AUTHOR'S NOTES: I seem to have been ignoring my primary fandom far too long. This was written in response to a Back To School Challenge in a fan fiction community. I actually forgot that I wrote this. Then I was in Wal-Mart the other day and saw the "Back To School" aisle going in...

By Margaret Price

"Back to school, soon," a woman said, apparently to her son.

"Ew, don't remind me," the boy replied, pulling his face at her.

Mel Bush looked up just as the boy playfully stuck his tongue out, causing the woman to laugh. They were standing in front of an aisle in Wal-Mart that seemed to grandly proclaim itself the "Back To School" aisle. After a moment, they moved on, continuing with their shopping.

Mel was waiting for her friend, Paige, to return with some forgotten item, so going too far was out of the question. Fortunately, the aisle the pair had been standing in front of was closed and she crossed to it peering down the aisle that had caused the boy's distain.

What a mess.

It was all too obvious that this aisle was not in the least ready for the "Back to School" rush. All but a few of the shelves were bare, sheets of paper were attached to the front to show the store associates where the new items were to go. A large, long cart containing cardboard boxes that no doubt held these items stood abandoned, while several other open boxes were strewn along the front of the shelves.

Mel walked down the aisle, looking at the papers—called mod sheets—scanning the list of items. Then she looked into the open boxes. Notebooks, pens, pencils, notebook paper, rulers, erasers, on and on it went.

Suddenly she found herself thinking of the list of supplies the schools would send out telling the students—of whatever particular grade level they happened to be at—the supplies that were needed for the new year. Mel reflected on how this amazingly comprehensive list invariably omitted something that was vitally important and how her Mum would end up having to scour the countryside because everyone else in creation seemed to already have said item.

Back to school, she thought. It wasn't that far away at all, was it?

Paige returned just as Mel was returning to her abandoned cart.

"There you are," Paige said happily. "I thought I was going to have to call the FBI, or something."

Mel gave her friend a sideways glance. It wasn't as though this was the first time she had been in the United States. And she was hardly likely to get lost in a store.

"What were you doing down there?" Paige asked.

"I was looking at the 'Back To School' things over there," Mel replied, nodding in the direction of the aisle.

Paige gave her friend an odd look. "Are you thinking of going back for another degree?"

"No," Mel replied, adding with a grin, "I was thanking God that I no longer have to deal with that nightmare anymore!"

— END —