By Shayla Frandsen
“Slob,” the cashier said.
The harried woman looked up from where she was setting a bundle of bananas on the conveyor belt. “Excuse me?”
The cashier smiled at her. He looked like he was eighteen years old, maybe not even that. Sixteen, probably working his first job.
And looking like he knew something about her that she didn’t.
“Slob,” he said again. He pointed at her like she shouldn’t be surprised by the name.
“Stop calling me that,” the harried woman said. She took a step back, and her hip bumped into the partition separating them from the next cashier stall. “That’s incredibly rude. How dare you?”
His smile fell. He lowered the individually wrapped cucumber he’d been about to scan.
“It’s—no, it’s your necklace,” he said.
Her hand shot up to her neck and covered the little letters she kept on a thin metal chain. She tried to look down, but the necklace was too short to see. A physical impossibility. She looked back up at the kid. “You better tell me what you mean, or I’m going to get your manager over here.”
He held up his hands as if to say I’m innocent. “Those letters, they spell out SLOB. Sorry, I thought you knew. I figured you were making some kind of statement.”
The harried woman felt her cheeks heat. The cashier watched her, and she glared at him.
“Would you finish scanning the rest of my stuff, please?” she said.
As the groceries beeped their way into brown bags, the harried woman pulled her phone out of her purse. She pretended to be
checking a text message, but she was really using her phone camera to look at her reflection. There they were across her neck, the initials she’d bought on Etsy two weeks earlier: S L O B.
S. Her husband Sonny. Met online, married almost eleven years. L. Lucy, her oldest daughter, five years old in January. O. Ozzie, her preschool son with the energy of a jackrabbit. And B. Benny the baby, now three months old.
The sixteen-year-old was right.
She stared at the total price blipping up and up, too humiliated to look at the cashier again. She hadn’t even thought about the ordering of the letters when she’d named her kids. Hadn’t even thought about it when she special ordered the necklace from a small business called “Dearest_Name_Jewels_1031.”
Food bagged, card swiped. “Have a nice day,” the cashier told her as she hauled herself away. The cart wheels squeaked across the linoleum floor. An old ballad played over the grocery store speakers but it was half-hearted, as if even the singer was tired of singing this same song over and over.
SLOB, her mind wheeled over and over. SLOB, SLOB. She had three kids under five years old and hadn’t showered in three days. She couldn’t even remember if she’d put on deodorant that morning. She felt like nothing more than an animal, unable to control the scent, the flow, the fluctuation of her own being. This was the first time she’d been away from her kids all week, only because her neighbor offered to watch them for an hour.
The sky sprinkled rain on her as she loaded her groceries into the back of the car. She pressed a button, and the trunk door began to close itself. She watched her reflection ripple and distort in the rear window—her SLOB necklace going squiggly like heat waves above asphalt—before the door clicked closed and her reflection had settled into itself once more. Once it did, she gasped at what she saw: two darts of darkness on her chest.
Her nipples were leaking.
The baby would be hungry when she got home, and she would go to him. Her body would hear his cries and start to churn with milk in response. She would lift her sweatshirt, pull down her bra, and feed him with milk that she created herself. It was a feat that never, even on her third child, ceased to make her slightly dizzy with awe.