YOUR SMILE • by Elizabeth Pilsner

Swipe… beep… swipe… beep… swipe… BEEP! I’m on the third hour of my shift and that mantra pounds my mind, stirring with fluorescent lights for a headache, just short of a migraine. Still, plastered on my face is a half-smile, the “enthusiasm” the manager says will get me far… a promotion. Could I hope for that much?

Maybe then I could incorporate a few small luxuries into my economic plan. The Starbucks stand and a grande, double chocolaty chip, crème-based frappuchino awaits me: sugary cocoa bliss in a tall plastic cup. Alas, for now it isn’t mine for lack of coin.

Scanning boxes of Quaker’s oatmeal, stuffing a can of Folger’s coffee into a bag, I check out the wrinkled — perhaps emaciated — woman’s groceries, while she brushes back her short, curled hair with her fingers, and sets a cake on the conveyor belt. The cake is half-price, one of the expiring goods in our bakery; whoever’s getting that must be loved.

“Whose birthday is it?” I ask with a semblance of politeness, classically fake smile turning up my lips.

“Oh, no one’s really,” she admits, “but it seemed sad to let it go to waste when there is so much to celebrate.” So much to celebrate? Has she watched the news? Economic depression, suicide, homicide, terrorists, war: Our world is anything but something to celebrate. The lady seems to see my confusion because she elaborates:

“God has blessed me and you with so much, every day. I celebrate different blessings with every cake I buy.”

“What has God blessed you with today?” I question skeptically.

She hesitates a moment before brightly saying two words.

“Your smile.”

Elizabeth Pilsner is a senior in high school who has recently discovered she is not in fact meant to be an engineer, as chemistry and calculus are far less interesting than creative writing. Elizabeth enjoys writing, reading, and studying Spanish.

Rate this story:
 average 4.2 stars • 11 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Didn’t see that one coming.

    What perfect irony!

    And you’re still a teenager, Elizabeth – I’m jealous.

  • Rose Gardener

    So few words, such perfect story telling. I’d give it a jealous 6 stars if I could.

  • Ocean

    Absolutely delightful.

  • The last line drew an involuntary “Oh!” from me. It was just so perfect. Loved, loved, loved it. 😀

  • ajcap

    And how right the old girl is, as well, to celebrate different blessings every day.

    Lovely read to start the morning and, if I may say so, a smart decision on the author’s part to pick creative writing over engineering. I made the wrong decision when I was her age and discovered, even with a tutor, chemistry sucks.

  • Sandy Mayrand

    Elizabeth, I loved your story. The ending was unexpected, but perfect!

  • John Brooke

    Perfectly, perfect!

  • Magnifique!! Way to start my day. 5 (count ’em) stars.

  • Rob

    Pow! That one hit dead center in the midst of this ‘silly season’.


  • KarenKay

    This is wonderful!! Very Nice!! 🙂

  • What a great story.
    Thank you.

  • I needed that. Thanks!

  • Marilag Lubag

    Two words. Love it. 🙂

  • Jen

    Aw! What a nice story. I really like the woman who bought the cake.

  • Kit

    Such sweet, well-told irony. I’m so impressed that, as a high school senior you already understand the power of restraint and economy of words. Loved the way you ended it – a nice surprise that left the reader and the main character (I’m guessing) pondering… Five stars from me.

  • Simone

    The ending didn’t leave me pondering … it left my eyes leaking. Excellent writing with a powerful message for us to appreciate all we have. It’s apparent you’ve found your calling; hopefully I’ll find mine if I ever grow up. Thank you for a five-star, wonderful read.

  • You nailed it! The ending was perfect. I don’t think anyone could see that ending coming. If you are this good and still in highschool…I have no doubt you can finish my thought.

  • Steve Talbert

    Great things do come in small packages! Five stars!

  • BUD

    Great ending Elizabeth.
    3 stars.


  • Brenda Blakey

    You get a 100+ on the story and an ‘Excellent’ on intuition about your future. Writing is no less difficult than chemistry and calculus but it is certainly more interesting. 5 stars.

  • Elizabeth Perfect

    Ooh, the ending to that one pinches. The irony was just perfect.

    It’s great to see another talented young Elizabeth. =)

  • Dee Streiner

    Loved it! Especially “Alas, for now it isn’t mine for lack of coin.” It felt fresh and stood out to me. You have so much talent, keep at it.