The late summer sun crawled at the back of her neck and her flip-flop feet clung to the pedals of her hot pink bicycle. Her mousey brown hair was tied up into a pony tail and her sky blue shorts and tank top were doing their best to fight the heat. She was knocking at the door of her early teenage years, and with teenage years came more responsibility. Or so her ma said.
“I need you to take your bike to the store and get me a few things. We need bread…lunchmeat…toothpaste…cereal…chips…are you writing this down?” Ma punctuated each of her list items with another puff of her cigarette. There was a haze of smoke lingering around her face; a face deeply lined with years of hard living.
“No.” The girl in the blue shorts had said. Then she had scrambled through the haze over to the telephone table, where a pack of yellow post-its sat next to a plastic cup full of pencils.
“Oh…and a two-liter of orange pop. Don’t forget that. Your Dad’ll have a fit without it.” Ma never looked at her once while she made her list. She just sat slumped on the sofa, cigarette between her fingers, The Price is Right shouting from the television in front of her. Her boney ankles were propped up on the coffee table, feet barely grazing the ash tray. The girl in the blue shorts sometimes wished that her ma was different – more like other moms she had met – but at least daytime Ma was better than nighttime Ma. Daytime Ma was in a cigarette-filled haze, but nighttime Ma dipped into worse things after the kids went to bed. Bottles and bottles of alcohol. Needles. Ma thought that the girl in the blue shorts didn’t know. But she knew.
So she had found herself on her hot pink bicycle, flip-flop feet clinging to the pedals, two bright yellow plastic dollar store bags hanging precariously from the handle bars. She rolled down the sidewalk, past houses with well-manicured lawns and flower pots peering out of windows, and wondered what it was like inside of those houses. Were they as happy and carefree as they looked? Or did a heavy haze eat away at their insides, too?
Then, it happened: One of her plastic bags fell from the handle bars and smacked down onto the sidewalk. The bottle of orange pop rolled out onto the cement. She sighed and climbed off her bike, picked up the pop and dropped it back into the bag next to the toothpaste and the box of cereal. But the weight of the orange pop was too much for it now. The dollar store bag, already weakened by the fall, gave up entirely. The bottom split and dropped all of its contents onto the ground.
“Crap!” She picked up the pieces, sticking the toothpaste into the other sack and cradling the box of cereal and the orange pop in one arm. She would have to push the bike forward with the other arm. It was going to be a long, hot walk.
She passed a couple of houses before it happened. The unwieldy two liter of orange pop slipped from her arm and fell to the ground again. She picked it back up, wishing to herself that such stupid things as big bottles of pop and cheap plastic bags and Mothers who didn’t care about anyone but themselves had never existed. She cradled it in her arm again, and pushed the hot pink bicycle forward.
Then it happened again, on the corner next to the video store. The orange pop slipped from her once more. She sighed and let bike, remaining sack, and cereal drop to the ground next to it. She pulled her phone out of her pocket. There was no way she was going to make it home anytime soon like this. She would have to call Ma to come and pick her up. She punched in the number for home.
Meanwhile, back at the house, the phone rang. But no one heard it. Ma lay in a heavy sleep on the sofa, the talking head on the news announcing an approaching rain cloud from the t.v. set, the haze floating above her head, her cigarette burning a hole in the yellowed upholstery.
The girl in the blue shorts sat next to her hot pink bike, phone in hand, and waited.
(Note: Just a bit of fiction for y’all today – because sometimes I get to see tiny pieces of people’s lives and I like to let my imagination fill in the blanks. Forgive me girl in the blue shorts; I wish you far better things than this.)