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  • Shelly Desjarlais

The Smallest of Things

It had been a while since Tracey had a decent chicken sandwich. The locals recommended a dive downtown, and that autumn Saturday felt like the perfect time to try it. With the parking lot full, she was forced to park her sedan around the back of the building. That was where the restaurant’s delivery drivers kept their vehicles as well. Tracey hoped her car wouldn’t be in the way.


As Tracey began her healthy walk towards the front entrance, an employee appeared at the back door. She was a tiny thing, no more than five feet tall, yet she was loaded with takeout containers. Tracey could tell they were far too heavy for the employee, as the woman was struggling to walk towards her pickup truck. Tracey couldn’t leave her.


“Hey,” Tracey called out.


The employee hesitantly stopped. “Hi.”


“Let me help you with those,” Tracey said.


“No, it’s okay. I’ve got it.”


Tracey didn’t listen. She plucked several boxes from the top of the stack and glanced at the truck. “Is that where we’re going?”


“Yeah. Thank you,” the employee softly spoke.


They traveled to her truck and set the boxes neatly on the floorboard. For a moment, they stood together in silence. Tracey eventually cleared her throat, awkwardly gesturing to the restaurant.

“Well, I’ll just head in. I know you have to get going and all. And I need chicken.”


The employee nodded without a word. Tracey shrugged as she went on her way. The restaurant had a wonderful ambiance, and it had a tantalizing scent. Tracey found a secluded table where she could enjoy her sandwich. Roughly halfway through, she felt someone tap her shoulder. It was the employee from earlier.


“I wanted to thank you for helping me. You don’t know how much it meant to me,” the woman said.


“It’s nothing. Really,” Tracey replied.


“No, you don’t understand. I didn’t think anyone cared. I thought that I was invisible. I even started believing that nobody good exists in this world. I was going to the Bay Bridge tonight. Not to visit. To jump. But then you saw me. You cared. You showed me that not everything about this world is horrible. That probably sounds strange. You probably think that helping me carry something isn’t that big of a deal. But I’m telling you that it is. Thank you.”


A smile came to Tracey’s face. “I understand. Believe me, I do. What’s your name?”


“Celia.”


“It’s nice to meet you, Celia. I’m Tracey. Now that you’re not visiting the bridge tonight, why don’t you spend the evening with me? I’m new in town. I could use a tour guide.”


Celia’s expression brightened. “I’m off in thirty minutes.”


“I’ll wait for you. I wanted to try the banana pudding anyway.”


“Okay. I’ll be back after I clock out.”


“Good. I’m looking forward to it.”


Once Celia was gone, a tear trickled down Tracey’s face. Something told her to go to that restaurant that afternoon. Now, she knew why.


Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest difference.


Prompt: “Heavy” provided by Janica Ribeiro

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