We have a saying around here. You can’t get blood from a turnip. That’s one of them, anyway, and the one that popped into my head as I looked at the little girl in front of me. She was cute, in her brown jumper and sash covered with embroidered badges. And I sure did like those ones with peanut butter creme in the middle.
“It’s for a good cause, mister,” she said brightly.
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“We’re going to the beach this summer, if we raise enough money.”
I snorted inside my head. That didn’t fall anywhere on my list of ‘good causes.’ Sending a bunch of little girls to the beach when odds were good their folks could afford to send them without whoring them out for cookies. I wanted to kick her parents’ asses. I looked around the front porch we were stood on. It was as fallen in as the two room house it was hooked onto. The car in the drive way didn’t run, either. And the lights didn’t work, because I hadn’t been able to make good with the power company this month. On top of all that, I was just on my way out the door to check my traps. If I was lucky, there would be some dinner in one of them. However, I usually wasn’t. “How much you sellin’ ‘em for?”
She hopped from one foot to the other. “Five dollars,” she said. “And eight dollars will buy you two boxes and one of these stickers.” She waved some sort of Howdy Kitty shit in my face.
“Five for a box of cookies?” I was incredulous. Last time I bought them, they’d been two and a quarter. How long had I been stuck back in these woods? “Did the banks crash again?”
“Honey, I’m sorry, but I don’t have three dollars to my name right now.”
“But, mister, they’re really yummy! Can’t you just check inside and see? Like, in your couch cushions?”
“My couch been harvested long ago. Now you run on.” I turned her around and pointed her back toward the shiny late model car idling at the end of the drive. She protested, but I pushed her gently on. I still had the urge to walk out to the car and kick the ass of whichever parent was waiting.
I shushed her and told her she’d have better luck at the next place.
I picked up the ax and started splitting some kindling for the wood stove, since that was going to be the only way I cooked anything today. I heard the car door close, but was startled when an adult voice behind me said, “Mr. Bowman?”
“Yeah?” I turned to see an attractive, well-dressed woman approaching middle age. She had two boxes of cookies in her hands. “I done told your little girl-”
She smiled warmly and stopped me. “I know,” she said. “She asked me if I could give you these as a present from her.”
I took them reflexively when she thrust them at me. “I don’t understand.”
“She says she feels really bad that you don’t have money for cookies. I hope you don’t take offense, but it’ll break her heart if you don’t take them.”
I nodded. “She yours?”
She smiled and said, “Yes. One of them,” and winked a little.
“Well tell her thank you for me, would d you? And I hope she has fun on that beach trip.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bowman. I will. You have a really nice evening.”
She walked back down to her car, and I waved as it pulled out. I looked at the peanut butter cremes and kitty stickers and felt a lot less like kicking anyone’s asses.