Jar of Pickles: A Short Story, p.1Jennifer McMurrain / Thrillers & Crime
Jar of Pickles
By Jennifer McMurrain
©2013 by Jennifer McMurrain
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The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, to factual events or to businesses is coincidental and unintentional.
The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author.
Published by LilyBear House, LLC
Interior Design: Jennifer McMurrain
Cover Design: Brandy Walker ~
To all the heroes we never hear about on the evening news.
Jar of Pickles
“Mom, where are the pickles?” My daughter, Blaire, shuffled through the pantry. “I need the pickles.”
“Pickles?” I asked, dodging Caleb’s pea puree sneeze.
Blaire heaved an exasperated sigh. “The jar of pickles I told you I needed for the class BBQ tomorrow. Mom, you never listen to me.”
“I listen, but I’ve got a lot going on.” I shoved another spoonful of peas into my eight month-old’s mouth. “Did you add it to the list on the fridge?”
I could feel her rolling her eyes, even though my back was turned toward her. “Did you write it on the list before Monday? If you need anything it has to be on the list before then so I can pick it up with everything else. This is not a new concept in this house. You might have to do without.”
“Mooommm,” she whined. “I can’t go to the BBQ empty handed.”
“Well, I think there’s a brand new bottle of ketchup in the pantry. Just take that, I’m sure more kids will eat ketchup than pickles anyway. No one will even notice.”
“I have to take pickles. If I don’t have my item, which is a jar of pickles, then I have to eat in the cafeteria with the rejects. How do you ever expect me to be popular when you keep doing things that will embarrass me?” She stomped her foot. “I wrote it on the list, therefore you’re supposed to get it. It’s not like you have a job or anything.”
Stirring the peas a little harder than needed, I debated if I should rant about my days full of diapers, spit up and looking after ungrateful kids or just go to the store for some peace and quiet. Caleb knocked the peas out of my hand and onto the floor. The glass jar clanked before spinning, slinging pea mush everywhere finally settling open end up. I took that as a sign and examined my shirt for pea damage.
“Fine, Blaire, I’ll go to the store and get your jar of pickles. You clean up the pea mess and give your brother a bath,” I said, taking Caleb out of the high chair. His chubby hand grabbed my cheek, giving me a pea facial, causing him to laugh in delight.
Blaire wrinkled her nose as I shoved her pea-covered little brother in her arms and wiped my face with a paper towel.
“I can’t, I have too much homework,” she griped, “and he’s so icky. Can’t you do it when you get back?”
“I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to give Caleb a bath, clean up the mess, and do your homework. You might just have to spend a little less time texting your friends tonight. I bet you can manage.” I winked at her trying to lighten the mood.
“Moooom,” she whined again. “That’s not fair!”
“Just do it.” I sighed and grabbed my purse.
Opening the door I slammed into my husband.
“Watch where you’re going, hun. I almost spilled my coffee.” No kiss hello, or even a “Hi, babe,” just worried about his coffee. I saw where I ranked.
The caffeinated aroma filled the air, making my mouth water. I hadn’t had coffee since finding out I was pregnant with Caleb. Tom insisted I breast feed until Caleb was a year old, so I still went without my favorite beverage. I couldn’t count the times I had asked Tom to quit bringing the temptation home. And, no, decaf was not the same.
“Where ya off to?” Tom asked, setting his briefcase on the kitchen counter. “It’s kind of late to be running errands, isn’t it?”
“To get pickles for your daughter,” I scoffed. “She needs them for her BBQ tomorrow. Would you mind running out to get them real quick?”
“Why didn’t you pick them up on Monday?” Tom asked.
I swallowed the rant that burned my tongue. “Guess I forgot.”
“I’m pretty beat. You go ahead.” He looked around the kitchen, apparently missing my sarcasm. “Where’s dinner?”
“Caleb’s been a mess today, and I haven’t gotten to it. Could you start the chicken?” I asked. “The marinade is in the fridge. Just pour it over the chicken and put it in the oven at three-fifty, should be done by the time I get home.”
He ran his fingers through his hair. “I’ve worked all day, besides you know I can’t cook. I’m not really in the mood for your baked chicken; it always comes out a little dry. Why don’t you just pick up some fried chicken at the drive-through on your way home? Win-win for everybody.”
His words stung. His crack about my cooking didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I thought about my waistline and how hard I’d worked to take off the pregnancy weight. Not like Tom had noticed. He hadn’t touched me since Caleb’s birth. Why had I even bothered? Unless it was fried and dripping in butter or gravy, they all complained.
“Fine, just make sure Blaire gives Caleb his bath and cleans up the peas.”
In return I got a grunt followed by a slight nod. Not sure if Tom heard me, I shrugged and continued on my journey to the store. The place was packed. People just getting off work hurried to get groceries before heading home. My one jar of pickles was probably going to take a good half hour. I inhaled deeply and focused on the quiet.
