1st Place - Kelli Nistler - "Untitled"
I used to believe that children were simply an annoyance that must be
tolerated; an ever-present torture device that one simply had no
choice but to endure. While cashiering at Target in years past, I'd
grit my teeth in agony as the smelly little whiners shuffled through
my lane, all the while fantasizing about packing them into boxes and
shipping them to a far-off land. In ninth grade, I tried to convince
my parents that it was a good idea for me to get a hysterectomy. That
way, I couldn't give birth to anything, not even accidentally.
I beg of you: put down the phone. There is no need to report me to
Child Welfare officers. Because, you see, all of those thoughts swam
through my head before this past summer happened.
Desperate for a job that would not require me to work in retail, fast
food, or prostitution, I applied and was hired with St. Cloud
Recreation to sell concessions and admission wristbands at the local
pools. At employee training night, before the pools were to open for
the summer, my fellow coworkers that had been employed by St. Cloud
Rec. in the past warned that not only would I be responsible for
supplying hungry kiddies with Snickers bars, I would also need to play
games with and mentor the emotionally needy kids in the area.
"Uh-oh," I thought. "I did not sign on to be a glorified baby-sitter.
I wonder what the going rate for healthy organs on the black market
Not willing to give up paid and legal work so easily, I did that
teeth-gritting thing and headed off to my first day of work. Sure
enough, there were children – swarms of them. There were sisters
Jennie, age 7 and Jane, age 12. Every day without fail, their parents
left for work and dropped the kids off at the pool shelter with
minimal if any money for nourishment (not that there was any real
nourishment to be found in my concession stand). I tried my hardest
to remain cold and removed, but when they began calling me "Auntie"
and requested my companionship and hugs, this Grinch felt her small
heart grow three sizes each day. From there on out I was a goner.
Jane had her birthday in August and already in June she had gone to
the supervisor in charge of scheduling and requested that I work that
day so she could spend it with me. The never-ending flow of artwork
they crafted filled the backseat of my car. Suddenly, being number
one on their list of favorite concession workers was the highest honor
I strived for – having that rank bestowed upon me felt as though I had
won the Nobel Prize or an Academy Award.
Seeing those girls, my "nieces," walk away from me on the day the
pools closed for the season nearly wrenched my now massive heart right
out of my chest. I knew they would go on with life and forget about
me, their summer aunt. But I knew then that nothing would stop me
from having some smelly little whiners of my own one day. I had never
been so grateful I had held on to my uterus.