A widow walked into the supermarket, looking to buy some cookie dough. Her grandaughter’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to make something nice for her. A sweet, sweet old woman, Mrs. Krakauer had been making sweet things for all her sweet family members and friends ever since her sweet husband had died. She didn’t like to talk about his death, but she did enjoy telling everyone about how amazing he was as if he was still living. She decided she was too old to remarry and would find solace in being kind to others. The altruistic behavior of the severely aged came naturally to her
By happenstance, when Mrs. Krakauer walked into the store she noticed someone who she could tell, she immediately didn’t like. This didn’t happen very often, but when it did, she could tell that the person was a bad apple. He was an employee of the supermarket establishment and wore a regular uniform. The only problem was that he wore sunglasses. Sunglasses indoors!
She knew that he was just being as disrespectful as some of the kids these days were. He seemed no older than fifteen and was in the process of stalking up the shelves with jars of jam. Funnily enough, he seemed to be doing quite a good job of it too. Regardless, Mrs. Krakauer wanted him to know just how much of a bad apple he was and began making her way towards him. Slowly, slowly, she used the shopping cart as a walker (at her age it was not uncommon to need one) and made what was ordinarily great haste.
Whence she finally caught up to him, she said. “Excuse me, dear.” The “dear” sounded booby-trapped, “could I ask, for a moment, why it is you are wearing sunglasses indoors?”
He smiled, and from the way he smiled, she knew he could sense her hostility. “Well, it’s not a problem ma’am, you see, I have a rare condition that makes me incapable of seeing too much light or else I get a terrific headache.”
She studied him up and down, “You don’t talk much like a normal teenager.”
He laughed a little, “That is because I was raised by older people.”
“Ha!” she snorted, “I’m about as old as they come, son.”
The sunglasses covered almost all indicators of his emotions except for his smile. But now, his smile was completely absent from his face. “I know people older than anyone you’ve ever met.” His voice was serious and almost quiet enough to be a whisper. After a long, silent pause between them, he conjured a friendly smile and said, “I hope you have yourself a good day, madam,” and walked away.
Three days went by before Mrs. Krakauer had to return to the grocery store. When she did, she left her nursing home later than usual. Perhaps somehow she’d subconsciously done it on purpose, but to her knowledge, it had been purely accidental that she’d run into the boy with the sunglasses yet again. He offered to help put her groceries in her car, as the other young employees often did.
They made a little conversation, however, she did what she could to lead up to the question: “Does the light out here bother you?” Only a waning crescent moon and a couple of old street lamps illuminated the parking lot.
“Perhaps,” he said, keeping a subtle smile. “I wouldn’t want to find out.”
She noticed that he still stood close enough to her car that if she closed the trunk… She smiled and innocently pulled down. His sunglasses came clean off and a brilliant light emitted from above his nose. Somewhere from within him, a great chorus bellowed the most beautiful and pleasing sounds known to man. He swiftly rushed down to pick them up off the floor, but it was too late, she’d seen enough. “By God,” she whispered under her breath.
The boy placed his glasses back onto his face and looked down upon her. He seemed much taller now, that he was upset. His temples pulsated with rage but his voice came across as soft as ever, “I suggest we do not talk about this ever.” Rubbing his eyes underneath the glasses, he said tenderly, “There is no telling what disastrous consequences could come about.” Then, he left, walking with a steady stroll back to the supermarket.
Two weeks went by and Mrs. Krakauer hadn’t said a word. She saw the boy many times but made no effort to approach him. Never once did he allow their paths to cross again, not even when she pretended to fall and he was the only young employee around. A young woman came to her side to help, cursing about the lack of dignity in the supermarket’s staff. There was no interaction between the two until she saw an opportunity one fateful Friday.
The boy was in the back, stocking the shelves with fruit this time. Mrs. Krakauer took no time; she raced up with her shopping cart, shoved it off into a neatly arranged display of cereal boxes and snatched the boy’s glasses from off of his face when he turned around, startled. The glow, the chorus, both filled the air around her yet again until it consumed her.
She heard his voice as her world withered away. “I told you, Jean Elizabeth Krakauer. I warned you of…” The voice was replaced by the roar of a thousand trumpets, horns, and drums. The ground gave way beneath her as she fell to her death while her mother and father of another life reached out in vain. She sat among wolves before the alpha felt threatened by her presence and made quick work of the tiny beast. Her hairy body gave way to a thousand trillion cells that traveled far across lifespans of many creatures, yet returned to a single organism in the fleeting glow of a dying sun. Born again, killed again, the balance was there, but there was no purpose to it all. She accepted this and suddenly–
A woman stood in a supermarket. A boy with sunglasses swept the floor some twenty feet away, whistling. She noticed her hands were old and wrinkled, and that a purse that must have been hers lay on the floor with its contents spilled out. She knelt down and picked up a wallet that also must have belonged to her and read the name out loud, “Jean Elizabeth Krakauer.” Huh.