Momma picks me up from my bus stop in the car today.
“We’re going to the grocery store,” she says with a tight smile as I bring my backpack to my chest and sit in the front seat beside her.
The old 1972 Ford LTD rattles at every bump, and I slide from left to right on the cracked leather upholstery.
“Put on your seatbelt,” Momma says.
“Why? Daddy never makes me?”
“Because I said so,” she says, frowning.
I pull the seatbelt across my belly, but it’s only a minute later that we pull into the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly.
I like it when I get to come to the grocery store without my brother or sister because it means I pick what’s for supper. Momma and I walk inside. As I always do, I put my hand on top of the buggy and walk with her.
“Isn’t that Sister Daniels?” I ask. She’s at the other end of an aisle we usually walk down first, but Momma turns and walks to the far end where the refrigerated section is.
I wait for her to ask, “What do you want tonight?”, but she doesn’t. She picks up a big roll of frozen ground beef patties.
“Are we having patties for supper?” I ask.
“Mmm,” Momma says. She looks left to right before moving, then speeds up to the canned goods where she snatches a few cans of green beans off the shelf.
“Can we have macaroni & cheese with it, Momma?” I ask.
She slows down in front of the boxed goods and grabs a blue Kraft box.
I read the box as it drops into the buggy.
“Why does it say cheese and macaroni?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says in an almost whisper.
“Why are you whispering?” I whisper.
“I’m not. Be quiet.”
We continue shopping. At the furthest end of the store where they keep the tissues and toothpaste and stuff, we stop. Momma takes a box of Trojans. I’ve seen them in Momma and Daddy’s room before. I’m curious what they do, but I asked once and got a spanking, so now I keep my mouth shut.
Momma looks from side to side again before sliding the box under the “cheese and macaroni” and walking a few feet. She grabs a pink box and reads it for a moment before wedging it between the groceries.
I tilt my head to the side and read the letters on the box. “Momma, what’s a di-a-phram?”
In one swift motion, her hand comes down onto mine. “I told you to be quiet,” she says with a glare. I try to not to cry, but it hurts. A lot.
I wipe my eyes. As we turn the corner, we meet Sister Daniels.
“Debbie, hi!” she says with a grin.
Momma gives a half smile but her cheeks are red as rosies. Momma’s face always turns red when she’s angry. Momma’s name is Debra, I want to say. She hates Debbie. I remember Dad’s friend made a joke once that it had something to do with her coming from Dallas. They laughed real hard, but I didn’t get it.
I stand and read the words on the blue box of macaroni while they talk. I am quiet as a mouse, just like my parents taught me, but I get bored and cross my legs.
“Oh, she needs to pee,” Sister Daniels says. “I should let you go.”
Momma pushes the buggy down to the checkout. “Don’t you ever embarrass me like that again.”
I hear the threat in her voice. She means to whip me when we get home.
Turns out, I was right.