Lady of the Checkout Lane

The supermarket checkout line. She was white-haired and frail. Her buggy was filled to capacity so that it looked like she was pushing a coal barge up the Mississippi. The first item she placed onto the conveyor belt was an extra-large case of Coors.

“That’s a lot of beer,” said I.

She smiled. “On sale.”

“Are you the one who drinks it?”

She nodded. “Two beers a day keeps the doctor away.”

“I don’t think that’s how the saying goes.”

“Yeah, well, I hate apples.”

Her voice had the same timbre as a tuba. She wore a pink silk jacket draped over her shoulders, buttoned at the top, á la 1952. She wore green polyester slacks such as I haven’t seen since Florence Henderson was on primetime. You could have smelled her floral scent from across the county lines. Ea du old lady.

“Get over here and help me,” she said to me, as she struggled to unload her buggy.

She didn’t say please. She didn’t say, “Young man, would you be so kind…?” She told me to “get over here.”

So I helped her.

“You’re a nice guy,” said the woman, watching me labor beneath the weight of her 1,439-pound bag of Pedigree dog food.

“Tell that to my wife,” I said.

“So you’re married?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I was married once.”

“Is that right.”

“Yep. I was happily married for ten years. Ten outta fifty-three ain’t bad.”

Then the woman cackled and told the bag boy to fetch her a carton of cigarettes. Marlboros. Menthols.

After which she dug into her purse and removed a stack of coupons roughly the size of a Tolstoy novel and gave it to the cashier.

The cashier girl accepted the coupons hesitantly and flashed me a look indicating that she was not enthusiastic about her career path right now.

“What was his name?” I said.

The woman looked at me. “Whose name?”

“Your husband’s?”

“Oh, his name was Phillip, but I was the only one who called him that. Everyone else called him Cricket.”


“When he was a kid, someone made him eat one of the crickets they used for fishing bait. He did. The name stuck.”

The cashier flipped on her checkout-lane light for a coupon-related price check. The cashier’s face looked very—how do I put this?—irked.

“When I met him,” the woman said, “he was obsessed with airplanes. That was all he ever wanted to do, be a pilot.

“He was working part-time at a little airport in Tennessee, and he asked if I wanted to take a flight with him. I said, ‘Phillip, you ain’t a pilot yet.’ He said, ‘So what?’ He was nineteen, I just turned fifteen.”

“So did you fly with him?” asked the teenage bag boy.

She nodded.

“He was breaking every rule in the book by flying solo. Coulda really gotten in trouble. But he was so dang handsome. I held his hand on that flight. I’d never held someone’s hand before.”

The bag boy was rapt.

“Then,” the woman went on, “Phillip started dating another girl who was his own age, and I almost died. I liked him so much, I wasn’t going to lose him. So I went to that hussy’s house one night, and I had a little talk with her.

“I told her that I was gonna marry Phillip, and that was that. And she’d better get lost or I’d beat her senseless with my bare hands.”

“Did you really say that?” said the bag boy.

“Heck yes. Although she didn’t quit seeing him. But don’t worry, I didn’t beat her up… Very badly.”


“Phillip finally told me I was too young for him, he said didn’t I want to go steady with someone my own age? I said no, I knew I wanted him. I told him I was gonna love him forever. And I did. He was the great love of my life.”

The bag boy had long since forgotten about bagging groceries. He was now leaning on his elbows.

“So he broke it off with the girl,” she went on. “Then he asked my daddy permission to marry me when I turned sixteen. And we were married. That man was the best thing that ever happened to me, and a good father.”

When the cashier finished ringing up the old woman’s items, the lady turned to me and the bag boy.

“Wanna see a picture of him?”

We nodded.

She removed a faded Olan Mills photograph. It was your typical standing-husband-seated-wife photo from the 1970s. He wore a suit. She wore floral. The man’s face was reddish, like he’d already been into the Coors. They were perfect.

“That’s a great picture,” said the bag boy.

“Yeah,” said the old woman. “We had a lotta fun.”

The bag boy offered to assist the woman to her car. She accepted the help. Later, when I saw them in the parking lot, I approached the woman’s open window and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but I never got your name.”

She peered over her old-lady sunglasses at me and the bag boy.

“I’m Loretta,” she said. “But I’ll warn you two fellas right now, I’m way outta your league.”

Then we watched her peel out of the supermarket parking lot, leaving nothing but a trail of black rubber behind her.

“Man,” said the bag boy. “Cricket had his hands full.”


  1. Katie Waters - January 20, 2022 6:44 am


  2. Martha - January 20, 2022 11:39 am

    Great story! Poor Cricket!!!

