Retail Therapy


Short Fiction Submission

Author bio, pic and website: Isa Glade Day is an American witch with Celtic origins, a retired school teacher, a small town columnist, and mother, she inspires and educates her readers to build a more creative life with her blog: . An avid American road tripper from the Midwest, Isa currently lives with her husband as a painter, writer, writing coach, and freelance editor on a mountain in North Carolina.

Retail Therapy (1795 words)

“Are you coming?!”

That’s my mom, Frankie. The word “shrill” comes to mind. 

“Jesus! I’ll be in the car. Hurry up!” 

I was trying to tie my shoes but the laces were severely uneven. Sheryl slipped by my doorway, a wisp, “the ghost” who never spoke. No doubt she was on her way down, trying to beat Sam to the coveted front seat, her straight blonde hair flouncing back and forth across her back as she moved. Frankie honked the horn. Holy shit. She was really in a mood tonight. 

Sam stopped in the doorway, “Would you please hurry! She is going to blow her top!” Sam had dark brown eyes and brown hair, like me. She was usually worried. I was usually the reason.

“Yes, I am trying Sa-man-tha.” Sheryl and Sam were the twins. I was the baby. Three girls. It was 1972 in Minnesota. I am pretty sure my divorced mother was cursed. 

Sam and I jumped into the backseat, then Frankie was immediately backing out of the driveway, but Penn Avenue was always very busy, with two lanes in each direction and stop lights on the closest intersection. I could see the strain on Frankie’s face as she looked past her shoulder, over my head, ready for a chance to back into traffic without killing us all. A fender bender would be catastrophic. Any need for hospitalization, an absolute disaster. I sat as still as possible to avoid undue distraction.

Within twelve minutes, we were leaving our blue Mustang in the upper parking lot of the Southdale Mall. It was a cool fall Tuesday evening and the new school year would begin the very next day. We were here on a mission to locate exactly nine coordinated, mix and match outfits, three per child, to get us by until Christmas, as our east coast father’s child support payments would allow. We had two hours to complete this mission prior to the closing of the stores. Synchronize your watches. Expedite swiftly. Go.

I was seven years old. I was unusually tall and thin. Finding clothes to fit my bony frame and still be long enough was no small feat, especially with pants in the colder months. They were usually baggy, but hey, I was seven. Not a big deal.

We were a decisive team. There was no lingering to consider accessories or to appreciate extra apparel no one could buy. The code was to select a simple set that was sufficiently practical, appropriately priced, and met the approving eye of Frankie. Our mother, the lifelong student of acceptability, the measured taskmaster, the owner of the purse. The keeper of the watch.

Tic-tock. Within ninety minutes, we were each two outfits in, except Sam had the full and prized three outfit quota, typical, being the golden child and all, when I came upon a true treasure. It was almost as though the entire navy blue knit set, a smock top with matching flared pants were indeed glowing right there on the rack, a masterpiece! To be able to walk the hallways of my school in the comfort of a full knit set, practically pajamas, with the high style fashion of Twiggy herself, well, it was almost too good to be true. My other four items, two tops, two pants, paled in comparison. There was one bold yellow stripe running across the chest of the smock-sweater, cutting across the navy blue, a fresh and daring band of confidence. I was thoroughly dazzled. Frankie agreed that this was a solid find. I was in. She asked the attending girl to take it down from the high rack. The girl used a pole with a hook on the end. I liked her fake eyelashes and her pixie hair. One day, I would be like her if at all possible. I swooped into the dressing room, fully prepared to ignore any sign of a poor fit. I pushed the door open a bit to show Frankie but so as not to expose my shoeless self to the whole store of shoppers. Frankie nodded in an affirmative. 

Meanwhile, Sheryl found her final piece, without any assistance at all, and we were set! We followed Frankie to the counter, where there were -  to my great dismay - already four other shoppers awaiting their purchase, one had children as well. We were going to have to defy every instinct my mother had and do the difficult thing. We would have to wait. 

By the time we were second in line, my mother had begun to sigh loudly and while leaning against the counter, she lifted one foot onto her pointy-toed shoe, and tapped it against the floor, a consistent drumming, unnoticeable to anyone but me. Most of the entertainment was provided by the little boy who was behaving like an animal, whining and kicking at his little brother. He must have been raised in a safe environment.
That sort of behavior was a death wish for the children of Frankie. We would never dream of throwing any tantrums. Sam was disgusted with the boy and scoffed openly. Sheryl and Sam stood there holding their own items. Frankie held mine. I watched the process of the woman-mother of animals-buyer and the woman clerk unfold in the time it would take to complete the Louisiana Purchase. 

