Nine Crooked Months This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It's been nine crooked months since I started outat this crumbling drug store by the muddy river, shaky in its foundation. Anddespite it all, I don't want to leave, but I am. Because for me, nine months wasa year, the time between 16and 17.

Because I know now - I knowhow to answer the phone like a professional and which slacks to wear with thescratchy mandatory vest, and sometimes, on certain days with certain managers,when I can even slide by with jeans. I know how to make my mouth smile when I amnot smiling inside. I'm not bothered by the words people call me when the pricesdo not ring up correctly or because they don't have enough change or even if theyjust feel like it.

I know how to be on time. I know which aisle has thenylons and where the toothpicks are. I can tell you to be careful of the stickyfloor behind the ice cream counter because you'll jam your big toe if you walktoo fast, and to avoid the gloomy storage room in the back because no one hascleaned it in a year, or two, or three. I can tell you which secret buttons topush to get into the break room (on account of the robbery, we don't letcustomers in there anymore) and never to leave change laying around back thereeither because somebody will always take it.

I can tell you whichmiddle-aged men always hit on me, or the teenage girl who always slips make-upinto her plastic pink purse, or the proud, feisty grandmother in the wheelchairwho doesn't make sense but you have to pretend you know what she's talkingabout.

I know the four homeless men (whose beards cover their frowns butcan't cover what their eyes say) who sleep by the dumpster near the store, andMuffin, the dog that keeps them company. I know the single woman with threebabies under the age of four who always buys the almost-expired 99-cent bottlesof soda and the Saltine crackers that have been marked down twice.

I knowthe old man who always wears his faded hat that says "WWII Vet," frailbut strong, who comes in to buy his groceries once a week with a ten-dollarbill.

I know my co-worker who is my age but already married with a tinyperfect baby, and I know the older one whose life soured and now has black andblues on her arms, who says, "I will always love him, always love him. Nomatter what," who turns her face away so I can't see.

And, I knowthat I'll be leaving this dump in a week. I'll get to be a real professionallady. I'll put my hair up in a bun and get to wear fierce red lipstick, and neverwear jeans, and I'll get to commute by myself. And I know I will use the money tohelp the mom of the sunken eyes and broken promises. I know she will be happy.But for now, just one more week of this reality. And I want to leave, but Idon't. Because I am not shaky anymore. Because I am 17 now and not 16.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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