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“4.27”

by J. McDougald

How could four dollars and twenty seven cents make someone feel so bad? the twelve year old asked himself, looking down at a scattering of change on the desk in his bedroom. It was just two bucks even now, the rest was already spent.

Jeremy took a sad glance at the tiny paper bag sitting near the change. He felt no more like opening the bag and eating its candy-contents any more than he wanted to do his homework or play outside with his stupid sister. As far as the little boy was concerned that candy was rotten, spoiled, tainted.

As he looked again at the little brown sack he wanted to want it. The big Double Bubble pieces of gum, the jaw breaker, the sour gummys, the single Twizzler coiled up so it would fit inside, the gummy bears, the Gob-Stoppers, and especially those blue gummy whales. The fat little whales were his favorite. Even the fact that they were whales, who wouldn’t want to chomp the head off one of those things? When eating those particular sweets he sometimes pretended to be an impossibly gigantic killer whale, or a Great White Shark, sometimes even a giant squid.

He’d managed to get the first of the five blue whales down, halfway through the second one he’d stopped. The thought of what he’d done had somehow ruined the taste of the treat, his all time favorite treat. Now the remaining rear-half of the blue whale sat atop the other candy in the bag like the remains of a deep-sea attack washed up on a beach of corn starch and sugar, big tooth marks and all.

He looked glumly towards them again, hidden inside their brown paper cocoon.

Maybe I’ll go play outside.

You know what you have to do, a voice admonished.

Maybe they’ll taste better after I play some video games.

Jeremy, you know what you have to do.

He hated the way that inner voice always sounded like his mom, as if there was no escape from the woman. A pitched battle raged between the mother-voice and the video-game voice, but as usual Mom won. The little boy sighed to himself then headed downstairs to his doom.

#

A hundred a twenty dollars for the gas bill? Do we have the Olympic flame bolted to the side of the house or something?

Sitting at the small desk in their bedroom Myra glared at the gas bill as if to frighten it into being smaller, it didn’t work and so she wrote out the check.

What a bunch of thieves.

There was a soft knock on the frame of the open door and the mother of two turned to see her son at the door. He was frowning, looking somber.

“What did you do?” she asked in a gentle but still accusatory tone. The guilt on the boys face quadrupled and she thought if it hung any lower it would fall off his head. She smiled and patted one of her legs. “Come’ere, it can’t be that bad.”

The little boy reluctantly walked over to his mother and allowed himself to be pulled close so she could put an arm around his tiny shoulders.

“I did something bad,” he said, unable to look into his moms eyes.

Myra couldn’t believe it was anything too serious. Jeremy just wasn’t the kind of kid who got into Big Trouble, only little trouble, small “l” small “t”.

“Alright, spit it out Jeremy. What happened?”

The boy looked up at her and their eyes met. It took a moment to build up the courage but finally he spoke.

“You know when we were at Aunt Lynn’s yesterday helping them clean up the garage?”

“Uh huh,” his mom replied.

“Well I found something in the pocket of one of her old coats.”

“What did you find?” the woman prodded gently.

The boy paused. “Four dollars and twenty seven cents. I just took it and didn’t tell anyone.”

It took everything the woman had in her to keep from laughing. They had been throwing that old stuff into the trash so if he hadn’t found it the change would’ve ended up in the dump. She was really proud of him for fessing up to what would have been the perfect crime, but still saw it as a chance to teach him a lesson about doing the right thing.