Travis Garner Flash Fiction Finalist, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
Like Pocket Lint
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out the handful of coins I’d scavenged from the ground outside a drive-thru window. Mostly pennies and dimes. One beat-up loonie. I slide them across the corner store counter toward Mr. Warnaki. I’m thirty-six cents short. Checking my pocket again reveals only a wad of grey pocket lint. I like lint. It's always there. Consistent. Reliable. Like my mom… Sheepishly, I ask, "You take lint?" Mr. Warnacki exhales, smiling softly. "Just this once." I hand him the lint but he hesitates before giving me the bag with the milk and diapers, "How come you're not in school?" "No school today," I lie. He stares and I shift from one foot to the other, my eyes on the frayed green threads of his apron strap. I wish he would just give me the bag. Finally he nods. I don’t know if he believes me but he slides me the bag without any more questions. The doorbell jingles as I leave. I feel bad about lying. Truth is, I'm not very good at school. At least, I don't think so. I don’t go very much. I once overheard Ms. Palone telling another teacher that class runs better if I'm not there. When I get home Molly is crying. Probably needs a diaper change, but maybe she's just hungry. I put the milk in the fridge so it doesn't go bad and grab a diaper. In the bedroom I find Molly holding the bars of her crib, her face red and wet. Mom's there too, leaning against the headrest. Her eyes stare at the ceiling like it’s some sort of movie. On the bed beside her lies the needle. Reliable as pocket lint.