'I'm so glad for your sake, and the money will help.' Since her father's death, mother's earnings and help had ensured survival. 'I bought a ballpoint and little book to write down so I won't forget. I am allowed to get a skirt and blouse from stock and pay when paid.' Remembering, Mother hoped; rejecting 'Angela tries' for the rare 'Angela shows improvement.' 'Were many?' Angela was unsure. They savoured suggested success over others.
Angela's four foot eleven pear-body necessitated alterations and two days went before uniformity. Thursday morning's reached goal of learning - blue and white girl - trolley and floor - in a supermarket checkout triangle - a sigh of a satisfactory step.
Angela listened hard and delighted in coping. She pinned numbered dockets to filled bags, lifted bags to trolley, wheeled to pickup bay, lifted to shelf spaces, reversed empty trolley to No.3 checkout, pinned dockets, lifted, wheeled, - fifteen before lunch journeys, despite tea, five minutes, and hurried 'ladies staff only'. Her afternoon was twenty-two trips.
After an evening meal of savoury pancakes, and mother, and Miss Hardy saids, she recorded instructions and trip totals slowly in little letters in her little book and ached to bed. Weeks of numbering, lifting, wheeling, lifting, wheeling, numbering, lifting accustomed muscles, experienced, and produced patterns in the little book:
Monday 41, Tuesday 32, Wednesday 35, Thursday 38, Friday flurried 47 and three hour Saturday transporting transport of 30. With rare variations, 'we had a busy day for a Tuesday', the little book's little figures were, and were seen to be, similar, as Angela numbered and lifted and wheeled her days to Christmas. Broken bags, lost dockets, impatient customers, merging Merry Christmases; she sank, surfaced, survived, to be included in No.3 cashiers and packers Christmas trifle lists and greetings. Staff discounted supermarket specials highlighted home and going and home.
During 'after-Christmas-lull' and holidaying-staff shortage, Miss Hardy, true to possible promotion promises, introduced Angela to the mysteries of bag packing. Little book entries - 'wrap butter and delicatessen in wax paper, meat in plastic bag, don't pack soap near butter, do pack heavies first, don't mix customer's purchases' - had do's and don'ts underlined, were memorised before bed and hopefully recalled before breakfast. There were mistakes, and unable-to-understand-them-customers, and shop manager lookings and frightenings.
'Angela tries', Miss Hardy excused, but the return of No.3 packer and coinciding complaint of spilt detergent postponed promotion.
Angela continued numbering, lifting, wheeling, recording; her first thousand impressing.
There were other illusory opportunities; winter influenza inroads raised hopes, and Angela tried. One delirious day when illness, accident and coincidence decimated checkout staff, Angela tried to be a cashier. 'The trolley is best' she accepted, and with thickening legs, broadening hips and defeated face, continued loading, wheeling, unloading.
After two years and twenty thousand trips, a red headed skylarking inwards-goods lad, accepting a dare, invited her to the pictures. He enjoyed the ego-boosting pleasure-dispensing experience sufficiently to invite three times more and she was beginning to believe that the hot hands and melting chocolate were really happening to her when his mate drew attention to her shape. Skylarking punishment transfer spared seen humiliation but not Mother's 'why?'
Gaps caused promotion to bag packer, shelf filler, cashier were filled by graduation from second form - Miss Hardy entrusting tuition to experienced Angela, who gained. She wheeled, she instructed, she wheeled and instructed, she instructed, she wheeled, she wheeled a mounting tally. 'Checkout 3, Miss Schutt, docket 405 immediately please!' but Miss Hardy called her Angela really. The store managers succeeding did not allow, but 'Hello Angela love' was the successful stores supervisor's condescension. 'No, but she does try, Mr. Weldon.'
Between sixty and seventy thousand she was twenty-one - a good wish on behalf by Miss Hardy, and suitably adult-monied to coincide with illness of not-to-work-again mother. 'Get something nice and a pretty card; tell me if it is more' patterned four years of birthdays and Christmases.
Then - 'She had a small insurance', and 'she hated the thought of cremation' preceding the long greyed day and blacked relatives and the emptying and sorting and burning and packing and the one room and the one loin lamb chop. Insurance policy funeral-parlour - change changed teeth to dentures.
Angela's little book filled and the bought larger-school-exercise matched hundred thousand figures. The little book kept to refer, to check, to remember. She rose, bathed, dressed, tea'd, walked, good-morninged, numbered, loaded, wheeled, unloaded, wheeled, tea'd, lady'd, loaded, unloaded, lunched, wheeled, loaded, wheeled, goodbye'd, walked, cooked, ate, cleared, recorded, stripped and slept. Her birthdays had gone with her mother and she left the hurried, flurried, merried Christmas greetings with her trolley.
Occasionally women's outings outwardly included Angela, mixed excluded by male request with female tittering. Her work and school-knowns shouted, danced, laughed, kissed, fought, loved, sang and matched. Angela washed her cup and hair and totalled her trolley trips. Susan married, divorced, married again; Mona trained and taught; Beryl begat twins. Angela another nought notched added intermediate figures. Julie, fulfilling schoolgirl promise, successfully sold sexual satisfaction. Angela arranged dockets. On Saturday afternoon Miss Hardy made her hundredth parachute jump. Angela carried forward to the new book.
One hundred and fifty thousand was in the wings when the filled bag falling was caught. Angela said 'thank you' but did not look, and back at checkout 3, numbering and stacking, 'yes', to his 'lucky I was there'. She did not look at twenty-seven minutes past five but her arm felt. They walked. Angela left her mother in the cemetery and invited in.
Angela wheels her trolley and loads and unloads, noting numbers. Ted totals, checks and enters. 'It's a shame', 'twenty years older', 'an invalid pensioner.' 'Good old Schutt' says Miss Hardy.
Angela hurries home with three loin lamb chops.