Candy was her real name. Her brother went by Chocolate.
Chocolate liked to drop Candy off by I-75 to pick up the tourist traffic. He handed her a tiny plastic bag with a bit of something as a kind of a down payment. He left her quickly so it would be known that she was alone. Her hair was a whipped pouf of pink fiber. She said it was her armor.
Candy’s son Mark hid behind the bench with the picture of the tooth whitening guy. He was unusually short and that was a better thing than anybody expected. He carried seven GI-Joes and said it was the Lord’s number, and that they would protect him, his tiny army in hand. He’d have to wait almost a week to go back to Sunday school, and the soldiers helped. Candy took him every week, for balance, she said.
Tuesday’s were slower than usual and Candy pulled up her skirt and angled herself while standing on top of the bench to actually give a preview. Mark ran his soldiers along the rails of the bench from underneath and hung one by its feet in some old gum. Candy was selling a series of angles, some better than others, but all obvious. Mark was her baby and he was safer here with her than at home with the other boys and she knew it. She never underestimated the power of night to change things. For children, slumber parties are never safe. There was a convenient nearby alley within sight of the 4 year old and this was better. Candy felt the tiny bag in her waist band and liked how it stayed when she pushed it.
Candy’s sons all go to Head Start and their teacher told her today that they needed to bathe more often because the other children were complaining. Candy said that it was because sometimes there is just too much urine, so their hair smells like cigarette smoke too. Candy liked to line up her boys and give them all mullets with the kitchen shears. She did it every Sunday even to the ones that were old enough to protest. She liked it when they were ugly and some of them had nice facial features that needed to be evened out. There was a whole apartment full of WIC stamps and yellow Ninja Turtle sheets left over from Chocolate’s time. Waiting for them to come home somewhere around 6 in the morning. Candy squirmed in her heels, pushing them into the pavement.
A couple pulled up in a jeep and asked her if she needed a ride. Candy spit in the woman’s face. Then she thought that maybe they’d been sincere. Candy thought of her janitor job when she mopped the teenagers’ spit spots from the floor and the way that they smelled sour and yellow. She used to get stuck there in the tile of the floors and she would rest her cheek on the cold bricks sometimes. She thought she was better at this job because there was less to get stuck in. A different kind of concrete. Candy took a walk to the alley because she didn’t like to watch Mark play. The metal fire escape reminded her of the time she and a friend tried to get into a quinceañera, but the doorman turned them away because he said that they were not brown. She remembered wishing there were quinceañeras for white girls. Chocolate told her he’d give her a baby and it’d be better than a quinceañera. Her mom said that step-brothers could be good practice for boyfriends. She liked the idea.
Candy’s county worker had stopped by unannounced that day and told her that there needed to be more whole grains in the house. There was a broken picture frame on the wall, from an elbow, and the worker said that it was a hazard to child safety. The worker told her she had passed her last four drug tests and Candy was not surprised. Candy pulled her aside and said that maybe some of the boys needed to go live with their dads and the worker had told her not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and Candy immediately thought of herself as a baby, sitting in bathwater.
Chocolate pulled up at 11:30 and checked in. Mark had passed out below the bench and Candy was angry. Chocolate asked her what she had for him and Candy said she didn’t know. Candy gave him back the tiny bag and told him to sell it.
Mark stirred and said, “I’m hungry and I have to pee.” Candy opened her bag and handed him half a Diet Pepsi and told him to drink it and then pee in it.
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Portland Fiction Project
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