Snack Machine

Whitney Carter

Jack was regretting setting up next to the snack machine to study. Every time someone came down the hall, walking toward the machine (and therefore, him) he looked up and his concentration was shattered. And that was quiet frequently. His frustration was building, making his stomach churn and knot, the knowledge that his test was in a couple of hours and he hadn't studied properly like walls closing in on him, suffocating him. He was so close to moving, and would have in a heartbeat if he didn't have half his binder scattered across the small table already. Disgruntled, he tried to focus again.

Glaring at the newest interruption, he pushed his glasses back up his nose and watched the woman as she glanced over her shoulder at him, smiling. It was a small thing, but accompanied by the twinkle in her eye was very powerful, very knowing, almost like she understood his pain. Turning back to the snack machine, she shifted her weight to one leg, angling her hip out ever so slightly. She made a thinking sound as she touched her chin, tapping a small wallet in the crook of her elbow.

Determined, he turned his gaze back downward to his book and scribbled handwriting, reading through the same damned sentence for the fourth time. It doesn't make any more sense now than it did the first time, he thought with a curse as he listened to the sound of coins sliding into the snack machine. Two small beeps were preceded by the mechanical whirl, then the goods were there for the taking. He refused to look up, even though his innate sense of curiosity and deep love of people watching begged him to. No, he had to focus.

She slid more money into the machine, pressed a couple more buttons. Then he heard the distinct sound of a zipper and couldn't resist. He looked up just as she tossed the little wallet back into her purse, spun on her heels and smiled at him again. Then she walked away.

His mind numb as it was from frustration and too much cramming, he just stared after her for a minute. Then he realized something. Her hands were empty.

Just as he was about to get up and check the vending machine, another woman, this one slightly younger, came through the double doors. She was out of breathe and very pale, her skin shining with a thin sheen of sweat. Her eyes fixed on the snack machine as she dug around in her purse. She grumbled under her breath, leaning against the machine, and brought the bag up to her face to search around in it. Jack watched as, after a moment, she gave up with a disgusted sigh, putting a hand to her forehead and slumping. Her legs seemed to almost cave on her because she sank a few inches and looked on the verge of just crumpling in the floor.

Then her eyes fixed on the machine again, and she reached into the tray at the bottom, withdrawing a packet of crackers and a bag of chips. She stared at them, looked up at him, then half held them out to him.

"Are these yours?"

Silently, he shook his head, bewildered.

She ripped into the crackers, taking a seat, and Jack was secretly glad that he wouldn't have to pick the woman up off the floor.

She smiled at him as she downed a second cracker. "I'm diabetic. Lucky someone forgot their snack, though how you'd that is beyond me."