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by Jan Ackerson  
3/27/2007 / Short Stories

Mrs. Keller is the best teacher! Last Monday she gave my Sociology class this awesome assignment to work on all week, and I know I'm going to ace it. It's the kind of thing I'm really good at.

So anyway, she tells us to spend the week observing people. How cool is that? Mrs. Keller said we can learn a lot about people just by watching them, and noticing things like their clothes and stuff.

Andget thisI work at Kroger's after school, so I spent the whole week figuring people out, just by the groceries they bought. Most of them just bought regular stuffyou know, like cereal and toilet paperbut I had some interesting ones, too, and those are the people I'm going to write my report about.

This one old lady came in, and she bought like a ton of cat food. Her clothes were so totally thrift shop grandma. She bought some old lady food, too, like white bread and tea. So I figure she's one of those crazy cat ladies who has a dozen cats crawling all over the place.

[Wilma Longacre neatly arranged twenty cans of cat foodone weeks' supplyon the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet. With stiff fingers she used a can opener on the twenty-first can, and spooned its contents into a flowery china saucer, chipped in two places. When the teakettle whistled, she steeped a new teabag in a cup of steaming water, then saved it for tomorrow in a little bowl. One dainty bite at a time, she spooned a bit of cat food onto a slice of bread, eating a solitary meal in a silent kitchen.]

Then there was this guy who had his shopping cart full of all these fancy foods. They were all ingredients, like stuff you'd see on the Food Network. You know, like fresh rosemary and prosciutto from the deli and pine nutsall this lah-dee-dah, and it cost him a couple hundred bucks. He didn't have a wedding ring, and he was dressed really nice, so I'm thinking he's a lifelong bachelor, if you know what I mean, and a gourmet cook. That's a no-brainer.

["What was I thinking?" Jason surveyed his kitchen in utter dismay. The walls were splattered with oozing lumps, several pots had overflowed, and smoke was pouring from the oven. He turned as his girlfriend appeared in the doorway, her eyes wide.

"This was supposed to be a romantic dinner, Katie." Jason cleared his throat and gestured grandly at the ruined kitchen. "This mess is like my heart before I met you," he ad-libbed. "But now I'mlikeneater. Oh, crud, I'm messing this up." He took a deep breath. "Will you marry me?"]

Okay, so this mom came through my line, looking all stressed. She was buying M&Ms and Kool-Aid, junk like that. She wasn't that old, but she didn't do a thing to make herself look nice. It's too bad, because she could have been really cute, for a mom. I bet she feeds her kids junk to get them to be quiet while she watches soap operas.

[Linda Howard grasped her son's hands to stop their flapping. Distressed at his captivity, Adam rocked back and forth, moaning. Linda sat next to him and bent her head to his level. "Look at me, Adam. It's time to work on your pronouns."

"Work on your pronouns," Adam echoed, his voice toneless and low.

"Do you want candy, Adam?"

"You want candy?" He freed his hands and flapped.

"No, say, 'I want candy,' Adam." Linda held out an M&M.

Adam reached for the chocolate. "I want candy, Adam."

Linda sighed and tried again.]

And I've saved the best for last. This young guy came in, and I knew him, a little bit. All he bought was a 12-pack of beer, but here's the dealhe graduated a few years ago, with my sister, and I happen to know that he's this super-religious youth pastor or something like that. So I concluded that Mr. Christian is nothing but a big old hypocrite.

[Zach sat on the porch step next to his brother, setting the beer between them. "So, broI'm taking you up on it."

Trent looked skeptical. "What's this?"

"You said you'd let me talk to you about God when we could talk together over a cold brewski. Soyou listening?"]

Like I said, I'm great at observing people. They're pretty obvious, don't you think?

Jan is a Christian who has traveled through sorrow and depression, and has found victory and grace. She dedicates all writings to her Heavenly Father. Check out Jan's website at
Copywrite Jan Ackerson--2006

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