“Three of Us” Chapter Three

I woke up this morning from the smell of something hot, warm, and sticky. Opening my eyes, I saw Zach coming in with those doughnuts in the bakery display rack.

“They’re real?” I asked, throwing off the covers in delight. “I thought they were just for show!”

“Think again,” Zach smiled.

Alex awoke too, her face brightening as soon as she saw the box. Alex was never one for stealing (if you want to call it that). But I think the gooey chocolate glaze shining through the box made her forget about it. Zach had also brought napkins and a couple of those small Borden’s milk bottles. Alex went to dry some glasses she had washed in the sink in the back of the storeroom.

“How’d you get out this morning?” I asked, taking a bite of the first one. It was SO good.

“Walking,” Zach replied.

“No,” I said with a mouthful. “I mean, was nobody out today?”

“In the Refrigerator Room? Nope. Completely empty. Plus the bakery was really crowded. I got out and nobody noticed.”

“Typical Saturday,” I remarked. I stopped there, though, ‘cause Zach and I started to stare at Alex, who was stuffing her face. She looked up, smiled, and continued. Then she started her second one.

Alex loves doughnuts. It’s an obsession, really. When Alex’s grandmother took her to a doughnut shop, they sat right next to the see-through window, where you could see the doughnuts being made. I guess her grandma really didn’t know how doughnuts were made. Maybe it was before her time. Anyways, she saw how they go through the hot oil and all the glaze and icing and stuff. Now that I think about it, maybe seeing how something is made isn’t the best advertisement.

She started freaking out. She didn’t let Alex have doughnuts after that.

“She was one of those women with nutrition obsession,” Alex had told me. “She made me eggs and oatmeal every morning instead.”

Oatmeal. Yeah. Don’t take it personally, but…hot, brown, sloppy goop for breakfast? Let’s bring in chicken feed while we’re at it.

We watched Alex while finishing up our own doughnuts. My fingers were sticky but delicious. We had eaten them all. Two chocolates, a lemon, two jelly-filled, and a glazed. The chocolates were the best. But chocolate’s always the best. Who can go wrong with chocolate, seriously?

Zach, afterwards, took up his wallet (there’s nothing in it, but he finds change on the streets occasionally), and picked up the box. It was too nice outside to be cooped up in a storeroom all day. Alex grabbed her journal and gel pen, and also a book of quotes by famous men. You know, like Ben Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Napoleon and stuff? Alex will quote it sometimes and then watch to see if we smile or even acknowledge that it’s from her book. We never do. Poor chick.

Oh, I guess I do have a hobby I forgot to mention. I like drawing a lot. But I don’t do people. I like doing scenery. I don’t know. It’s something I’ve always liked doing. I don’t like to call it a hobby, though, ‘cause I don’t do it all the time. But…I guess you could count it. I’m pretty good, at least Alex says so. Zach likes my stuff too, but I can never tell if he’s just being nice. That’s what I grabbed before I left the storeroom: my bag, with my notebook, pencils and erasers. My notebook is filling up. I’m going to have to get some colored pencils soon. All my pictures need color.

There’s a maze of halls and a few steps here and there on our way to the Refrigerator Room. Zach came in front, and he slowly cracked the heavy metal door. It was empty. The cold air instantly ran through my body. It always aggravates me when I feel the cold of milk. It just doesn’t feel right. I’d never work at a grocery store.

Dodging crates and carts, we reached the door that will enter into the store. The bright yellow-tinted light blinded us for a moment. There were few shoppers around, which was good. As inconspicuously as possible, we reached the front of the store without much delay. The problem with the milk section is that it’s in the way back of the store. So we have to pass all of the isles of bread, canned stuff, and everything else on the left. Plus all the clothes and other things are on the right. And that’s just on one side of the building. Then all the cash registers are in front, passed the bakery and produce isles. McDonald’s is right in front by the doors. Yeah, a frappe sounded pretty good. But we had to get outside before being asked why we were in Wal-Mart at nine in the morning.

Can you tell we’ve lived here for a while?

It was so nice outside today. We passed the parking lot to go out to the park. Central Lake is not far from the Wal-Mart. Down one of those nicely-paved cement roads, with the nice street lamps, there’s a grassy green hill leading down to the boardwalk. All the mallards are down there. And there are a couple geese that nest near the bridge, which is further down. People come down here all the time. They run with iPods in their ears, walk with strollers or fiancées.

