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Wal-Mart and the Class of '98

The first one that I ran into was Danielle. She was working as a checker around Christmas-time, and she seemed really happy. She told me about her kid, and how she was going to beauty school to be a cosmetologist. Wal-Mart was just her night job. A few weeks later, I was thoroughly freaked out when I passed a Salvation Army bellringer out front, a particularly handsome man who had been Prom King during my sophomore year. Now, two years out of school, he dejectedly rang the bell in the moody wind, each snap of his wrist seemingly a curse at the bell-ringing profession and charity in general. Then the following spring, I noticed a woman in the cosmetics department and recognized her as a former classmate. She wore a scowl and carried a pricing gun. Her blue tunic was dotted with buttons that read "Made in the USA" and "Low Prices, Everyday!" We did not reminisce. And just tonight, as I was trying on a sweater, a petite young woman with a shock of orangy hair approached me and said, "Hey, I know you! We went to Falcon together."

I could not remember her name, but she looked familiar. She had taken the long, early morning bus ride to school with me each day. She had been timid then, and protective of her pale, quiet brother. In our freshman year she had been hit by a car and disappeared from class for a long time. But there she stood, with her new orange hair. "Karen," she said, "I got contacts in senior year."

"Great," I said. "Nice to see you again."

The 8th Street Wal-Mart seems to have swallowed whole the Falcon High School class of 1998, minus the ones who died in car wrecks or became Fair Queens. I've often wondered if, one day, there'll be a job for me there, hopefully out among the flowers in the garden department.

-- Kristen Sherwood

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