by Dan Crawley

Maddie placed a dime on the counter and Robby dropped down a nickel. The lady at the register picked up the dime and slid the nickel over to Maddie. They both received large gumballs. Robby’s ball was green, and he held it tight in his fist. Maddie’s was blue, and she watched the ball rock slightly back and forth in the small palm of her hand and told her cousin it looked like a shiny little blue world. She popped it into her mouth. Robby accused Maddie of stealing his nickel and cried as they walked across the shimmering asphalt.

Back inside Uncle’s car, Maddie explained to Robby’s dad how the lady made change. “What’re you saying?” Uncle said, annoyed. “Get rid of all that gum in your mouth.” After slowly spitting the gum into Uncle’s flat hand, Maddie tried to speak up again, but Robby cried loudly like a siren with hiccups. So Uncle threw the squashed wad of pale blue out the driver’s side window. “Give me Robby’s nickel,” Uncle said. Now his flat hand was a lonesome topography, parched and cracked and sprouting occasional dust devils, its wasteland stretching as far as Maddie could see. “You should be ashamed, little girl.”

At home, Mother said, “Nothing we can do. The Uncles and Robbys get their way every damn time.”

“Till everybody in this world doesn’t let them,” Maddie said.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash