by Kat Gonso
After school, the twins, age 9, dash through the small market unsupervised, tossing everything they want into the cart: animal crackers and Junior Mints, a tub of strawberry ice cream, tangerines that they roll in their palms, capturing the citrus smell. They grab unfamiliar items too, smoked salmon and a tiny jar of lingonberry jam. Davie is the one pushing the cart because even though Sam was the first to be born Davie came out with an extra pound. He pushes the cart as hard as possible before hopping his feet on the bar to see how far he can glide. Sam slings a flank steak onto the pile because fuck it they’re not paying. The boys think they are strategic, avoiding the shift manager when he comes out of his office, never veering too close to the front of the market. They turn down the next aisle and at the end they find the toys: Silly Putty and the scratch-and-sniff stickers their mother calls a waste of money. Davie always says food only, but Sam sneaks a box of Crayola crayons, the big one—64 pack with the sharpener—the one most of the other kids keep tucked in their desks at school. His crayons are nubs, passed down from his older sister who is always telling them that she’s going to get her GED and get outta Cleveland and that they should too—when they are old enough. When the cart is so overflowing that cereal boxes start falling off, Davie and Sam abandon it at the back of the store near the frozen chicken wings and rush out the front door as fast as they can, leaving their collection behind. They’ve played out this ritual for several weeks, believing they’ve gotten away with something. They don’t notice the employees watching from their posts. One cashier, an acne-ridden senior in high school, has started guessing what they’ll find in the cart. “I bet they’ll take ham this week,” she says. “Three honey-baked big ones.” The other cashier isn’t listening; he leafs through a magazine, dreading the restock process—the bruised apples, melting ice cream. The short, angry butcher peers over his counter. He wants to shoo the boys away, but doesn’t. He knows about Asher Street. They all know about Asher Street, the house with the white curtains so worn and thin that you can see right through, the empty fridge humming, waiting for the boys to return.
Kat Gonso’s writing has been featured in SmokeLong Quarterly, American Literary Review, Fringe, among others. She was the winner of The Southeast Review’s World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest, judged by Robert Olen Butler. Her fiction chapbook was named semi-finalist in Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Competition. Kat is a Senior Lecturer of Writing and the Director of First-Year Writing at Northeastern University in Boston.