The young woman in the supermarket was pushing the buggy lazily through Aisle Five. She was wearing extremely short shorts, flip flops, and she was extraordinarily pregnant. Her hair was piled atop her head, no makeup. She looked maybe 15.
A young man was with her. He, too, was young. He was built like a junior high-schooler, painted in billions of tattoos, wearing work boots.
“Can we get Pop Tarts, Gerald?” she said. “I love Pop Tarts, don’t you like them?”
“I don’t give a [bleep] about Pop Tarts, Nadeen,” Gerald said. “What the [bleep] do I care about Pop Tarts? I’m not wasting our [bleeping] money on Pop Tarts. We have more important stuff to buy.”
Thus it was, she returned the strawberry Pop Tarts to the shelf. And she pushed the buggy, following her young man through the aisles.
“Oh, Gerald, I don’t see what the big deal is, I love them, can’t we buy some?”
“Hell to the no,” said the great poet of our time. “What’choo think I am, made of cash?” He cussed again. “All you do is spend, spend. Ain’t taking you shopping with me no more ‘cause you buy everything. Now push that cart over here, there’s a sale on peanut butter.”
I hate to be nosy, but it’s a gift. So I followed this couple. Whenever they looked in my direction, I pretended to be studying at the ingredients on a Marshmallow Fluff jar label.
The girl absently placed a hand on her belly and said, “Do you think we should name her April, since she’s gonna be born in April?”
“No [bleeping] way,” said the Bard. “We agreed on naming her Meredith, after my mom, don’t you like that name?”
She smiled. “I guess, but it sounds so… So old ladyish.”
“Don’t say that to my mom,” said Gerald. “She’s been depressed about getting old now that she’s 38.”
When they reached the milk aisle, they went through an existential crisis. Milk is one of those things. Used to, there were only two kinds of milk available: Store-brand, and the other kind. Now, there are 1,289 incarnations of supermarket milk. There is ultrafiltered, organic, grass-fed, hormone free, lactose free, reduced fat, skim, whole fat, West Indonesian yak’s milk, etc.
The two children in grown-up bodies stood before a large wall of lactose. She held his hand. The young man was doing mental math.
“I like regular whole milk best,” she said.
“No,” said the young man. “You can’t drink that stuff. Bad for you. All those antibiotics and [bleep]. You need the best. Grass fed, and you need lots of omega threes. We got to keep you healthy.”
“But it’s so expensive. Seven bucks for a half gallon? That’s a lot, Gerald.”
“Would you leave the budget to me? Plus, my boss said he’s gonna give me a raise if I keep doing the late shift. Only the best milk for you.”
The young man placed the most expensive carton of milk into his buggy. And he did this proudly, almost as though he were placing a brick of gold into his basket.
For another 15 minutes I watched them move throughout the store more carefully than your average shoppers. They scrutinized prices on everything, they deliberated, they compared, they agonized, they put many items back.
When they reached the checkout lane, the pregnant girl left the store and waited in the car while the young man tossed items onto the conveyor belt.
He painstakingly counted his goods, and he did more mental arithmetic. It looked like he was making sure he had enough to pay for it all.
When he finished calculations, the young man hurriedly left the checkout lane before the cashier was through ringing him up. He jogged into the aisles like a man on a government mission.
When he returned, the young man was carrying nine boxes of Pop Tarts.
Sandi. - February 28, 2022 7:06 am
I figured Gerald would buy her a box of Pop Tarts before leaving the store, but was shocked that he splurged on NINE boxes! At least he has a soft spot in his heart. I hope the young couple will be exceptionally good parents to their baby daughter due in April. Maybe they’ll nickname her Poppy. Here’s wishing them the very best future.
Betty Martinez Lowery - February 28, 2022 11:23 am
Designer milk and pop tarts. Bless the beasts and the children. My heart goes out to them. May they live happy, meaningful lives.
David Feder - February 28, 2022 11:47 am
One of your very best yet, Sean. Truly.
Hemingway could not have done one iota better. Seriously.
Marilyn Vance - February 28, 2022 11:49 am
Dang, I was waiting for YOU to throw the pop tarts in his sack at the last minute! It would have been just like you….but I’m glad he did it, gives me hope for their relationship.
Leigh Amiot - February 28, 2022 12:02 pm
Omega threes in milk is among the most horrid things I’ve tasted, gives it a fishy taste. 🤢
Pop Tarts, on the other hand, well, I make myself walk by them though I could tear into them like a young person, frosted strawberry especially!
Blessings on this young family, pray they make it for the long haul.
Tammy S. - February 28, 2022 12:08 pm
I wanted to punch him (not really, but kinda), then I wanted to hug him. Then I cried. You’re good, Sean Dietrich. Real good! 🧡
Blessings to this couple, and their little one. Dad is gonna be so wrapped! 💗💙
Peggy G - February 28, 2022 12:11 pm
Oh my. Whewww. This story stressed me out- felt like I was trying to predict the ending of a really good mystery novel,,,happy she got her Pop Tarts!
Braxton Usher - February 28, 2022 12:25 pm
Thanks for the last line.
Cheryl Newsome - February 28, 2022 12:28 pm
Perhaps they could name their child Meredith April… A shame I can’t send an anonymous note to them with the suggestion…
Paul McCutchen - February 28, 2022 12:38 pm
A pregnant woman craves weird food. He should be thankful it is pop tarts.
Skip - February 28, 2022 12:44 pm
Splendid way to start my day w a well written short. Thanks.
gaffstergal - February 28, 2022 1:00 pm
Ain’t love beautiful1
Jan - February 28, 2022 1:02 pm
Steve - February 28, 2022 1:18 pm
Atta boy, Gerald!!
