Photo Fiction Inspiration: Cora’s Receipt

Years ago, when I saved this image of an old grocery store receipt, I intended to write a story around it. Here are several elements that caught my attention:

  • The date
  • Her name
  • The fourth item purchased
  • The running tab
  • The hole from the receipt spike
  • The match of the year to the receipt number

The finder of this receipt told of how she found a stack of them in an antique register. All of the receipts were Cora’s, and it was clear that Cora ran up a tab each week at the grocery store.

The “tablet” purchase intrigues me the most. Yes, it could be simple: Cora needed to replenish the household writing paper. But here is where my imagination takes off:

  • Story Idea #1: The tablet becomes another holder of Cora’s “secrets.” She hides her box of tablets — there are 13 — under an abandoned car she found on the property of a school for the blind. Cora befriended a girl who attends the school and shares what she hears during her nightly walks through the neighborhood, though she says they are “made up.” However, tonight Cora is meeting up with the blind girl at midnight to share a story that Cora must tell her is true.
  • Story Idea #2: Cora is in love with Charles, one of the Stroker sons, and writes letters to him that she never sends. She dreams that he will ask her why she buys tablets so often, and she can tell of her love for him. Meanwhile, Charles only talks about his dedication to God and how, unlike his brothers, he plans never to marry. When Cora walks into the store on Halloween, Charles tells her he is leaving tomorrow to join the Merchant Marines (he saw the Bogart movie) and help with the war effort. Charles is sixteen years old.
  • Story Idea #3: Cora is a teacher and has organized a Halloween Party for the only white family in her school. The family plans to leave due to racial hostility, and Cora hopes to talk them out of the move. The tablet is a gift Clara intends to give to a budding writer in the family, the first of them all to be educated past the sixth grade.
  • Story Idea #4: Cora is Clem Stroker’s daughter. She aims to start her own grocery store business since Dad won’t allow her to take the helm of the family store, even though she is the firstborn child. Cora writes out her ideas and plans to share them with her father before taking the train to Chicago in the morning. She does not know that her mother is dying and Dad, who will share the news with the family at breakfast, expects Cora to take charge of the household.

It’s amazing what the mind can do with a small amount of information. Maybe I’ll write a collection of stories from the image and not limit myself to only one. Stay tuned!

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