  3. Sarah - January 20, 2022 12:12 pm

    There is simply something magnificent about elderly Southern ladies, poor or rich. They have seen it all, lived it fully, and love to tell the tale!!

  4. Lyn - January 20, 2022 12:23 pm

    I agree with the bag boy and you know what? If you do it right, you only have to live once!

  5. Mac - January 20, 2022 1:07 pm

    We need more Loretta’s in the world! Thanks for the great big belly laugh to start my day!

  6. Tommy Wright - January 20, 2022 1:28 pm

    So why only ten years? What happened to Cricket? Inquiring minds need to know!

  7. Shelton A. - January 20, 2022 1:42 pm

    Hands full, my eye. Cricket was run over by a bus and then scraped up and hit again. Wow, what a shot in the arm she must have been in her prime. Great story and so funny! Glad I didn’t marry her. Don’t supermarkets have a rule about leaving rubber in their parking lot? Somehow, I don’t think Loretta would care. Thanks for that one! God bless y’all.

  8. dqualls54 - January 20, 2022 1:58 pm

    I love your supermarket stories! I am so glad you write. Your writing makes my days brighter.

  9. Cathy M - January 20, 2022 2:08 pm

    I love this and I will think abt. Loretta all day. Great story.

  10. Richard Owen - January 20, 2022 2:18 pm


  11. Candace - January 20, 2022 2:40 pm

    One of my favorites! Thx!

  12. Cindy - January 20, 2022 2:50 pm

    Sean, certainly wish I’d had your stories as examples while I was still trying to teach resolution to 7th and 8th graders. Today’s would have been perfect! You are an inspiration for a lot of reasons.

  13. Chasity Davis Ritter - January 20, 2022 3:04 pm

    Even a happy one makes me cry. This was a super great story to start my day with!!! Way to go Loretta!!

  14. Paul McCutchen - January 20, 2022 3:20 pm

    Cute story Sean, reminds me of my wife and I. I was eighteen and she was fifteen we both went different directions and caught up with each other again. We have been together since 2000.

  15. Julie P, RN - January 20, 2022 3:25 pm

    I’m with Tommy…53 years married, but only 10 of those happy? We’re left wondering…whatever happened to Cricket? Oh well, she didn’t offer, and you were too polite to pry. I respect that. God Bless both Loretta and Phillip…I think they BOTH had their hands full! And speaking of a Blessing, have you held Baby Harley yet💙

    • Kim Morris Ladoczky - January 21, 2022 2:58 pm

      I aspire to be a “Loretta”… I don’t think Cricket had his hands full, I think he had full life. I can’t stop smiling. Thanks. I needed this.

  16. Stacey Wallace - January 20, 2022 3:57 pm

    You go, Loretta! Thanks, Sean.

  17. Farris Jones - January 20, 2022 4:06 pm

    Cute story! And to those asking, I think she was teasing as she laughed afterward about the “10 happy years” joke sounds like they had 53 wonderful years to me 😊

  18. Sheila G - January 20, 2022 4:07 pm

    Eau du old lady. Priceless.

  19. Suzi - January 20, 2022 4:48 pm

    Here’s to all the Loretta’s out there 🍻

  20. eddie owens - January 20, 2022 5:53 pm

    that was great ! made me laugh this Thursday morning

  21. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - January 20, 2022 5:54 pm

    That was great!
    Can’t wait til you’re back on the road full time. The dogs may feel differently.
    Lifer Steve

  22. Steve McCaleb - January 20, 2022 6:13 pm

    All these loonies telling you you’re not a “REAL” writer ! Nobody else I know could tell a story about standing in a supermarket check- out line with a ancient spitfire and make it absolutely fascinating. Keep it up… and the hellion. Great stuff…..

  23. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 20, 2022 6:57 pm

  24. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - January 20, 2022 7:30 pm

    That was good for a chuckle!

  25. Linda Moon - January 20, 2022 9:15 pm

    I like apples. I love beer. I consume more apples than beer, however. I’m glad Loretta and Phillip married and had lots lots of fun. And maybe…just maybe…Phillip enjoyed his full hands with that ol’ gal. My Guy’s a handful and it sure is fun…..most of the time!

  26. Jeff Howard - January 20, 2022 9:34 pm

    Great story Sean ! We’ve all met a Loretta or two in our lives.

  27. Karen Snyder - January 20, 2022 10:15 pm

    The world needs more Lorettas! Thanks for the laugh! ❤️

  28. Ann - January 21, 2022 12:16 am

    Refreshingly funny….you are good!

  29. Bonnie - January 21, 2022 12:29 am

    ;Left me smiling!

  30. Abbe - January 24, 2022 4:03 am

    That’s great! Made me laugh out loud’


Leave a Comment