Trudy - February 28, 2022 1:19 pm
I didn’t see that ending coming. Gerald has a heart after all.
Charlotte Virginia McCraw - February 28, 2022 1:25 pm
Drinking coffee and reading . . just mentally wandering through the grocery story aisles with you as you observed the young couple. Then, WHAM . . the ending. When he began his math calculations, I should have known. Generous, caring, loving to the max . . not one, but NINE boxes of pop tarts. My eyes began to fill and, now, I can barely see to write. Sean, you are good!!
Chasity Davis Ritter - February 28, 2022 1:41 pm
My breakfast just got a little more salty.
Maggie Priestaf - February 28, 2022 1:52 pm
Mike - February 28, 2022 1:54 pm
The story about the two young shoppers reminded me of our first trip to the grocery store after being married. Pantry Pride in Gainesville, FL. We put the Butter Fingers back because we thought we didn’t have enough money. Checked out with 7 bags of groceries for $26, which was good because I only had $35. That was a long time ago.
Ellouise Pennington - February 28, 2022 1:55 pm
Oh, gracious! Maybe he’s worth it, after all!
Dee Jordan - February 28, 2022 2:03 pm
This is one of your best! I loved it!
Stacey Wallace - February 28, 2022 2:10 pm
Thanks, Sean. I was glad to find out at the end that the young man had a kind heart after all.
Nell Thomad - February 28, 2022 2:15 pm
Glad things took a different turn. I was about ready to go find that boy.
NELL THOMAS - February 28, 2022 2:17 pm
Correction: Nell Thomas
Beachdreamer - February 28, 2022 2:44 pm
Love a happy ending…at least to this story. God bless them in the days and years ahead. Won’t be easy but hoping they’ll have many more happy endings. Thanks again, Sean. You’re the best ❤️
Gayle Wilson - February 28, 2022 2:56 pm
Sean, I’m glad this story ended on a high note because I was becoming disconcerted by the young boy’s language and overbearing attitude with this young girl. Thank you for your stealth observations and sharing with us.
Shelton A. - February 28, 2022 3:04 pm
Love does conquer all. A surprise ending that left me smiling. I said a prayer for them. Thank you for sharing this. Hope you move is going well. Enoy the thrills of unpacking, finding new places to put things, and then forgetting where it was you put them. God bless you and Jamie. Thank you for the way you make each day start off right.
Jeff Gale - February 28, 2022 3:25 pm
Loved Isle Five. Cheered my whole day. Thanks.
AlaRedClayGirl - February 28, 2022 3:30 pm
God bless ’em.
Johnny Kemosabe - February 28, 2022 3:42 pm
Patricia Gibson - February 28, 2022 3:49 pm
Nancy Carnahan - February 28, 2022 3:51 pm
When I was pregnant with my son, I wanted green olives; with my daughter, it was cantaloupe. Pop Tarts seem reasonably normal. Congratulations, Kids!
Amy Lawson - February 28, 2022 4:25 pm
I did NOT see the story ending that way. What an unexpected blessing.
Russell Moulton - February 28, 2022 5:47 pm
O.K. You got me that time. Did not see that ending. Loves her after all. Shame on you this time.We are in Vestavia if you need anything. Read everyday and now feel like I know you. Welcome to Birmingham.
Linda Moon - February 28, 2022 7:47 pm
Using one’s nose to observe can be a very good thing. This story of Gerald and his young girlfriend was hard to read until you observed and told us that here is hope for this young couple found in nine boxes of Pop Tarts. Hope…from such a simple thing. My Guy just gave me some hope from a phone-call at the grocery store about meals planned with no Pop Tarts included. We’ve been together a long time, and I hope they will be too! ….the second grocery-store-call just rang. Uh-oh!
MAM - February 28, 2022 9:36 pm
Thank goodness for the Pop Tarts. I craved frozen chicken pot pies with my first and boxed mashed potatoes with my second. Sure glad my palate improved over the years! And I hope the couple is happy, but I wish he would learn NOT to cuss.
Irma Turnipseed - February 28, 2022 11:28 pm
I really tried to let this slide but I’ve got to say something. His behavior made her feel like one of his four-letter words!
1. The girl shouldn’t have to ask for pop tarts like a child.
2. She certainly didn’t deserve to be talked to in such a manner.
3. …and be placed on his public whipping post. Imagine her humiliation.
He could have said something like, “Babe, I know you like pop tarts, but let’s wait and see if there’s enough money after getting the things we really need. Is that okay?”
No, somehow his destruction of her self esteem instantly inflates his macho self-righteousness. The control freak wouldn’t even let her have the milk she likes, and yet was successful in making her believe that his decision was for her own good.
No doubt, when he entered the house and unloaded nine boxes of pop tarts, she threw both arms around her hero. But it will never take the place of treating her with the kindness and respect that she deserves.
MaryAnn A Dunham - March 1, 2022 4:19 am
Irma, you’re right. I’m hoping that he’ll be blessed by getting to know someone who will show him how to be a good husband and father. Evidently he hasn’t had someone like that in his life yet.
Debbie g - March 1, 2022 6:25 am
Great story Sean. And I agree 100 percent with Irma. Love to all and let us all be kind
Tracy - February 28, 2022 11:33 pm
Janice D. Silverhill - March 1, 2022 2:38 am
Totally surprised me Sean! I know the young man is so stressed but he needs a lesson in how to treat his love. I thought YOU would be delivering the Pop Tarts but I’m really happy he stepped up.
RHONDA - March 1, 2022 2:42 am
Ann Perry - March 4, 2022 3:04 am
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - March 12, 2022 5:19 am