I have begun storing my loose change – tucked away under various surfaces and containers - in my basement. A fact my mother just discovered during her recent visit (my washer and dryer are located in the basement). She says I’m becoming more and more like my grandfather who apparently hid his loose change in the garage. She places all the change that she finds in a Ziploc baggy, a fact that perturbs me because she’s disrupting my natural order, but I don’t let on. She counts all the change and announces that I have $6.10, jangling the coins in the bag triumphantly.
“Good,” is all I can think to say.
“If I find more, maybe we can go out to dinner,” she says.
“We can go out to dinner if you want,” I say.
“Joke,” she says.
“We can go to that place up on Marigold Street, the one you like,” I say.
“You like it too,” she says.
“Not my point,” I say.
The walk up to the restaurant is nice. A calm breeze blows small bits of trash up the street with us as we walk. Kids ride their bikes along the sidewalks and across the street, wending and looping like small human roller coasters. One girl stops and says to me, “I like your shoes.”
“Thanks,” I say, glancing down at them. She speeds off after her friend.
“Do you know her?” my mother asks.
“Why would I know her?” I say.
“I dunno,” she says. “I just thought maybe you did.”
We get to the restaurant and take a seat on the outdoor patio, which sits flush against the sidewalk. The restaurant is in a so-so area of town, on a street busy with both car and pedestrian traffic. A boy rides his bike past a man and woman who are seated at the table closest to the sidewalk. The boy says to the woman, “eww, you smell like fish.”
She flushes red and both she and the man look mortified. The boy on the bike lets out a crude little laugh as he rides away, sniggering at the couple over his shoulder. I watch the boy fade off down a side street, then offer, “the kids around here are assholes. This is all they have.”
The woman laughs nervously, and my mom says, “Erika.”
I shrug. “They are,” I say. “If I had a stick I’d find that kid and jam it into his bike tire.” My mother widens her eyes at me.
“What?” I say. “That kid was an asshole.” She shakes her head.
“And you were always a saint?”
“That’s not what I said.”
My mother laughs.
The waiter comes over and we both order cocktails. A mojito for her; an amaretto sour for me. The couple pays their check as our drinks are served. The man says something to the waiter.
“Yeah,” I hear the waiter say to him, “some of these kids are really rotten.”
“Of course,” I say to my mother, “we are targets sitting right here, eating and drinking on the street.”
“Let it go,” she says.
I sip my drink. “What? I’m not harping.”
“Alright,” she says.
But I am obsessing on that kid. I keep hoping that I’ll see him ride back and get hit by a car coming out of the parking lot. It could easily happen. The cars go too fast and no one pays any attention.
I lean back in my chair.
“I don’t think I want to live in a city anymore,” I say.
“You never wanted to live in a city to begin with,” my mother says.
“I should move. I need to make more money.”
“You know,” my mother says, “you never hear any birds around here.”.
“They only come here to shit. Then they leave,” I say.
“Really,” my mother says flatly.
“I think I’m unhappy,” I say.
“You’d never be able to guess,” she says.
“Let’s go to the CVS after this so I can buy aspirin,” I say. “I’m all out and it’s just up the block.”
We mosey up to the CVS after we finish dinner and have coffee. The street is relatively quiet given that it’s only 8 PM. Two young men sit parked inside an old Honda with the music turned way up. The bass vibrates the car. I look at both men briefly, but they stare straight ahead.
My mother says, “that used to be my car.”
“Yours was green,” I say.
“But it was like that,” she says.
“It was a Honda Accord, yes.”
Later that night I lie in my bed and listen to the cars whizzing past. At first, I try and keep count of the number of cars I hear, but then I doze off. I startle myself awake a few hours later, and am unable to fall back to sleep. Outside, it is still very dark. I check my cell phone. 3:54. I hear my mother lightly snoring. I notice now that I have a headache. I pad downstairs in the dark to get some aspirin. I take a seat at the kitchen table with a glass of water and swallow three blue pills. My cat winds her way around my legs, purring. I bend down to scratch her head, but my touch scares her and she skitters off. I sit at the table for another few minutes then go into the living room. I debate whether or not I should stay awake. I walk over to the window and push the curtain aside. One streetlight, which looms like a giant at this empty hour, flickers before finally going out. I let the curtain drop back into place, grateful now for the relative quiet.
About the Author: Cara Long currently lives in New York State, though not New York City. She has written short fiction on and off (mostly off) for the past fourteen years.