By the check stand.

photo of fireworks during nighttime

You can’t say they didn’t warn us, those eye-level oracles whispering above the chewing gum we didn’t need, the candy bars we secretly craved, the batteries we were always forgetting to buy. It’s not like they weren’t persistent. They offered a bounty of answers, endlessly. But, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water––

Secrets would be revealed. Why the it girl could never marry, what the bachelor of the year could never refuse. How to win against the crooks, not to mention important updates: recent developments in a high-profile rivalry, what happened to the kids you still remembered. What was fumbled, what went bust, who was at the end of their rope. 

It was a bombshell. It was graphic. It was a must see. It promised: Your questions finally answered! The secrets, the how to, the life hack you don’t want to try living without. The bags of apples moved ahead; the cereal was scanned. There was always something we were forgetting until it was too late. In this way they knew us, these oracles.

Look away at your own risk, they chided. We slid forward, replied with banal comments about how our days were going. Buttons were pressed, money exchanged. A receipt was handed over. We turned to exit, offered the usual thanks. But the things that we carried could not be the things we were here for, could they? They had called our bluff, these fantastical fortune-tellers. We exited through the sliding doors, into the asphalt flatland, squinting against the glare.


Inspired by a recent survey of magazines featured by the checkout station at the local supermarket.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

4 thoughts on “Sensation”

  1. I really like this, Stacey. It’s a very clever use of words, and I could visualise every magazine on the shelf and the ‘people’ in the queue with you. I remember going into small newsagents years ago and staring at the magazine shelf and the headlines on the front of them, trying to make some sense of their promises. It seemed a good way to pass the time while waiting in the long queue to get to the front of the shop. I think this is one of my favourite pieces of yours to date. Thank you for writing and sharing it. I enjoyed it a lot. P.S. I now do online shopping, so I miss out on this ‘experience’ these days.

    1. Ellie, it means a lot to me to know that this resonated with you. Thank you so much for letting me know : )

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