By Kelly Whitley
Think of Robbie.
Shoving his conscience into the closet of justification, he tucked the package of Twinkies under his jacket, keeping his gaze fixed on the fisheye mirror in the corner of the convenience store. Jay’s stomach growled in frustration from two days without food. He couldn’t feed Robbie flour and Crisco.
Saliva filled his mouth as he anticipated the sweetness of the yellow cake and its fluffy cream filling. As he sauntered toward the clerk, Jay kept his arm pulled against his side to support the purloined snack against his ribs.
Nearly to the door. The clerk snapped her gum, then narrowed her eyes. “Hey kid. Whatcha got under your jacket?”
Jay’s eyes popped wide, and he bolted for the front door with everything his nine year-old legs could give. It swung inward, knocking him backward. White light exploded behind his eyes as his skull contacted the tile floor. Pain stole his breath.
A hand tangled in the front of his shirt and yanked him to his feet. The twin pack of Twinkies skittered across the tile. A hulk of an adult in a Loomis General Store apron loomed over him.
“Where ya going, ya skinny runt? Stealing from my store, are ya?”
Jay’s legs turned to cooked spaghetti, leaving him dangling from the man’s fist.
Behind the counter, the clerk goggled at the two of them, gaze volleying from Jay to the man. “Want me to call the cops, Mr. Loomis?”
No! He couldn’t get arrested. He had to get home to feed Robbie. He was only three, couldn’t get food for himself. The man flumped Jay onto the floor, propping him against the checkout counter.
Scrabbling in his pocket, Jay pulled out two pennies, a quarter, and his cat’s eye marble and offered them to the man. “That’s all I got, mister. Please, lemme go.”
Mr. Loomis parked his hands on his hips.
“Pleeassse, mister.” Jay levered himself upright against the counter. The ache in his head brought tears to his eyes. “I’ll never come in here again, I swear.”
The bell over the door jangled, taking Mr. Loomis’s attention. Jay raced for freedom, blowing by the startled woman. He crossed the parking lot and street in the space of a few heartbeats, and pounded through the empty field toward home. Beneath his shirt, the package of bacon poked him in the ribs.
This ought to last a few days. Maybe Mom would come back from her vacation by then. She’d never left them alone longer than a week.
Otherwise, he’d try the Gas ‘n Go.
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Copyright © 2011 Kelly Whitley
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.