Although Beatrice and her children left the house right after the Cowboys game, there were already three people in line at the Wal-Mart when they arrived. Three people, and the Lions had just started playing.
Who gets in line before the end of the Cowboys game? Beatrice thought, setting up her lawn chair. She tugged her beanie down her forehead and sunk her gloved hands into the pockets of her poofy jacket, which made her look heavier than she already was. Her eldest set up his chair next to hers, and then set up chairs for his brother and sister. Her youngest cried that he was cold, and her daughter played with the drawstrings of her jacket’s hood. Some people, Beatrice thought, looking at trio ahead of them. Some people and their priorities.
For lunch, she gave her eldest a few crumpled dollars and had him run over to the Carl Jr.’s, telling him chicken tenders, large fry, large Coke, and extra honey mustard, as well as a reminder to be careful because all the nuts jobs out this time of year. He nodded and took his siblings’s orders and headed over, his breath fogging around him as he shrunk smaller and smaller, passing her Honda on the other side of the empty lot and disappearing into the restaurant.
By the time he came back, there were twelve more people in line. As the new arrivals thumbed through their phones and gave updates on the Lions, Beatrice’s eldest took his seat and handed his mother her food. Her youngest reached for the warm, greased-stained bags in his brother’s lap, while her daughter sat quietly, her hands underneath her bottom. With a fry dangling from his mouth, her eldest handed his sister her food and intentionally kept his little brother’s bag away from him. Her youngest whined as Beatrice dipped a fry into one of the extra honey mustards.
“Just as good as turkey and stuffing,” she said, eating the fry and adding, “Give your brother his hamburger.” Her eldest did as he was told and made fun of his brother for getting a burger on Thanksgiving. “Who gets a burger on Thanksgiving?” he said, and opened his box of tenders.
Beatrice’s family ate quietly, her youngest moistly smacking while he chewed, as if his showmanship added warmth to eating out in the cold. To the frontier life he imagined they were living. In line behind them, more new arrivals played with their phones or talked about the turkey lunches they had to cut short just to stand in line. Two heavyset men threw a foam football back and forth.
As the sun crept along the sky behind the clouds, more cars pulled in and parked, closing the gap between Beatrice and her three-year-old Honda, the car one of the few things her husband had left, along with the payments. The car which she had parked at the end of the lot, near the exit and the bad neighborhood across the street. Parked far away so by the time Beatrice and her family were ready to leave, they wouldn’t have to maneuver past other shoppers pulling in and searching for a place to park at that hour.
She had gotten the idea to park over there when her family had come to the Wal-Mart the night before, an hour until the store was set to close. They had scouted the potential locations where blue-shirted employees might set up the four, 55-inch televisions the store would sell for $1,000 marked down, most likely on an end cap facing Boy’s Clothing. The X-box Kinect, one of the eight systems the store would have, probably under the glass case of video games. When the time came, her eldest would be responsible for sprinting through the store and securing a TV, while her daughter was to head straight to Electronics. Her youngest wasn’t old enough to go off by himself, so she had to hope a few Iron Man figurines would still be available by they time they made it to Toys.