The Supermarket Girl

Krystal Mayfield, a New Orleans teenager, down on her luck and getting deeper and deeper. Complete short story.

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2. Arrest

 

Arrest

It was very quiet as she turned the corner back onto Esplanade. There was very little of the earlier breeze now. She looked up as she heard a blue jay pecking on some old mardi gras beads hanging in a tree. She hoped that Janine, her seven year old sister was coping back at the house. Janine needed to be strong and intelligent way beyond her years to cope with the kids and to tend Daddy’s needs. She recalled the times when she, herself was the momma in residence. “We’ll be all right,” she told herself but didn’t quite believe it. If the welfare folks find out, our little family would be split up and we probably wouldn’t see each other ever again. Krystal breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the big car was still there. She figured a quick toss of the wallet through the open window would go unnoticed. The smart looking gent wouldn’t miss the thirty she’d foraged for the folks’ food. As she approached the car with wallet in hand, two things happened: The smart looking gent had been crouching in the car. He sprung up giving her a start and a uniformed woman police officer came from out of the house where they’d been having their tea. “Well Miss!” said the police officer, “What a nice surprise. You’ve saved us the bother of looking at all the security camera footage and you’ve turned yourself in!”

 

As they made their way downtown in the big car, the smartly dressed man introduced himself as Judge James Jackson. He’d come to collect Officer Fulton, to whom she was cuffed, for duty on the afternoon shift. “The wallet was a plant and everything in it is tagged. When we put your hands under an ultraviolet light source, you will have some indelible stains there. You won’t want to go to a disco for a while!” He chuckled.

 

“As you are a minor, we need to have your parents or guardians present” said Officer Fulton, “Write the number on this pad and we’ll have your folks down here to collect their little treasure,” she sneered.  Krystal broke down then. “My Daddy is lame, he’ll not be able to come!” she sobbed. She told them the full story and Judge Jackson listened intently. With a lump in his throat he told Krystal not to worry with it being a first offense n’all. “I am a judge so I know that the law can be lenient when it needs to be.”

He spoke with Officer Fulton’s supervisor, excusing her from regular duties so she could assist him with the special requirements for a female minor in detention.

“Krystal, I’m going to try to be as methodical as I can here,” said the judge, “You were so unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he continued. He spoke of many things, the covert operation she had inadvertently wandered into, the upsurge in opportunist crimes in the Bywater. He seemed a really decent sort with his finger on the pulse of local affairs. Then he asked her “Do you understand your store working days will be over if you are convicted of theft?” She bowed her head as she nodded. “Tell me,” Judge Jackson said, “Tell me about your dismissal from the supermarket.” Krystal inwardly groaned as she assembled the information in her thoughts. “My duties at the supermarket were many and varied. I would check stock in from the delivery trucks. I would stack shelves, supervise interns, and work the checkouts as needed. Oh, and act as assistant manager and customer support team leader as well.” She seemed impressed at hearing her own resume. “That’s a lot of responsibility and knowhow for a seventeen year old,” said the judge, equally impressed; “So tell me about the insubordination,” he said.

Krystal explained the difference of opinion and the subsequent events that would lead to her dismissal. She told of being propositioned by truck drivers, the long hours managing staff and stock whilst Mister Charles, the store manager was out doing who knows what.  She explained that all the duties she was able to deliver to the job amounted to nothing because of one thing. “The store policy,” Krystal explained, “Was to change price tags on the shelves, falsely implying that the goods on sale were cheaper this week than last. I felt this was morally wrong. We’re telling lies to our customers and we’re encouraging our staff members, complicit in this, that lying and cheating is acceptable behaviour.” She finished by telling the judge and Officer Fulton that she was so sorry to have behaved as she had this afternoon, but was so relieved to have gotten the story of the supermarket off her chest

 

Judge Jackson was intrigued. He was horrified to have heard of Krystal’s plight but was concurrently assembling information on some forthcoming cases; petty thefts by supermarket employees. It seemed there was an epidemic of kids barely out of school being fired by stores for pilfering. Okay, these kids, mostly from poor backgrounds were deemed trustworthy enough to be hired; they’d been interviewed, had school reports and character references checked and yet soon after landing the jobs they are criminalized and on the scrap-heap. These kids are not stupid – Jobs are hard to come by. Just what is going on? He reasoned that many of these kids were being taught, as Krystal had implied, that it is okay to lie and cheat. Their own employers, the supermarket bosses have made it part of the daily workload to do just that. Systematic erosion of our moral values has to be stamped out, thought Jackson: These commercial giants need to be brought to task. The fired kids seem to be the victims in all this and if we don’t stop such foul practices, our whole society will suffer.

 

“You’re telling me that the store manager would insist on price tickets being replaced with so called offers; You or trainees would accomplish these duties?” asked Judge Jackson. Krystal rolled her eyes at the apparent slowness of the judge’s reasoning: “Yes sir,” she agreed: “Price tickets are often replaced with new ones containing blatant lies. I think most of the regular customers were aware of this stuff happening – They would moan at me about it when I worked the service desk but I’m sure, that over time, the trainees would get to be convinced that all this cheating is good; that their churches and schools had been wrong.” The judge rubbed his chin. The thievery can’t be condoned, he thought, but there’s a hell of a lot of mitigation here. 

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