The newspaper shows an alien the size of a child with a pointed yellow face and large eyes. The alien is holding a Pixie Stick in one fist and seems to be coming from a carnival, but the girl can’t be sure because the background is fuzzy. The alien may be coming from his ship, which only looks like a carnival because human eyes aren’t trained to take in the alien world. The alien might not have a yellow head and large eyes, but that is the only way humans know how to look at him.
“Your uterus will fall out if you read those things,” her mother says.
Her mother takes a jar of gravy, a loaf of bread, and a stalk of celery from the cart and places it on the conveyor belt.
The girl looks back at the alien wondering what it eats for lunch, wondering if there are newspapers in its market with pictures of her staring back at him, looking not like herself, but like something he would recognize.
“If you look at that thing, I’m telling you, your uterus will slide right out of you in this supermarket and plop right on the floor.”
She’s heard the threats before: if she stares at the sun, she will go blind; if she cries too hard her face will freeze; if she touches her happy place, she’ll go deaf and blind and lose all the feeling in her right hand; if she takes the newspaper, as she does now, she will lose all power to have babies, an idea that seems suddenly familiar and right. Babies drool and spit and poop and cry and they are always in danger of losing their eyesight or their internal organs.
“Did you hear what I said?” her mother lifts a box of oranges from the cart. She has to shift her weight in order to balance. Oranges are heavy.
“If it falls out, I’ll pick it up,” the girl says, looking closely at the alien. “I’ll put it in a terrarium and feed it cookies and Pixie Sticks and grilled cheese and not make it eat grapes or broccoli.”
Her mother snatches the newspaper from her hands and places it on the belt. It slides down behind the carton of eggs and the box of oranges, pock-marked and too brightly colored to seem real. For a moment, she’s afraid that the alien will slide under the belt, get trapped and be forever looped, but the clerk lifts it up just in time, scans it and throws it down toward the bagger.
“That’s the same alien as last week,” the bagger says.