Atti looks at me with eyes that tell me he is hungry. I unbuckle him from his booster seat and tell him that I will give him some cereal when we get home. He smiles at me with his long lashes and the eyes of a doll. I don’t tell him that it will be dry because we have no milk. I don’t tell him that the WIC check isn’t coming for another week, or that the check in my bag, the one I need to deposit, will be spent within two days. I just tell him that we have “Bear Bear cereal,” because that’s what we call the knockoff Cheerio’s, and I like to see him smile. I hold his soft hand and we walk across the parking lot. I walk quickly, nearly faster than his little feet can go, because we don’t have much time.
Patricia asks me if I want a copy of my balance. She is behind the counter. Her hair is high and stiff, and she smells like she never says no to the women in the department stores who try to spray passersby with free samples of perfume. I tell her no thank you because I know it already, and I don’t need the added injury of seeing it too. She tells me that if I use the App, that I won’t overdraw like this. I look down at my shoes; bits of the pleather are worn down to gray at the edges of the toes and inner seems where my feet rub together when I walk too fast because I am always late, and I’ve seen it – the balance – anyhow.
I press enter twice like I am supposed to, and Atti pulls at my pocket. He wants a lollipop. I named him Atticus, after Atticus Finch, because he is a fair and just man, and he never gives up even when there is no hope at all. We never call him that though, because people always ask why. I don’t want to tell them that I read that book in the eighth grade, and one time I cried Bank of America in class when I had to read a passage aloud. I remember it was the part about having to shoot the rabid dog, and I remember that I didn’t cry because I was nervous or because my teacher was mean. I cried because I loved it. Because it was honest and good, and even then I was beginning to find out that honest and good were rare things to find. Instead, we just call him Atti, and people think we are calling him “Addy” with a “d”. They think he is a girl because he is small and pretty, and I keep his wavy brown hair kind of long. That, and he sometimes wears a pink or purple shirt that was his sister’s.
I take three lollipops, and Patricia looks at me with scorn in her eyes. She thinks that I have taken them all for Atti. I almost tell her that one is for Alaina and that the other is for me. I almost tell her that I wouldn’t have taken more than I needed, but I don’t because that would be a strange thing to say, and its nearly 3:15. Its nearly 3:15, and I have to be home and at the corner of our street by 3:27 so I can beat Alaina’s bus, or I will get the same scornful look from the driver and the other moms who stand at the bus stop.
I had planned to be early today, to be there before Amy, who stays at home, whose nails are always painted, who thinks that she is better than me. I would have been too because I only worked until 2:00 pm today. Sometimes they do that, cut an hour from our day, if we’ve worked too much and they don’t want to pay us time and a half. I am not there before her though, because there was a check in my mailbox from Pete, which is even more rare than finding something fair and good, and Bank of America closes at four.
Sarah Walsh is a writer, a teacher, and a mother. She is currently enrolled in Drexel University's MFA program in Creative Writing and she has been writing stories, poems, and books for as long as she can remember.