Caleb had been screaming all day and hadn’t gone down for his afternoon nap, which meant by the time I got home from the store, he’d be screaming again from being extremely overtired. I could already see Tom’s reaction when I got back, acting as if Caleb had tortured him for hours, then retreating to his office, leaving me to deal with the fussy baby. It would never occur to him to try and get Caleb asleep himself.
I found a spot at the end of the lot and pulled in. A little walk would do me good. Clear my head and possibly pull me out of my pity party. As I put the car in park, I received a text from Tom, Told Blair to concentrate on homework, you can wash Caleb. Get beer.
Feeling my face flush red, I was sure there was steam coming out of my ears. I slammed my palm on the steering wheel. All I wanted was a little help, but no, that was too much to ask. So much for clearing my head.
Fine. I wrote back, banging the keys on the phone hoping Tom could feel my frustration through the text. I threw my phone in my bag as it beeped again. Maybe Tom did realize something was wrong?
What’s with the peas on the floor? the text read.
I sighed, closed my eyes and leaned my head against the back of the seat. I should just start the car and drive far, far away. They probably wouldn’t even notice I was gone until Caleb’s diaper needed to be changed or the milk spoiled. No, Blaire would notice, because she wouldn’t have her precious jar of pickles for the BBQ. She’d have to, Lord forbid, eat in the cafeteria with the “rejects”, who probably were very nice kids, who didn’t have mothers to run to the store last minute for pickles.
I got out of the car and ambled down the parking lot. My phone beeped for a third time. It was Tom again. Did you get that last text? I’m afraid these peas are going to stain the floor if they aren’t cleaned up soon. You better pick up some stain remover.
For the love of God, just clean up the damn peas!!!! I typed back, swallowing a scream. I turned the ringer off and slammed it into my purse.
Entering the store I yanked out a cart, still mumbling about no one helping around the house, or with Caleb, and how my every decision was overturned by my daft husband. People were beginning to stare, so I pulled my phone back out and hit the speed dial for my mother as I steered my cart to a corner. Ranting to myself wasn’t going to cut it this time, plus the store manager looked as if he was ready to call the loony bin to come get the mumbling crazy lady.
Mom answered on the third ring, “Hey hun.”
Her voice automatically made me feel lighter. “Hi mom. Do you have a minute? I really need to talk.”
There was a long pause. “Dear, I’m sorry your father and I are about to leave for dinner. Is everything ok?”
“Just feeling a little underappreciated, I guess.” I traced the supermarket’s name on the handle of the shopping cart.
“Oh Dear, you know being a mother is a thankless job. Don’t worry they’ll come around. I really must go, your father’s in the car. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Mom, this time is differ…” The phone went dead before I finished my sentence. My heart sank even further. Didn’t she hear me say I really needed to talk? Was dinner with Dad so important it couldn’t wait for fifteen minutes?
Turning down the condiments aisle I grabbed a huge jar of sliced pickles and slammed them into the cart. Mom was no different than the others. Of course, I would be by the phone tomorrow. Where else would I be, as Blaire said it’s not like I have a job or anything.
Stomping over to the beer coolers, I got angrier with every step. What was I? A door mat? Why couldn’t Tom have gotten the pickles? Why couldn’t Blaire just take the stupid ketchup instead?
“It’s time I stuck up for myself. Time I started saying no, consequences be damned,” I said to myself. “No more push over Momma! When I get home we’re all gonna have a come to Jesus meeting.”
A commotion caught my eye and I tilted my head to the left to see what was going on without blatantly staring. A burly man towered over a young woman, his hand firmly planted around her neck. I looked for help among the other shoppers. All were ducking their heads, pretending not to notice the scene unfolding before them.
“You will not tell me no anymore!” he yelled. Tears streamed down her face, fear firmly implanted in her eyes.
My cart started in her direction before my brain could make myself stop and mind my own business.
“Let her go,” I demanded.
“Get lost,” he snarled at me, “This is none of your concern.”
“What did you say, lady?” The man’s glare was hot. I fought the urge to cower.
Not this time. This time I was standing up for myself and for this poor young girl. Pushing my cart to the side, I planted both feet, leaving nothing between us, and stared him right in the eyes.
“I said, no. You have no right to treat her like that. She is not your door mat, punching bag, or your slave to be bossed around. She can tell you no just like anybody else can. Now let her go before I call the police. You will never lay another finger on her, you understand me?”
My palms grew sweaty awaiting his reaction. I wanted to turn and see if anyone else was in my corner, but I didn’t dare unlock my eyes from his. Not until he let that poor girl go.
He turned, releasing the girl’s neck. A smirk caressed his face as he reached behind him. “Your pickles are leaking.”
I glanced into my cart as two pops thundered in my head. I felt something sting my chest and then my neck. My hand reached up and returned sticky with red. Screaming filled my ears. I couldn’t tell if they were my own screams or the young lady’s that echoed throughout the supermarket?
My head hit the floor as more bangs went off. My eyes focused onto the pickle juice dripping from my cart. Only one thought streaming through my head, “I have to get a jar of pickles.”