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Contemporary Fiction

It started with a green jacket. 

It was that kind of early spring day that makes you want to pretend it is much warmer than it is. So when Lindsay got up that morning, she dressed in bright colours and as she headed out the door to the coffee shop, she paused, hand hovering over her warm black trench. Impulsively, she reached further in the closet and grabbed the green jacket. 

Wearing the springy colour put an extra bounce in her step, which was just as well, since it was actually still chilly. She got to the cafe a bit earlier than usual, and wound up in a line. She looked around her and noted one of the homeless people she often passed standing outside. When it was her turn to pay, she stuck her hand in the jacket pocket and suddenly remembered her wallet was still in her other coat. But wait… a crunched up $20 bill was wadded into the pocket, a forgotten relic from last summer. 

Elated, Lindsay paid for her mocha, bought a bun for Jacques, the homeless guy, and paid for the next person’s order. 

Toby got to the counter, and blinked in confusion when the lady handed him his bagel and tea and told him to have a nice day. That lady paid, she added, pointing out the door to a young Black lady offering a homeless guy food. 

By the time he had sugared his tea, she was gone. His phone jiggled in his pocket. Andrew, texting him the location of the meeting later. “Might not make it,” he texted back. That bunch were so negative. It was nice to have some guy friends, but they wanted to go troll some BLM protesters and he didn’t feel quite right about it. He sipped his tea. Maybe the green jacket lady had been a message from the universe. 

He gathered his things and headed out. Half his bagel was left. Another homeless person had taken a spot outside the shop. “Hey man, you want this?” Toby offered. The young man’s eyes widened and he said thank you. He didn’t look like he had been on the street long. He was in shirt sleeves. Toby was wearing his old hoodie over his flannel shirt. He pulled the hoodie off and handed it to the kid. He walked on towards work, feeling chilly but light. 

Zack was bewildered by the kindness of the stranger. Honestly, he usually avoided eye contact with the neck tattoo crowd. Since he’d been evicted over the weekend, he’d been cold, beaten up, yelled at and confused. He noticed people had stopped making eye contact. He was pretty sure he smelled.

There was a shelter 12 blocks away. Maybe he should head there. Get some help. This was not about whether he was tough enough. No one was tough enough. 

He pulled himself upright, slowly eating the bagel half in small bites to make it last. 

With the hoodie wrapped around him, enveloped in the strange man’s smell, he felt resolved. Deep in one pocket, he found an old dime. Heads, he went to the shelter. Tails, he called home. He flipped the dime and it rolled away down the hill. He shrugged. He’d call from the shelter. 

Carlos was deep in thought as he walked past the brick office buildings and the marble bank steps. What was his next step? Should he drop out of school? Minna said she was preggers. Should he marry her? 

Nah, that was a stupid idea. Neither of them was yet 22. Marriage was a terrible idea. Did she want the baby? Did he want a baby? Where would he work? He tried to imagine life as a dad. He couldn’t. There was a ruckus behind him, but as he heard it, his eye caught a glint of metal on the ground. A dime had rolled off the sidewalk and partly under a bush.

Ten times the luck, he thought, something he had heard his mom say a bunch of times. 

As he bent and reached, he heard a distinct BANG, and footsteps. He flattened to the ground. A police officer hurled by him, feet thump thump thumping as he ran. Another stopped and grabbed the collar of his jacket, pushing Carlos further to the ground. 

DON’T MOVE, yelled the cop and Carlos put his hands gingerly up, felt his heart thudding against the pavement. The cop's need was on his back, gun drawn. 

“That ain’t him, miss,” a ragged-looking man waving half a cinnamon bun rolled into view. “Your dude was taller. He got in a car back there.”

The running cop was returning, sucking air and looking cross. “Stay back, sir!” he hollered at the street person. “That’s not him, Laurie.”

Laurie’s body was still taut. Carlos could almost smell the adrenaline. “Why were you crawling under that bush!?” she yelled at Carlos. 

“I--I saw a dime! Ten times the luck, you know?” Laurie took a deep breath and removed the gun from his back. Carlos quickly grabbed the dime and held it up. “See?”

“Sorry for the trouble. Did you see someone go by?” As Carlos shook his head, the street person yelled, “FJL 2308! White Nissan! Hatchback!” He was pointing down a cross street. 

The police turned and actually looked at him. “Tell us what you saw.”

Carlos dusted himself off. It seemed he was free to go, that was it.

He and Minna would figure stuff out. He wouldn’t drop out of law school. Maybe he could get a part time job at the shelter. 

He came up to the public fountain. A young mother was trying to keep her toddler from climbing into the fountain as a slightly older girl pulled at her hand.

“I want to wish, Mommy, I need a money! I wanna buy a wish.”

“You don’t need money to wish, Tina.” She rolled her eyes. “More like you wish for money.” 

Tina must have seen a wishing fountain on a television show, because she clearly knew how it was supposed to work. “No, mommy, I need a shiny money.”

Carlos knelt and handed the girl the dime. “This money is extra lucky. You can make TWO wishes with it!” The mother smiled gratefully at him. 

“THANK YOU!” yelled the girl as she grabbed the dime and ran to the fountain edge. She tightly closed her eyes and turned in a circle three times. Then she stopped and threw the dime like it was the opening pitch in a Little League game. 

“I WISH…” her eyes were still scrunched up. “I WISH everybody would get along.”

Wise wish, little one, thought Carlos. 

“That’s so nice, Tina!” said her mother. “Do you have another wish? The man was right, you probably can get two for that money.”

“No,” said Tina.  “One wish is enough.” She smiled beatifically and handed her brother a dandelion. 

May 28, 2021 15:29

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