Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prompt: Be careful what you wish for

Jesse started awake as the bus jerked to a stop. Before she lifted her head from her rolled-up jacket pillow, she reached under it and grabbed the bills she knew would be there. Closing her fist around them, she sat up and tucked them into the jacket so her seatmate wouldn’t notice. She stuffed them in the pocket to deal with them later.

The lights were off in the bus, and most of the travelers were still sleeping. Jesse looked out the window and saw they had come off the highway and were heading to the station. This was a familiar stop. Good, she could rest awhile.

When the bus pulled in the station, Jesse pretended to be asleep, so she could be the last one off. As she made her way up the aisle, she stuffed a $20 bill in each seat pocket she passed. She knew it would make someone’s day a little easier when they found it. It wasn’t often she got the chance to share so much at once. She tipped the driver another $20 when he pulled her duffel from the bus cargo. His surprised smile reminded her why she chose to live this way.

In the station, Jesse headed over to the storage lockers and pulled the chain from around her neck. Glancing at the locks, she flipped through the keys on her chain until she found the matching orange and checked the number. 317. A big one, down on the bottom row, she remembered. She pulled out the small backpack with a set of clean clothes and wrestled the duffel in. She’d need to get a room before she could organize all that cash.

Next stop was the station diner, open 24 hours. Jesse remembered the waitress, a tired looking single mother. From the look on her face when she looked up, she remembered Jesse too. She smiled, “Honey, you’re back! Good to see you again! Where have you been? Come settle in a booth and I’ll get you a slice of apple pie with melted cheddar, just like you like it.”

Jesse perched on the end barstool next to the cash register so she could talk with Barb when she wasn’t waiting on anyone. After the handful of bus passengers cleared out, there was just a trucker dozing in the corner booth at the far end.

“Barb, I been out all the way to the West Coast. I went to the San Diego Zoo and Hollywood and I even rode the San Francisco cable cars.”

Barb beamed and clapped her hands with delight. “Girl, you have the best adventures. Now you just need a man to go with you on one.” She winked at Jesse, who ducked her head and blushed.

“I don’t want a man, Barb. You know that,” she said firmly. Barb laughed and picked up the coffee pot to help another trucker who wandered in. Jesse left two twenties on the counter and headed out while Barb was occupied.

The hotel clerk smiled when she came in. She’d given him sixty bucks when she left last time, because he called off some jerk that was harassing her in the hallway. He didn’t know the guy couldn’t really hurt her.

“Hey kid, good to see you. I got a room upstairs for you. It’s next to the ice maker, but that’s busted, so it’ll be nice and quiet.”

Jesse nodded, pulling bills from her pocket. “I’ll pay for two nights up front. Jake, that ice maker was busted last time I was here, remember?”

He held out her key and leaned forward conspiratorially. “Kid, that ice machine ain’t worked since the last Democrat in the White House.” Jake cackled and went back to playing a game on his iPad.

Jesse climbed the stairs and found her room. The hotel was old but neat and clean. She took a long hot shower and climbed into bed. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow. Didn’t matter though. She never felt when the money appeared, no matter how many times she’d tried.

“I always want to have enough spending money.”

“Your wish is my command. Whenever you sleep, you’ll wake with money under your pillow.”

“What if I don’t have a pillow?”

“Anything can be a pillow, even your arm. Even your hair. You will find it convenient to have something under your head.”

How quickly she had learned the truth of that. She’d still been on the run then, sleeping in shelters or homeless camps. The first few times she’d fallen asleep and woken with a pile of bills under her head, she’d immediately been jumped for them. She’d learned to conceal her daily bounty, although from the beginning she always shared it with anyone who was nice to her.

Jesse woke in the morning and stretched, then felt under the pillow for the new bills. Now it was habit, and she relaxed as she remembered she had the room to herself and didn’t have to hide. She pulled them out and flattened them, then reached over to grab her jacket and add yesterday’s bills to the pile. She had most of the morning’s in a roll, plus another roll from when she fell asleep after lunch, and then the wad from last night. She’d been on the bus all day, so she’d only spent about $40 in food and $60 on the hotel room. She had managed to give away almost $1500. She still had $1400 in front of her. She shook her head. She needed to give more money away. Or get another storage locker.

Dogs in house:

February word count:

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