His name was Kenneth, his badge clipped to the pocket of his navy uniform shirt trimmed in red. White-haired, slight in build, sensitive tapered fingers, he seemed more an academician than a checker at Schnucks. Below his scrutiny slowly passed a senior’s purchases on the conveyer belt; attached to its side was a sign cautioning patrons from leaving coupons on it lest they be swallowed in the mechanism.

Something was amiss with this picture. Questions surfaced: Who was this man? Why was he working here? Perhaps an addict in recovery? Who or what awaited his return home with a paycheck: a sickly spouse, grandchildren? And what about his health: Long hours standing in one place, stooped posture, repetitive shoulder movements, bagging groceries, bathroom/nutritional needs? When he handed the receipt to my sister, sorrowed pain tinged his pale eyes.

It was four o’clock, an overcast chilly afternoon, the pavement slick with moisture from an earlier sprinkle as we left the store pushing the shopping cart. Cars and vans filled lanes of the parking lot like kindergarten cubicles stuffed with the day’s essentials.

“Wouldn’t you like to know Kenneth’s story?” I asked my sister on the way home.