Short Short { Only A Minute }

Here’s a quick short with Cindy Davis’ subject idea – WalMart. 😉

Only A Minute

By Christene Houston 

A light glared into my eyes followed hard by the impact of two cars imploding.

With a snap I looked at the checkout clerk surrounded by light. Only moments ago I’d been driving home from dinner with a friend when suddenly I stood in a quiet Walmart checkout line. The stillness made my skin prickle.

“Did you find everything you need?” the woman inquired.

My mind raced. The question held far more meaning than ever before, but I couldn’t place why. Something was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be here.

Another flash of light brought me back to the sound of sirens. Two cars lay steaming and broken. The gunpowder smoke of airbags hung in the air and the taste of blood trickled into my mouth. Why did I feel disconnected from the scene? That couldn’t possibly be good.

Suddenly I remembered the car veering sharply into my lane. The last minute punch of the breaks, the manic swerve and an impact that devastated.

“Layla…did you find it? Did you find everything you needed?” The woman’s voice around my name punctured the flashback, initiating a vision of my life in reverse, through scattered boyfriends, the half finished college degree, the friends lost and won, and the strained family relationships.

I looked at the checker when the reel stopped, shocked by what I’d seen. My life felt wasted at this point, despite the busy days and endless commitments that kept me running. How could there be nothing to show for my twenty-four years? The woman watched my internal struggle with an air of infinite patience.

“No….I haven’t,” I answered her finally. I’d been so busy avoiding pain and fear that I’d let everything worth living for slip between my fingers. Here at the checkout, I could see it clearly.

“Do you need a minute?” she asked encouragingly.

A minute. Maybe a thousand. A thousand minutes to do what was really important. I clutched at the idea with longing. Somewhere beyond my reach I could see the face of someone meant for me, waiting….and with that face were a small collection of others, tiny points of light that shone like sunbeams. In the periphery stood clusters of people, a display of the lives I could touch if I lived with a little purpose instead of the haphazard careening I’d been given to.

“I do,” I said desperately, “I need a few minutes!”

“I thought so,” the checker reached for the phone, pausing before pressing a button. Her eyes gripped mine, “We don’t have long before closing. Make it count.” Then into the phone, “We need some assistance on Lane 12!”

Sound and pain came back in unison, but the pounding of my heart felt like a gift.

“We got her back!” someone shouted nearby.

“Alright, let’s move!”

The world around me was chaos and order, broken metal and skilled hands. The recovery was slow and painful, but my eyes…my heart were focused…because I knew I only had a minute.


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