the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

  Authors & Artists


Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

Supermarket Sweep
Erika McDaniel
Maumee, Ohio - Marketing

        We reached the door of the Supermarket at the same time and, in deference to her gray hair and seeming frailty I stood aside that she might enter ahead of me. She chose a shopping cart and moved slowly along the cosmetics aisle, the cart’s wheels squeakily protesting the need for a little oil.
        There was something vaguely familiar about her and, as I followed at a short distance I wondered if, when or where I might have encountered her before. The face was handsome, in spite of a network of fine lines around the eyes and mouth, and she carried herself with a lissome grace startlingly at variance with the threadbare coat which hung loosely to her cracked, misshapen shoes.
        A singer from yesteryear? An actress? A dancer? I watched her and wondered and then I saw it. The flash of hand to shelf and pocket, the movement so flawless that for a moment I doubted what I had seen. She looked around and unhurriedly, moved on a few paces, then there it was again, the smooth quick flow of hand to shelf to pocket.
        Mesmerized, I watched as her swift movements continue every few seconds. She would push the squeaky cart a few more feet, quickly grab something and go on about her business. Though her appearance led me to believe that she did not live in the most favorable conditions, deep down I thought otherwise. She was too graceful, too regal, too . . . something. Then, I saw it.
        As not to look suspicious, the woman stopped at the end of the aisle to admire fruit. She chose a cantaloupe and began to examine it for flaws. This choice seemed odd to me, but it was not what made me truly suspicious of the woman. It was her hands. Her hands seemed young – a sharp contrast to what the rest of her appearance would have you believe – and very well taken care of. As she inspected the fruit I watched how delicately she handled it and I noticed something about her fingers. Each had a precise French manicure and smoothness unlikely for most in her impoverished situation. I also noticed a scar across her left ring finger – not ugly, but there, and noticeable.
        She carefully placed the cantaloupe in a plastic fruit bag and put the bag in her cart. Intrigued as I was, and against my better judgment, I stopped following the woman, and continued with my own shopping. I returned home wondering why a woman who could afford a fresh French manicure would steal cosmetics from our local grocer.
        At home, I put away my groceries and sat on the couch while that little woman plagued my thoughts. I turned on the television to entertain myself with something other than her odd actions.
        “New precautions are necessary to prevent shoplifting from Master Market. My undercover exposé today at six,” said a woman on my T.V.
        This sentence caught my attention because I left had Master Market only a few hours before, and watched that lady shoplift. I looked at the woman sitting behind the desk. She had her thick chestnut hair pulled into a tight, elegant bun. Her suit was freshly pressed and her jewelry was gorgeous. Her neatly manicured hands were folded across the news desk and a huge engagement ring sat on her left ring finger. I was admiring her ring when I saw something – it was a scar. Not an ugly scar, but a scar; the same scar I had seen earlier that day.

© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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