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Maggie's Gift

Maggie’s cane hung and swung from the handlebar of her still empty cart as she slowly walked forward through the aisle, her bones creaking in a sigh with each step. Shelves and shelves of drably-labeled shampoos and toiletries stacked on either side cast a shadow on her. She was not focused on them, however. Beyond this aisle, she saw rows and rows of vibrantly colored objects still indistinguishable to her – another world to explore. As she came to the end of the aisle, the shadows fell and light prevailed. She had a reached a clearing, a narrow passageway between realms.

Her eyes glimmered with the wonder of a newborn discovering a new toy. She had not bothered to make a shopping list today. Her black, oversized purse sat limply in the children’s seat of the cart, its only contents her wallet and a broken watch. Today, she only knew that she was looking for a gift. She stood in the passageway for a few minutes gazing at the different sections –dishware or toys? She hid a small, knowing smile as she thought of her daughter lying in the hospital ready to deliver – a new life for her granddaughter, a new life for her daughter, and even in her old age, a new life for herself. Would this new life be short-lived?

She pondered this as she absent-mindedly curled her wispy, white hair and moved toward the dishware aisle. There were no shadows here; the light reflected off the plates’ polished surfaces so that Maggie’s pale, wrinkled skin seemed to glow under the glare of artificial light. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, the smell of disinfectant filling her. Maggie focused now, listening to the sounds of life; still there was the quiet hum of whispered thoughts muddled by the steady beep of the register in the distance; it was the same, clinical song Maggie had heard for years. But suddenly a sharp, loud giggle interrupted. Maggie’s eyes flew open, searching for the source of this joyful noise; it was the most beautiful melody she had heard since her own daughter was born. Maggie hastily glided with vigor to the end of the aisle, ignoring the collective groan of her bones and the screeching of wheels, where she found a toddler biting on an Elmo doll and waving at passersby. The toddler laughed gleefully again and smiled when she saw Maggie. Now they looked at each other with different kinds of wonder in their eyes. The little girl’s emerald green eyes, set in soft, even skin, sparkled with curiosity and innocence. Maggie’s eyes showed old age; deep wrinkles seemed to stem from her blue, translucent eyes; those wrinkles were scars from too many years spent worrying, too many years spent crying. These imperfections revealed wisdom and experience, but Maggie still had her own innocence. Unlike the child, Maggie had clarity. She had suffered many hardships in her life; with each trial, her skin had thinned, and with each death, her bones had deteriorated. She was oddly intrigued by those testing times, and she chose to savor the sweeter moments. Looking at this bright-eyed, curly-haired child, Maggie knew that they were at the same stage in their lives: wondering, only the girl had far more wondering to go. Maggie now looked up to see the mother, who, with a loose strand of hair hanging tiredly in her face, was busily sifting through placemats while keeping a firm grip on the stroller. As Maggie walked into the toy aisle, she thought of her daughter again. Yes, Maggie reflected, life was a series of wondering and discovering.



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missscribbles said...
Jun. 28, 2012 at 10:26 am
This is a great piece! It reads really nicely.
 
AlaskaFrost This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm
thank you!
 
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