What Was the Short Story “Checkouts” by Cynthia Rylant About?

The short story “Checkouts” by children and teen author Cynthia Rylant is about the games people play with each other and with themselves when they are interested in someone and do not know how to show it. It is about a teenage girl and boy who are attracted to one another through unexpected events and then, ironically, letting the opportunity to get to know each other pass.

Cynthia Rylant, a child of a broken home, knows the loneliness that a child feels when life takes an unexpected turn. Readers never learn the name of the young girl who is the protagonist in this story, which allows them to insert themselves into the protagonist’s role. This particular teenage girl has just moved with her parents to a beautiful new house in a new city, but she is lonely and spends her time grocery shopping because she is happy in a grocery store.

One day, she is attracted to the checkout boy bagging her groceries. He drops her mayonnaise and feels awkward and ashamed, and yet that is the moment she falls for him. They do not meet up again for weeks, but they think of each other constantly. Finally, she has an opportunity to have him bag her groceries again but gets in another line. He has the chance to speak but ignores her. The irony of their behavior in light of their obsession with one another is perplexing. The two, an unlikely pair from the beginning, move on with their lives. The next time they see one another, they merely smile.