Ding ding a doorbell rings. It’s the kind of bell that hangs on the actual door, a door bell. There’s a tiny piece of rope that’s frayed on the ends from the pocket knife that probably cut it years ago. The bell is covered in thick layers of years and years worth of door paint. Today, it’s a rusty red color, except for the little metal piece that hangs from the inside, brass in color, worn down on its sides and never bothered to be repainted because of it.
A little girl walks in and stands just in front of the counter, back about a foot, although there was no other customer in front of her. She waited until the boy at the register acknowledged her, saying “Can I help you?” He raised his eyebrows in slight surprise that she didn’t just come right up and start chattering.
She didn’t speak a word, she watched her feet as she stepped forward, she placed a small note on the counter, and glanced up to smile politely before sticking her thumb in mouth sheepishly. She couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10, definitely not 6 or 7. The boy was interested in her. Not in a creepy way, he was 19 of course! Just that, he used to see her around when she was 6 or 7, back when he first got this job.
She used to sit in the front seat of her dad’s car, just her pigtails bobbing and peeking up above the dashboard of his old Chevrolet car. One day he grabbed a little plastic barrel of the red Hugz with his usual 16 oz Colombian coffee, black, a slightly bruising banana, and a pack of Virginia Slims…for his girl. The boy laughed to himself. He imagined this real man’s man, a Slim, and a fluffy white dog on the front porch.
The man noticed the boy’s small grin.
They ain’t for me, I swear. My buddies get on me about ‘em in my glove compartment, I tell ‘em not to go inside of there, they - anyways…I don’t need the gas boy doin’ it now neither, alright.”
“The Hugz” the boy responded quickly, picking it up and turning it slowly in his hands as he punched in the 0.59 on the register. “You usually don’t get a Hugz,” he said, and looked out at the car. That’s when he first noticed the little girl. She was silly back then. Lighter it seemed like. Life had gotten to her in the past few years too, I guess. It got to everybody.
“My daughter…my…well my ladies daughter. Im taking her to see her. Her grandmothers not doing too well neither. So I guess i should say, at this point, I’m just taking her. Anyways - sorry, I shouldn’t have come at you none. Have a blessed day, brother.” The man rubbed the back of his neck, he seemed in defeat, and he walked out of the store and got into the Chevrolet. The boy watched as he looked at the daughter tearfully and saw him mouth a “I got you something.” Maybe he couldn’t say I love you, but he could say this, the boy thought.
It had been a while from the last time he saw her.
He recognized her instantly, said nothing, and read the note.
The boy scratched his head. “Uhh. We don’t do that here…matter of fact…I don’t think that’s been done since the 70s, Marsh. It is Marcia, right? I remember you.” The girl nodded. Her hair was matted and tangly, off center. She definitely did it herself.
“Where’s your dad?” He asked, regretting the words as they were coming out of his mouth.
A sound erupted from Marcia’s throat. The boy looked around and thought it was a scream coming from outside. It took a moment to register that the sound was coming from the girl's throat. She was screeching, angry, the sound only ever so barely muffled by her closed mouth.
“Mommy will throw my top ramen on the cat again. I’m hungry. I need them. I just remembered you. I thought you would help me.” Her small fists were clenched down by her sides. There was something in one of her fists that made it bubble up a little bigger than the other fist. That arm stayed still while the other reached up and quickly swiped the evidence of any tears, any weaknesses, any vulnerability away. She said “I thought you would help me” as if she could threaten it out of him. He pitied how her years turned out.
“Look, I don’t know what happened to you, or your dad. I don’t know what shit your mom is on, but I can’t lose my job over this.” He regretted the taste of these words on his tongue, too.
Marcia punched the chips that lined the front of the cashier counter and stormed out. The top of the bags indented but the bags wouldn’t have popped without significantly more force.
The boy made his own throat noise and rolled his eyes as he realized and ran to the door, but the girl was already gone.
The boy leaned against the counter and stared down the street, hoping to see Marcia trudging back around. Nothing.
The bell on the door rang finally out and broke his train of thought. He jumped and looked, hoping to see the girl.
Great, he exhaled, just a drunk, he thought.
“You gotta get outta here or I’ll call the cops, maam. Get out of here!” He shouted towards the woman.
“YOU!” She pointed towards him. “YOU made me get up outta here and lose my spo- my spo- nline a the shelt- the hiccup shelter!” Her pointing finger waved around the boy and past his shoulder, he suspected to the double vision of him she was seeing.
“I didn’t do nothing, now get outta-“ he started walking towards the woman and then stopped when he saw stragly hairs peeking just over the side of the glass door. Marcia was leaning up against the brick building.
The boy walked back around the counter and grabbed a pack of Virginia Slims from the shelf above the lotto tickets. He walked them over to the woman and forced them into her chest.
“Hey!” The woman smiled. “How’d you know? These are hiccup my favorite.”
“Leave her cat alone” is all he said. The woman couldn’t say anything back, she fiddled with the plastic pull tab around the carton.
“You hear me?” the boy forced out and pressed just his finger into the woman’s chest which just about knocked her over.
“I hear ya.” She said.
“Now get the fuck out” he finished.
Marcia’s eyes peeked in at the commotion. When his eye met hers, it quickly disappeared, and so did they.
The door bell made one last cry on her way out.
“Let’s go,” the woman sneered at the little girl.
“And watch your FUCKIN tone,” the boy yelled from the other side of the door, flicking her off as he locked the door up behind him. That was enough for today, and the girl finally smiled.