Alex, Zach, and I find a bench by the grass overlooking the lake.  We’re talking the entire way there. And sitting on the bench doesn’t prevent us continuing. Alex and I sit on the bench, while Zach spreads out on the grass, his hands beneath his head, looking up at the sky.

“Hey! You three!”

We turned. Approaching us with a scowl was a short woman with extremely fat hips and bust, but a skinny middle. She had red frizzy hair, and a horrible pimple in a noticeable place on her cheek. She stomped forward as we stared, secretly panicking. She had uniform on.

That’s right. I remembered. The area around the Wal-Mart is currently having police secure the area. I think there were some break-ins or something like that, so police are everywhere, like little annoying flies.

“What are you three doing out of school?” she demanded.

Pause.

“It’s Saturday,” I said.

“Does that mean you don’t have homework?” she still persisted.

“Does that mean we can’t go outside?” Zach asked sarcastically. She glared at him. At first I really thought she was going to eat him.

“Look,” Zach gestured around. “There’re parents with their kids all over the place. Why don’t you go pick on them too?”

“You three look suspicious to me,” she snarled.

We paused. I decided to let Zach do the talking, since he always has the best lines up his sleeves. And Alex wouldn’t talk back to a police officer if her life depended on it. So I just shut my mouth.

“We’re not doing anything!” Zach said. “How can we look suspicious?”

The policeman…woman, sorry…just glared at him.

“I’m watching you,” she growled.  And she was off.

It was weird, I won’t lie about it. Not only was she the ugliest woman I had ever seen, she was the meanest too. Come on, we’re twelve! We can’t be out by the lake on a Saturday?

It was a long time before conversation started up again. Alex started writing in her journal, and I start outlining the edge of the lake on my notepad. There’s no telling how many times I’ve drawn the lake, but I always seem to find something new about it each time.

The ducks quacked loudly below us.

“Did you bring bread?” Alex asked Zach. He shrugged.

“Nobody asked me to.”

Pause.

“Did you bring an iPod or something?” he asked.

“Oh please,” Alex retorted. “You’re so social—sticking head phones in your ears when we’re both right here.”

“Well you aren’t talking!” Zach said. “Besides, you guys have stuff to do.”

“It’s your fault for not bringing anything,” Alex remarked. Zach smirked.

“Go swim or something,” I suggested.

“Nah,” he said. “Don’t feel like it.”

Pause.

“This is pretty relaxing, though,” he remarked, stretching again. Letting out a breath, he finished, “not that bad.”

“Well it’s not going to last all day,” Alex said. “I think you should find something useful to do.”

“Thank you, Mother Killjoy.”

“Well you should.”

“Why?” Zach asked. “This is productive. My insides are calling out. Hear ‘em?” He contorted his mouth, making his voice sound high pitched and small: “We love sun. We like chill-axation. Keep doing nothing. Keep doing nothing…”

Alex rolled her eyes. I was just capturing the arch of the bridge on my paper as we all lapsed into silence again. As I studied the boardwalk for its beginning, I saw men with briefcases, groups of women running together. I saw a street clean-up girl and a couple employees from the pizza place down the road having lunch by the goose nest.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked suddenly. Zach glanced at me as if to say, ‘Where did that come from?’

“An author,” Alex replied promptly, without looking up. “I’ve come up with several story ideas. And if I worked hard enough I could probably turn it into poetry. I’m still working out the climax on one. It isn’t strong enough. It needs more meaning.”

“Make two guys fight over a girl,” Zach said impassively. “That always makes things interesting.” Alex ignored him.

Zach writes. But not very often. His stories are short and depressing. They usually end in decapitations and incinerations.

“Journalism would be interesting,” Alex continued, still writing, “and so would screenplay writing.”

“That’s gotta be easier than newspaper writing,” Zach remarked.

“Not really,” Alex mused. “It’s harder to know what looks good on a movie.”

Zach shrugged. Alex and I both know what he wants to do: video games. It’s the one thing he likes especially and the one thing he’d like as a job. He’s not getting very far though—he’s not in school. He says he’ll get a job at a video game store and start from there. But what he doesn’t realize is that he needs qualifications. I don’t think he thinks much of the future.

“What do you wanna do, Chrissy?” Alex inquired.

Finally, I tore myself from my paper. What did I want to do? The first thing that always came to mind was an artist, since drawing had always appealed to me. But now I thought of the future differently.

“I don’t know,” I said. But I turned quickly before Alex had time to scold me. “Not a police officer.” We laughed.

~J.L. Cordova

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