“Honey, wake up.”
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Sarah sits up in her bed.
“There’s a fire, baby, we need to go. Go grab your things, and take this.” She shoves a red Folgers can into Sarah’s hands.
“What, why this?”
“No time, just go, I have to get the dog, hurry up, get out of here!”
Sarah barely makes it out of the house, coughing and crawling her way to the front door.
“Mom, mom, where are you?” Sarah turns around as the entire house collapses.
“Mom, no!” Sobbing, Sarah drops to her knees, glancing down at the seemingly meaningless can.
She peels back the lid, a USB stick labeled, “Family Photos”, and a roll of money lay inside the can. Fire raging in the background evaporates her tears faster than they can form.
“Get the fuck out of my spot!” Her crooked index finger waggles in Sarah’s face.
“Let me just grab my can, I know it’s around here somewhere.” Sarah gathers herself and makes her way towards the park.
What a dusty old bitch, amirite? The can jostles in her arm, glaring back at her.
“No, stop, she’s right. I was in her spot, and you don’t look much better.” She readjusts the can in the small of her arm, muffling him for now.
But that old bitch couldn’t take us, you know better than that. The can scrapes against her forearm.
“Landing in jail wouldn’t do us much good, they would throw you away, like trash. I can’t lose you too.” She sits on a beat up park bench.
The sides of the can are rusty, threatening to cut anyone who got too close. A faded label of a family of three running towards a large oak tree with a tire swing with a bright sunrise in the background. That’s all She ever wanted, were those carefree mornings back.
A truck whizzes by a wave of water engulfs her. Her clothes had just dried from last night’s rain. “Fuck you!” She calls after the yellow and red box truck with the pompous portrait of a man with an overpriced monocle glaring from the back of it.
She brushes herself off and stamps off down the sidewalk.
“My can!” Sarah rushes back to the bench.
I can’t believe you left me on that disgusting bench.
Never forget, don’t let it happen again.
Sarah’s eyes focus on the horizon, eyes heavy from lack of nutrition. It was a cool September evening, the sun just setting out of view.
“I’m sorry” Sarah grabs the can and holds it to her chest, the fleeting smell of coffee and fire smoke still linger, reminding her of home. Her eyes slowly close against her best efforts.
Wake up, someone is coming.
Sarah opens her eyes; the park comes into view.
A large oak tree just on the other side of a damp stone walkway, a hard half broken park bench sits across from hers. A well-dressed couple meander over to the rusted park bench where Sarah is sitting.
“Can I help you?” Sarah asks, sliding her can close.
“I said can I help you, is this your bench or something?” She says louder, voice shaking.
Maybe we could rob them, they look rich, see if her purse is open.
Stop, we need to see what they want. Sarah muffles the can with her left arm.
“Well dear we were out here walking around and saw that you might need help, do you?” The woman moves towards Sarah’s bench.
Sarah flinches and stands, ready to run. She’s seen this scam before, people come and pretend to care then they rob you blind.
Not this time.
“Don’t worry dear.” A booming voice reverberates off the surrounding trees, “My name is Walter, and this is my wife Bonnie, we are the Mason family and we foster children that need help.”
Sarah’s shoulders relax slightly.
“I’m not a kid anymore, I’m seventeen, and I sure don’t need your help.” Sarah says, taking a few steps backwards looking around for bystanders.
We could rob them blind, think this through, look at his suit.
The man was dressed dapperly; a nice three piece suit topped with a golden monocle.
“Dear, we could help you get off the street, finish school—create a life for yourself.” Bonnie motions for Sarah to join her on the bench.
Sarah clutches the can to her chest again. “Am I free to leave if I don’t like it?”
“Of course,” Walter reaches out his hand.
Sarah takes his hand, her head finally quiet.
Sarah finishes top of her class as the Valedictorian.
“Let’s hear it for your Valedictorian, Sarah Mason.” The principal announces as Sarah makes her way to the podium delivering her speech.
“Our lives will never be the same, we have finished school, made friends and have a clear path to our future.”
The audience laughs.
“Now grab your tassels and move them to the left, Newington High, we did it!”
Sarah throws her cap, wind blowing her cap across the room.
That’s weird, why is there a breeze inside?
“Are you ignoring me you little bitch?” The crooked finger was still waggling in the girl’s face.
“S—sorry, I was distracted, I will move.” Sarah grabs her can, and makes her way down the street.
She sits on a bench just outside the local park. A large wave of water covers her as a large yellow van passes by.
“Fuck y—” Sarah’s eyes widened.
A dapper man with a golden monocle stared back at her, W.B Mason engraved on the back.
Sarah screams, tears forming in her eyes, “It wasn’t real you lied to me, I have nothing left but loose change.”
And me of course, you’ll always have me. The can jostles in her arms.
Sarah throws the can, cutting her finger on the jagged lid, “Fuck you!”
Photo credit: Metin Ozer, Unsplash.com; Amazon.com. Illustration: Danny Contreras
Mello Lonergan is a writer who loves creating unique pieces of fiction and poetry. He hopes to become a creative writing instructor one day. He is a student at Central Connecticut State University.