“Three of Us” Chapter Two

Nope. That wasn’t a type-o or anything. We really do live in Wal-Mart. There’s a storage area in the bottom basement that nobody uses or goes into anymore. I think it was supposed to be for the pharmacy, ‘cause there’s expired aspirin, Tylenol, and boxes of syringes and those stretchy gloves that all the doctors use. Plus all the boxes say “Wal-Mart Pharmacy” on the front. That definitely has nothing to do with it.

All there is down there are boxes, cement floor with stains and dents all over it, and a single light bulb hanging on a long string from the ceiling. It’s the only light in there that still works. It’s a pretty small storeroom. Maybe that’s why no one used it. There’s a bunch of other storerooms on the first floor that are loads bigger than this one. This one’s hardly bigger than my bedroom.

How’d we find it? I don’t know. Zach just brought me here after I left, and Alex joined us a year later. We’ve been here ever since. No school to do and no chores to finish. As long as we’re not caught, we can take whatever we want from the store. It’s harder than it looks though. The same three kids roaming around the store with a bunch of food and stuff—that’s not conspicuous at all. Nice thing about it, though, is that we don’t have to avoid security systems and stuff. Since the storeroom is in Wal-Mart’s basement, then the food is not technically outside the store. Plus, it’s not technically not stealing…’cause it’s still inside the actual building itself. So we’re good.

Zach’s bed is in the right corner. Four stacks of boxes are right on beside each other, and its two rows wide. There’s about six or seven boxes in each stack for our beds. His head is basically at the ceiling. But he manages. Alex’s is in the opposite corner. Hers is only two stacks of boxes high and wide. She likes the low-bed feel. My stack of boxes is at the foot of Zach’s. Three box stacks high and two wide. We use blankets and pillows from the home décor section. My stuff is all blue (my favorite color). Zach’s is…gray. He didn’t have much of a preference. So that’s what we got. And Alex’s is that annoying maroon red that she just “loves”. Oh well. At least I’m not sleeping under it.

In the middle of all our box stacks is the boring cement floor. The door the storeroom is right beside my bed. We don’t have any furniture down there. Come on, who is seriously not going to stop a kid trying to get a reading chair downstairs?

It’s not that hard to get down here, actually. It’s just the fact that we might get caught that prevents us from doing more with the room. The door to the big storage area is by the dairy section. You’ve probably seen the creepy hand from behind the glass door putting milk cartons on the rack. That’s it. Sneaking in there is the hard part. Usually, around lunchtime and dinnertime, it will be completely deserted. When that happens, we go in there (it is freezing, by the way. We call it the Refrigerator Room). Then near the back there’s another door. The hallway connects to another inventory room with wheat and bread stuff, but right off the door is one that leads to the basement. They don’t store in the basement anymore. They only used it while they we’re building the main inventory rooms. Zach, Alex, and my room is the one the furthest down the farthest hall. I won’t spill the beans on exactly which hall. It’s a maze down there. And it wouldn’t be fun if everybody knew their way through it.

There have been close calls, I must admit. One night we heard footsteps coming down the hallway. We all started freaking out. We tore off our pillows and blankets and through them in a corner, behind some more boxes. Trying to make it look like they weren’t neatly organized, we pushed boxes over in the middle of the room. We did it as quickly and as quietly as we could. By the time the door handle jiggled, we shut off the single light bulb and dived behind boxes. We didn’t hide altogether. Alex suggested that just in case one of us was caught. The door opened. I never really knew who it was. It was dark, I couldn’t see, and it’s not like I was going to risk my cover to find out. Whoever it was, it just opened the door and closed it. We waited for a long time before the footsteps weren’t there anymore.

After that night we didn’t take the deserted hallway for granted. We became more on our guard. That must have been a month ago. We haven’t had a trauma like that since. Zach was so skittish after that night, though. Alex and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Zach’s a pretty tough guy. Yes, he does have feelings. But he doesn’t express them often—much like a guy. That night, though, and during the next couple days, he wouldn’t stop acting so stressed out.

“I just don’t wanna be caught,” he kept saying as fast as he could.

The words kind of slurred together, so it took us a while to figure it out. Well sure, none of us want to be caught. But this was strange. It took us several days to finally calm him down and get him back to his normal self. One night while Alex was outside the storeroom, I asked him why he was so stressed out. Zach and I are good friends. He confides in me, and vice versa. We all do, really. But I knew Zach wouldn’t have a personal reason not to tell me. ‘Cause he’s comfortable around me.

But he just said the same thing. “I just don’t wanna get caught. This is where we stay, and no one’s gonna change that. And if someone drags us away and tries to make us live somewhere else, I’m just gonna come right back here.”

“But Zach we can’t stay here for the rest of our lives!” I said. I agreed with him, but this one thought keeps coming back. “What about when we’re all grown up too big for this room? What then?”

“I don’t know!” he shot back, out of stress, not anger. “I don’t wanna look that far ahead. But for now, we can’t get caught.”

“Why not?” I asked. “Sure I wanna stay here too. But why should this be more important to you?”

Zach didn’t answer. I didn’t push it. He looked tired anyway.

That was the last time we talked about it. That being about a month ago, I don’t want to approach the subject again anytime soon. I don’t know why he hates it so much. It’s plain and simple truth—we are going to grow up one day, we aren’t going to be able to stay in this storeroom forever, and we can’t ignore either of these facts! Alex is really the one that tries to persuade me and Zach to talk more about it. Being the mother of the three of us, she likes to be a killjoy. And she knows it. I hate talking about it almost as much as Zach. It’s fun staying here—it’s like the kid’s dream—always being on the run, stuff like that. I don’t want it to end. Zach thinks the same. But…somehow I think there’s also another reason for him.

Oh well. It doesn’t matter, at least not now. I’m just scared that by the time we do have to leave, Zach isn’t going to want to come with us. And that would be horrible. Alex and Zach are my best friends, and I would never want to split up. Surely he would never force us to leave him behind.

But those days are far from us now. I guess you want to know what in the world we do during the day. It’s true: we’re not in the actual store itself all the time. Sometimes we go out, get some fresh air and go to the park or something. It’s pretty free. We go over to the ducks down by Central Lake and feed them bread, talk, and hang out until nightfall. We have to be back by eight or so. That’s when there’s an employee change-out, and also one of the very few times the Refrigerator Room is completely empty.

Sometimes we just hang around the store. Zach plays on the Nintendo’s and Wii’s in the electronic section. Alex will spend all day in the book section, or else she’ll go out to the library (she has her old library card). Me? I don’t really have a favorite thing or hobby. I’m still trying to find it. I’ll usually tag along with Zach. But eventually, video games will get so boring. I actually really like music. I’ve listened to almost all the CDs that Wal-Mart carries. I’ve got a few favorite bands. As far as an obsession goes, I still have yet to find one.

We always have food. That’s needless to say. But I don’t think we’ve ever had an actual meal here. We always eat whatever we feel like. There’s a McDonald’s and a Starbuck’s inside the Wal-Mart. They let you pay for it at the register with your groceries. So we just have to get a handful of stuff in a shopping cart and pretend like we’re about to check out. And we can bring ordinary stuff down to the storeroom too—like bread, peanut butter, fruit, tortillas, chips, and other various things we feel like. Whatever dairy or ice cream we bring down though, it has to be in the small size. We don’t have a refrigerator to keep it in overnight. That’s usually not a problem, since we can go up and stock up again the next day.

Whatever it is—be it food, utensils, sheets, things to do, cosmetics, and even pajamas and new clothes—we got it. Pretty easy life, if I do say so myself.

~J.L. Cordova


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