She didn’t want to shop at Ross
for her prom dress, but since she
had only $35 to spend, she couldn’t
think of anywhere else to go
where she might procure the impossible
for nearly nothing.
Sure, she could have combed
consignment shops, if only
she didn’t wrangle
with a nearly debilitating case
of OCD. Nothing used. Hermetically
sealed everything a necessity for
The dress was simple. A pretty
sky-blue. Long, with a longer slit
up the right leg. The fabric was cheap,
but in dim light or from a distance,
it didn’t look all that bad. It fit her
She was pleased, but forgot about tax.
There were tense moments at the check out,
her digging through the “take a penny” cup
in hopes of scoring a total of a $1.79. Still
$1.07 short, the tears welled up in her eyes
she started to apologize,
and prepared herself to walk away.
Behind her, the woman bouncing a crying baby
on one hip while a sucker sucking toddler
tugged at the back of her tee-shirt whining
he had to pee now, sighed. The red-haired girl
whose blue eyes matched the blue dress,
reluctantly asked to cancel the sale and
for her $35 back. She was handed a bag
with a dress and receipt instead. The man
behind the register smiled.
She rushed away without thanking him,
embarrassed. On her walk to the bus stop,
she thought about her prom date,
his easy manner and odd choice
of instrument: a banjo. She imagined
dancing in her dress, her hair pulled up
in a soft bun, dangling, fake diamond earrings
catching the light.
The first bang brought her out of her reverie
and she noticed she’d almost reached
the corner and bus bench.
The next pop made her turn
and look for the source of the sound,
now coming in a steady,
staccato rhythm, bodies falling
across the street from her in sync
with each volley. She ran and crouched
behind the cement and wooden
bus bench with two others, first looking
to where the shots were coming from,
and then over to where the injured
Across the road, a baby wailed
next to the unmoving body of a tiny
boy. Near the children, a woman
lay on her back, her chest rising
and falling unsteadily,
a widening pool of blood gathering
on the ground beneath her tee-shirt.
Her arm moved slowly in the direction
of the crying child, reaching.
As shots rang out, the safely hidden girl stood
and moved quickly to the injured woman
and children. “Are you okay? Can you move?”
she asked, as she lifted the baby
into her arms, noticing the
lollipop still clutched in the lifeless boy’s
“Get down!” the woman groaned,
her face reshaped by pain and fear.
The girl laid down on the hot
asphalt between the woman
and the body of the boy. She placed
the baby near the mother’s outstretched
hand. As soon as their skin touched,
the child quieted.
The Ross bag still hooked
over her arm, the girl reached in
and pulled out the $36.79
sky-blue prom dress,
balled it up in her fist
and pressed it to the hole
in the young mother’s side.
She curled her body tightly
around the baby’s, red hair
falling over wet cheeks,
and waited for her future.
NaPoWriMo Day 21