Stick Figure Family
Chelsea hurried through the parking lot at Trader Joe’s. It was always crazy on Saturdays, and she usually tried to avoid the hubbub of suburban moms buying healthy snacks for their precious dears. However, she’d run out of her favorite soap that morning, and knew she’d need more before the weekend was over.
The parking lot was a quagmire of vans, shopping carts, and people. Chelsea tried to keep her composure as she walked through the lot. A couple bickered over something trivial as they walked by her. A child screamed in her cart as her father tried to sweet-talk her into behaving. Chelsea gripped her soap and closed her eyes as she tried to stay calm.
Chelsea looked towards the voice, then felt sharp plastic whack against her legs. She cursed, and a woman in a blue knitted poncho pulled back the cart that had hit her. “I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I was lost in my own world and didn’t even see you.”
Chelsea glared at the woman as she rubbed her aching knees. The woman had straight brown hair, as dull and faded as her grey leggings. The woman pressed a button and unlocked the doors of the van next to them. Chelsea looked towards the van and saw a line of stick figures on the window. She tried not to roll her eyes. Stick figure families were so sickeningly charming. No one cares how many smiling kids you have, she thought.
“Do you need something?” the woman asked. She had the slightest hint of irritation in her voice. She had some nerve, being the one who hit Chelsea in the first place.
“No,” Chelsea said. She walked off without a word. All she needed was to get out of the parking lot.
Camila checked her hair in the mirror before pulling out of the parking lot at Trader Joe’s. She hadn’t even seen that girl with the messy blonde bun and the perpetual frown. She wondered what was wrong with her. Hitting her with the cart had been an accident – an honest mistake. Camila sighed as she pulled out of the lot and turned on the radio. The girl wasn’t her concern.
She drove down the road. The strip malls and condos disappeared behind her as she made her way towards her favorite spot: the lake behind her grandparents’ old house. It was her favorite spot to be alone and catch her breath after a busy morning chasing after the kids.
Camila parked her van and took in the sparkling lake in front of her. The surface lay still, with no one around to drop rocks in the water or cast lines in search of fish. She smiled as she opened the trunk. She had a box of crackers and a block of her favorite cheese waiting for her.
Camila set the grocery bag on the ground, then opened the door that doubled as the floor of the trunk. She lifted the limp bodies of the two children that had been running through the woods near her apartment. They should’ve known better than to wake her up with their shouts. Once they were in the lake – and once she’d washed her hands – Camila ate her snack and stared out over the water. The surface bubbled a little as the bodies sank, but it soon stood as still as it had before.
Camila got to her feet and brushed stray blades of grass from her leggings. She approached her van, then dug through her purse. Before she got in, she stuck two new stick figures on her van’s back window.
Sonora Taylor is the author of “The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales,” “Please Give,” and “Wither and Other Stories.” Her work has been published by Camden Park Press and Sirens Call Publications. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.