This story was inspired by news coverage of a hit and run. I figured they could run, but how do you hide from that monkey on your back? That burden would haunt me for sure.
I pulled into the self-serve a little too fast. My steering was erratic. She was watching me from inside the SUV ahead of me at the gas pumps, her hands were on the back of the seat and she watched in a manner that was both stoic and solemn. I felt I knew her from someplace; a strong enough sense that I wanted to go talk to her, if only to say hello.
Finished filling my tank, I got in and drove off because I was in a hurry. As I drove, I wondered about the girl and why she seemed so interested in me. She was young, maybe eight or ten. She could have been my daughter. But I’m not married.
Earlier, I had a three martini lunch during which I finalized a deal to buy the old town hall and court house. Next week the place will be busier than a bee hive. In a month, it’ll be affordable housing for singles.
I am a real estate opportunist. Some people see a used up relic of a building and think it should simply be razed. I see potential; creating jobs, business and housing.
I wanted a package of gum, something minty and fresh.
The girl was sitting on the steps of the convenience store when I pulled up. There was a moment in which I rationalized it couldn’t be the same girl. Even though she had the same three quarter length denim pants and Minnie Mouse tee shirt, she was looking down at her hands and there was something about her that seemed different. When she looked up at me, directly at me, I could plainly see that the left side of her face was abraded, as though she had fallen from her bicycle and slid a ways. It was a startling thing to look at on this young and innocent child.
I got out of my car and went to her carefully, so as not to cause alarm. Squatting in front of her, I asked, “Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you?” I felt a little guilt creep in—for being in a hurry and leaving her so quick before.
She shook her head slowly and looked down to her hands once more, which made her seem a bit shy. I stood, looked around for the SUV I had seen her in at the gas pumps but it was nowhere in sight.
“Wait here,” I said, and went into the convenience store. I forgot what it was I wanted, so I bought an ice cream for her. She was gone when I came back out.
In my car, I ate the ice cream before it became a puddle in a wrapper. I kept an eye out for her, but she never reappeared. She was a cute kid who sort of reminded me of a girl I knew when I was just a kid myself. Her name was Lisa something. She might have been my first crush, back before I knew what a crush was.
The rush I was in before seemed pointless now. I didn’t want to go home. There was something about that girl that ate at me, nagged me, made me feel like I needed to know her or know more about her. So I went to Walmart and found myself wandering aimlessly, my arm looped through a hand basket. In men’s clothing, I found jeans I liked and carried a pair to the changing room to try them on.
Before I reached the changing room, which was strategically located between men’s and women’s, I saw the girl. The same girl, with the same three quarter length denim pants and Minnie Mouse shirt which was beat up and had a piece torn out of it. That abrasion on her face was more vibrant, more horrific.
Her head was tilted down and she was watching me through her bangs as I walked toward her. She motioned for me to turn around and when I did, she climbed up onto my back and wrapped her arms gently around my neck. I traded her for the hand basket and we left the store without a word. She was light, insubstantial.
I gave her a piggy back out to my car and when we arrived I noticed a piece of cloth hanging from the cracked and broken plastic around the headlamp. She tightened her hold of me then, and I felt strangled. My Adam’s apple was being turned to applesauce. She recognized the missing piece of cloth from her own shirt; I was sure of it as much as I was sure of whom I had on my back.
I’ll be giving her a piggy back for a very long time.
That’s the story and I hope you liked it.
Thank you all for your support!