Switch A Roo

Submitted by Christine Hungerford to Contest #18 in response to: Write a story about a character who buys a secondhand coat and then discovers something in the pocket.... view prompt

“Hey, I think we just passed a Thrift Store. Do you want to stop in there and try to find something to get?”

               My next-door neighbor, Jessica, and I were walking side-by-side on the sidewalk next to an extremely busy, death-by-zooming-car highway. Or least it was like it, the way each vehicles raced past me in a flurry of colors as I looked and watched a car dash past me and then back at Jessica. She was turning around.

               “Yeah.” She sighed.

               Okay. I thought, walking back towards the thrift store with her. If you don’t want to come, then don’t. I’m getting something here. If it’s cheap, then fine. But if Jessica felt reluctant or even begrudging to let us just go to the Thrift Store, then fine. But I was going to get a coat, jacket, parka—anything to cover myself.

               You see, my parents are not even rich enough to get me Christmas presents. I even had to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Jessica because we couldn’t afford food for this gloriously gratitude-filled duty.

               So we were on our way to coming up to some old, dirty, rain-stained looking boxes that held …

               I didn’t stick around to look. Instead, I jerked my shoulders up and down and found myself looking directly at a rack of jackets hanging from a silver hotel cart of a rack. I studied this part of the jacket’s life because I always made sure that the outer area was good before I really wanted what—

               “You gonna choose?” Jessica’s drawl was more syrupy slow than molasses.

               I turned to her and gave her my most you-are-disrespectful speech.

               “You know, I came here looking for a coat. Not just a raggedy coat I got for four years straight for the last twenty years of my life. But a real coat. Now,” I turned back to the rack, “if you don’t mind, I’d like to continue looking for a great coat to cover my T-shirt, ripped jean and soiled hat-covered self.”

               “Goldie, I invited you to my house for Thanksgiving, and this is how you treat me? I don’t think you should get that coat!”

               And she stormed away, stomping towards the sidewalk we were just standing on, and looked out towards the raging, zooming highway of cars whisking to the left and then the right. Any more of this road insanity and I dashed away from the Thrift Store and towards my neighbor.

               “What’s wrong?” I asked the obvious.

               “Goldie, I’m just…” Jessica sighed. “I just don’t understand why you need to take so long taking up time I have wth my life, you know? I mean, I do have a life—”

               Jessica, I would really like if you would be kind. Maybe if you be patient—

               “I’ve been patient…”

               But Jessica’s voice trailed off as I looked past her to a mother holding her son’s hand. They, or rather she, pounded the ground with her high-heels as she pulled the boy closer to her.

               “Excuse us!” She politely walked by us, but I couldn’t help hearing them talk about coats they’d like to get.

               “Something cool!” The kid hopped up and down.

               “Yes. Now, please hold my hand, as there are a lot of stuff over here…”

               The mother and son headed over to the same rack I studied. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, as I found myself staring at—

               I blinked. Then I noticed their backs to me. I jogged over there and stood right beside the mother.

               “Which coat do you enjoy most?” Her coffee-and-cream-colored face was slanted down towards her son, but he looked like he was thinking of something else.

               Just like Jessica, but a whole lot cuter.

               “I like…” The boy pointed with a limp, crooked finger towards one of them. Or maybe towards an empty one. Whatever he was pointing at, the boy wanted to think about whether he really wanted something instead of just accept whatever his mother bought him or he just wanted to get it done and over with. So he stood there, and I bent forward.

               “Hey.” I paid attention to the coats and saw a black jacket with a basketball picture sewn onto the left side. “Do you want to buy this one?” I pulled it out to show the seemingly kindergartener or first grader.

               He looked and then squinted a little at the picture and then really focused on the whole rack, as he stepped back with wide eyes and shot a solid finger towards one of the coats.

               “I want that one!” he exclaimed, and looked at his mother.

               “Okay!” she reached over with puffy cotton coat-covered arms and plucked the coveted treasure from the silver bar once holding the coat captive against people, leaving it to hang like it were a sorry prisoner—its prisoner. Once the mother and son thanked me for helping them and then walked around me towards the Thrift Store and then walked towards the store, hand in hand and the mother holding the jacket with the other hand.

               I turned back to the row of jackets and studied them, taking in the purple sports one and the lightning blue windbreaker. I really think I’d look awesomely cool—school speak for better than cool—in the lightning blue one. So I just grabbed it and carried it to the store. Passing the mother and her son, I said “You’re Welcome” in a cheery voice and then heard some commotion behind me.

               “What are you doing out here without your friend?” The mother asked Jessica.

               “Oh, I’m sure she is. She’s just a neighbor of mine.” Then, Jessica turned her head to look at me but quickly switched to the road again.

               What’s her problem? I asked myself, annoyed. I dashed in, bought the windbreaker and then scurried out with it on to go over there with her, the mother and the son. They were all there, but when the mother saw me, she murmured hurriedly, “Hope everything’s okay” and then told her son to hurry so they could get home quickly.

               “What’s with you?” I asked Jessica in frustration and contempt, knowing full well she’d have nothing to do with me because I was “being mean” to her. Where was she, in kindergarten?!

               “Nothing!” She spat out, but I kept going. Although I faintly felt my left thigh receive a regular blow from my coat, I ignored it. Jessica was more important than the coat’s beckoning to me, if it was so much more important than that woman standing in front of me!

               But since coats couldn’t talk, I decided to focus on Jessica.

               “What’s wrong?” I approached her with more concern.

               “Nothing. I just … I feel betrayed. You want me to come, and I don’t want to.” Her shoulders fell, and she sighed. “I’m bored. I just don’t want to…” Her voice trailed off. “I just don’t want to do what you want to do. There are so many other games for me to play.”

               “But it’s not like back in kindergarten where we could play Candy Land forever. I mean, we graduated high school last year. Meaning we were in college as freshmen. But although Jessica and I were attending the same college and we were walking to the Thrift Store which was so far away from our school—but it was a Saturday—she acted like she couldn’t even face me. Literally. It was like I was some stranger or some new kid coming to some random school from a totally different world.

               It’s like I was this person who didn’t know much English and was annoying or something.

               Since Jessica didn’t even answer—or rather, had a wimpy answer—I checked out what had hit me in the thigh. I dug in one of the pockets and discovered a stopwatch as I pulled it out and looked at it closely. Studying it, I squinted.

               “Hey, this is weird. I thought… I thought 12 goes before 1, not 5.”

               I raised it up for Jessica to get distracted, but she wouldn’t listen. Her face was still towards the raging cars seemingly racing each other home, work or wherever they go. “I want to go home. Back to the University of Baltimore.”

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