Stop Karen About It

(a Magical Midlife Mom flash fiction story, told from Melissa's point of view)

It had already been a long day when my teenage daughter Regan and I ran into the nearest grocery store to grab a few essentials. We'd run out of bread, milk, and most importantly, coffee. Regan said we could skip shopping until the weekend, but I insisted we go. I could not skip morning coffee, not even for a day.

Arms full of what we needed (because carts are for wussies), we picked the line with only one person ahead of us, which of course was the worst choice. Not only did the other lines move faster, but we had a crabby Karen arguing over a coupon.

(Quick aside: I understand that it's unfair to all the Karens of the world that their name got associated with self-important, middle-aged women. One of the nicest teachers Regan ever had went by Karen, even to her young students. It's cruel irony, I know, but it is quite a handy shortcut to describe what happened next.)

"This says I should get a dollar off," the frumpy Karen wearing an oversized coat snapped at the young cashier, who only looked a few years older than Regan. "And I'm not leaving until you ring it up."

"I'm so sorry, ma'am," the poor kid said back. "But that coupon expired a month ago, and my system's not registering it."

"Then put it in manually."

"I don't know how," she muttered, utterly miserable.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," I interrupted. "It's just a dollar."

"Mo-om," Regan grumbled, trying to hide her face behind a jug of milk.

Karen rounded her beady little eyes on me. "Mind your own business, wench."

"Wench?" I wrinkled my nose. "What kind of insult is that? Victorian England?"

"Or the Middle Ages," Regan piped up. Apparently the urge to correct me overcame her need to blend in the background. "We just read Canterbury Tales in English class today, and they talked about a 'wenche thikke.'"

"You mean using 'thick' to describe women isn't some youth thing?" I asked.

"Apparently not," Regan said. "Chaucer beat us to it by several hundred years."

"Well, at least I'm getting insulted by historically accurate slang."

"Will the two of you shut up?" Karen screeched. "I'm trying to get my dollar!"

I sighed. "If it means so much to you, I'll give you one." I glanced down at the groceries in my hand, unable to put them on the counter because Karen's stuff was taking up all the space. "Regan, can you help me?"

Regan juggled the milk in her arms to free one hand. "Where's your purse?"

"Over here on my left side." When she scooted to the right, I said, "Your other left."

The growing number of people in line watched us dance in bemusement. The cashier looked like she wanted to melt into the floor.

Karen wasn't too happy when Regan managed to pull out a dollar. "I don't want that. I want to use my coupon!"

"Just take it!" the bearded guy behind me cried. I noticed he had two boxes of craft beer tucked inside both elbows.

I gave him a knowing smile. "You're going to need to drink that after we're done here."

He chuckled. "Tell me about it."

"I don't want your money, you crazy hag!" Karen yelled.

"Oh," I said dryly. "I'm a hag now. Is that an upgrade?"

"Let me handle this." Regan scooted forward, waving the dollar slowly back and forth in front of Karen. "Look at this," she cooed. "It's the dollar you asked for."

Uh oh. I knew what Regan was doing. We'd recently discovered she had the magical ability to talk people into doing whatever she wanted them to do.

"Regan..." I said in my motherly warning voice.

Regan ignored me. "You really want this dollar, don't you?" she asked sweetly.

"I do want the dollar," Karen said, eyes blank as she reached for it.

"And you'll apologize to the cashier, right?"

Karen turned vaguely toward the cashier. "I'm sorry for holding up the line."

The bewildered cashier stared at her in shock. "I accept your apology?" she asked, unsure of what was going on.

"Great, everyone's happy," bearded beer guy said. "Can we just move things along now?"

Karen stayed eerily quiet as the cashier rang up Karen's items as quickly as humanly possible, almost dropping a sack of goods in her haste. Regan wanted to 'encourage' Karen to donate money to the local charity when the cashier asked, but she didn't dare cross my piercing glare.

Everyone behind us cheered as Karen pushed her cart away. I leaned over and whispered to Regan, "Have I told you how grateful I am that you can't pull that mojo on me?"

"Who says I can't?" Regan countered mischeviously.

"Because if you did, I would have bought you that ridiculously expensive pair of jeans you wanted last month."

"They are so cool though!"

"They were pre-nastied with holes and tears."

"That's fashion, Mom."

I rolled my eyes as I picked up our bagged groceries. "Then I guess I'll never get fashion."

But that was okay because the grateful cashier had just rung up my favorite blend of roasted coffee beans. Tomorrow was looking bright. Nothing could go wrong if I had my morning cup of coffee.

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Until next time, happy adventuring!

-DM Fike