye contact, which I quickly broke. I didn’t want to
talk, so I just walked by him. He didn’t seem to mind.
I stepped outside and the heat hit me like a smack in the face. It was
way too hot for October, 90 degrees. I saw my dad’s yellow pickup in the
student parking lot, and I walked towards it, dragging my feet a little.
Sweat ran into my eyes. I didn’t even try to wipe it off, I just squinted
a little and kept walking.
When I got to my dad’s truck, I threw my gym bag in the bed, and climbed
in the passenger side.
“Want to drive?” my dad offered.
I just shook my head, and directed the air conditioning vent towards my
Dad pulled out of the parking lot, and made a right. “You hungry?” he
I shook my head no, but he took the growl from my stomach as a yes. He
made a right onto Pigeon Hill Road, and we passed the airport.
“I take it the game didn’t go so well?”
Again, I just shook my head. He stopped trying to make conversation.
A couple minutes later we pulled into the parking lot of Foodbarn, a
local deli. Dad handed me a ten, and said that he was going to wait in
the truck. It was hot and muggy inside the store, and the man behind the
counter was fanning himself with a notepad. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” I said, wiping the sweat off of my face, “Can I get a foot long
turkey sub?”
“Sure thing,” he said, as he reached under the counter and grabbed the
While he was preparing my sandwich, a lady walked in with two kids, a boy
and a girl. She was a big lady, and had on a purple, moth eaten Winnie
the Pooh shirt. It looked like she’d ripped it once, and tried stitching
it back up herself. Her hair was a wreck on the top of her head, and she
had on more eye makeup than was necessary. Her son looked about six years
old, and had on a Pokemon t-shirt. Her daughter was even younger, and was
wearing an old, yellow dress that was too big for her.
She walked by me, towards the checkout counter, with her kids’ hands
firmly in her own. I could smell the sweat on her.
My sandwich was ready, and when I took it to the register I heard the
lady ask for a carton of cigarettes. I stood behind her. The boy looked
back at me, and I smiled at him. He gave a tiny grin, but then quickly
looked at the ground, and gripped his mom’s hand a little tighter.
The lady was talking to the cashier, about the heat, and the little girl
asked her mother in a hushed voice if she could get an ice cream bar out
of the freezer. Her mother ignored her. So the little girl asked again,
and this time, her mother reached down and smacked the little girl’s
mouth, hard, and said in an angry voice, “Can’t you see that I’m
talking!” She then turned back towards the cashier, and acted like
nothing had happened. The cashier looked surprised, but she didn’t say
The little girl cried and held her mouth with her free hand. She made
high pitched wheezing noises every time she took a breath. Again, her
mother stopped talking to the cashier, grabbed the girl’s arm and shook
her hard. “Shut Up!” she yelled. I was taken aback. I couldn’t believe
that the mother had reacted so violently towards this little girl. The
mother saw me watching, and glared darkly at me. She then paid the
cashier, who had a shocked expression on her face, and left the store,
half dragging her children behind her.
I was in disbelief as I watched her leave the store. I placed my sandwich
on the counter, and the cashier rang it up. We didn’t say anything to
each other. There was nothing to say. She handed me my change, I left the
store, and got in my dad’s pickup. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I
saw the lady and her children walking along the road. The lady already
had one of her cigarettes in her mouth, and the little girl still had
tears streaming down her face.
“Hey, Dad?”
“Yeah, Brandon?”

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