Finally, we had arrived. We dumped all nine outfits onto the counter, and the clerk began to check the tags, tapping the numbers into her cash register, while she inquired, “Will this be cash or credit, Ma’am?” The woman looked like she had asked that about a million times. She had small smudges of mascara beneath her eyes and tiny lines around her lips. She looked like she was gorgeous once upon a time, but now she was an employed grandma. 

“Credit,” Frankie stated curtly. Frankie was tired too. I have no doubt she very much wanted the clerk to know how much we had suffered to benefit their business. Frankie handed over her card. 

The clerk set the card into the sliding machine, which recorded one’s transaction. 

We waited. 

The clerk looked at the card and picked up the phone, dialed and listened. Then she said, “Yes, just verifying this card, please.” She listed off the card numbers. The woman clerk was listening. She smiled a polite smile at my mother. Frankie stared back. The clerk knit her brow and glanced nervously at my mother. “Oh. Uh. Are you sure?”  Frankie looked braced for combat. The clerk half-whispered, “Excuse me, Ma’am, this card is not being accepted.”

Not. Being. Accepted.

Ho-boy. I looked up at Frankie, who calmly raised her brow and said through her teeth, “Try it again. Surely the numbers were not dictated correctly.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” People were getting edgy and someone somehow might have to pay. I looked at Sam. Sam’s entire body was rife with tension; I could see her jaw muscles clench. She looked mortified. She was caught between needing these clothes and needing Frankie to not make a scene. 

The clerk restated the numbers and now seemed to double her efforts, to hold her ground if necessary. “Is there any other form of payment we can use?”

“We can, I suppose. But I am not happy.” Frankie huffed and looked side to side, noticing the line had not gotten any shorter behind her. Frankie wrote out a check. Attention everyone, please just remain calm. The articles of interest will be purchased as planned. I repeat, purchased as planned. I let out my breath, unaware I had been holding it in.

Sheryl rolled her eyes and stared at the wall. The clerk pushed two large bags across the counter and handed Frankie the receipt. My mother nodded coldly, grabbed the bags and turned to exit the store; we were soon out into the open mall on the second floor. 

I had to move quickly to keep up. Hell, we all did. But Frankie was bent on getting through the doors on the opposite side of the mall as if the place were on fire; I could see people far below in the courtyard through the plate glass under a brass railing, chatting casually, sitting on benches surrounding fountains and plants. Piano music wafted over the crowd. Two standing boys were laughing with two seated girls who were preening for them. I imagined they had all just met. I wished I was with them. Nonetheless, we skittered forth, grateful it was at least time to go home. I kept thinking of my new clothes and felt comforted.

Suddenly, Frankie was calling back to us as she stormed forward, “Well, I hope you three are happy!” None of us actually responded to these words. It seemed as though she were simply declaring a fantastic truth: she, indeed, with all her heart, hoped we were satisfied? But then she clarified her stance: “No? Well, if you aren’t happy, there’s no reason to hold onto these!” 

With that, she flung out her arm, which held both large bags, simultaneously releasing her grip on them, her fingertips splayed as though she were introducing the next act. The shiny bags shot out and soared through the air, two wild geese in flight, straight over the hand railing and almost floated there momentarily in the empty air, before falling lifeless with a soft thud into the garden below. Large plants shook in the din.

Shockingly, Frankie did not pause for one moment. She defiantly marched out of the mall, her petite frame clip clopping in her heels straight through the exit doors. Sam looked down at her own feet and followed Frankie like a humbled serf. 

Let me tell you something. There was absolutely no way that my navy blue smock sweater set with the yellow streak of epic power was going to be left behind. Apparently, Sheryl felt the same. She looked at me with her blue ocean eyes, and as if we had melded minds, we raced together, two yokes in one shell, down the steps and across the first floor courtyard, stepping up into the raised bed of jungle plants, snatching up our spoils before anyone even considered them.

Luckily, Sheryl was whip-smart and could lead me directly through the mall and out to the running car, where Frankie and Samantha waited like marble statues. Frankie did not intend to leave us at the mall. She knew the law. We settled into the back seat once again and rode home utterly numb. No one had to tell me to go straight to bed. 

The next morning, I pulled on my new favorite ensemble and headed out to face the world. I was doubtless the best dressed girl in all of the second grade. 

Dear CHILLFiltr Review,


Please consider “Retail Therapy” (literary fiction, 1743 words).


I am a debut fiction writer with a strong nonfiction background. This story is the first in line out of eight from a story sequence of fictionalized memoir. 


Thank you for your consideration.




Isa Glade Day