This story is by Junior Demerara and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Yo Henry, what’s up?” Philip yelled as he saw his friend coming out of his brown brick apartment building. Philip briskly walked towards his friend, stopping at the gate that they would have to exit to leave their complex.
“You got it?” Henry inquired as they exited the gate.
“Yeah, yeah,” Philip answered as they hurried to their destination. Philip looked over his shoulder, to make sure that neither his parents or siblings could see him. He then slowly pulled the crisp, nicely folded money from his inside pocket of his Parker.
The cold winter breeze was blowing, chilling both Henry and Philip a little, but you couldn’t tell by the manner in which they were moving. They knew exactly where they were heading. Philip boasted the day before about some of the money he’d received due to his report card. He’d worked his butt off this semester to bring up his grades in Science, Math, History, and Composition. He really didn’t like Comp that much, but with his Mom and Dad saving up to change their life in America, they would not allow any of their children to settle for “mediocre” grades. So when Philip and Henry became friends, both from the same school and living in the same apartment complex, Philip’s grades started to dwindle. He was able to hide it for awhile, until Mr. Cohen decided to call his parents.
Philip spent this semester studying harder than he’s had to since coming to Brooklyn three years ago. To make matters worse…or better…Philip’s parents went and spoke with Henry’s Dad and they struck a deal. This semester Philip and Henry hung out a lot…in Philip’s apartment, every other day, to study. This was the deal that Philip’s and Henry’s parents struck, they found a way to trample on their friendship. As the days, weeks, and months passed, Henry forgave Philip and Philip forgave his parents. Both were elated, when they saw the 90’s on their report cards. Along with the report card, Philip received some monetary encouragement to keep his grades up.
After receiving more monetary encouragement, Philip started boasting to Henry. Instead of being jealous, the two friends concocted a plan to “steal” some of the money to buy some candy from the corner store on their way to school. The day that they will finally be able to “buy” something. What ever candies they wanted, will be at their disposal today. They’ve spent weeks surveying the different candies, debating which one would taste the sweetest or sourest.
Walking along New York Avenue, Philip kept looking over his shoulder. He was looking to see if his parents found out that he took some of his money without their permission. The monetary encouragement was given to keep his grades up, but also to save. Philip felt that if his parents found out that he took some of the money, they will take it and lock it away in their bedroom, or worse, he would get licks with his father’s leather belt. That’s never fun, but he felt that buying the candy with Henry would be worth it.
They then turned onto Avenue J and walked a little quicker than they were on New York Avenue. They were so excited about the prospect of purchasing the candy, they began running to the store. Seeing the store at the corner of Avenue J and Flatlands Avenue, they glanced at each other. Their mouths were dry in anticipation of how wonderful these candies would be.
As they got to the store, Philip slowed down and then stopped. Henry did the same. They looked at each other, fixed their backpacks on their backs, sighed. This was it. Before they entered, Philip took out the money from his inner pocket and showed it to Henry. Henry looked at the money in Philip’s hand and quickly took the five dollar bill. He took that one because he recognised it. He didn’t touch to other dollars in Philip’s hand, they didn’t look familiar to him. The coloring was the same, but the picture on the back didn’t look right. As he looked closely at it, all he saw was the bunch of white guys in old time suits, some sitting, while others stood around a table that was in front of some old guy in a chair.
As they entered, the smell of sweetness hugged them, lifting them to Nirvana. The savory sweet and sour smell of the store crawled into their lungs, drowning them with such glee, you would think that they were mental. They hardly noticed Mr. Muhammed standing in the corner, in front of the counter. He stands there to help deter any would be thieves. Philip and Henry would know because they were going to try it one day, but saw Mr. Muhammed catch someone and held them until the police arrived. They just wanted the Now&Laters, the Whatchamacallits, the Laffy Taffy, the Pixy Stix, the Nerds, the Squeeze Pops, the Fruit Stripe and Chicklets gums.
They were so filled with glee that they didn’t know which ones to buy and in which order. All these weeks of planning were failing them in this moment of conquest. Henry had made a list of the candies that he’s purchased before that he likes, but just couldn’t find the time to pull out his list. Whereas Philip, knowing that his parents would not, under normal circumstances, allow him to even try some of the candies that were on display in front of him.
As reality began to set in that they were in “heaven”, Henry glided over to Philip to see what treasures he was planning to partake in.
“Which ones are you getting?” Philip asked as Henry peered over his shoulder.
“I’m getting some Laffys, some Pixies, and some Push Pops, what about you?” Henry responded.
“I’m getting the new Nerds flavor that just came out, about three Chicklet packets, some of these Laffys, and some Now&Laters,” Philip said confidently.
The boys quickly gather their bounties and proceeded to the counter. Mrs. Prince was on the inside of the counter, wiping the display counter. When she saw Philip and Henry approaching, she gingerly placed her cloth down on a shelf behind the cash register. She smiled at them as they approached, reaching for both their candies to ring up and a thin plastic bag to place their candies into.
As they got closer, Henry ran ahead of Philip and presented his candies for purchase. As Mrs. Prince rang up his order, Henry began to bounce with excitement. He was ready to devour his share. As Mrs. Prince placed the last piece of candy into the bag, Henry shoved his crisp five dollar bill into Mrs. Prince’s hand and grabbed his candy in one fluid motion. Surprised at the quickness at which it occurred, Mrs. Prince gasped and took a slight step back.
“Now young man, don’t you go eating all that candy up before school, you save some of that for after school,” Mrs. Prince said with a smile. Henry didn’t pay her any attention as he started reaching into his bag. As he began to walk away, Mrs. Prince said, “Don’t you want your change?” Henry quickly looked up at Mrs. Prince, smiled and then took the heavily beaten and worn dollar bills from Mrs. Prince’s hand and the coins.
As Henry withdrew, Philip laid his treasures on the display counter for Mrs. Prince to ring up. After Mrs. Prince completed the tallying of Philip’s purchase, she reached for the two crisp dollars that Philip presented to her. Smiling at his excitement, Mrs. Prince opened her cash register drawer to place the money into it. But before she completed her task, she looked back at Philip, smiled and gave him back one of the crisp dollars.
After placing the crisp dollar into the drawer, Mrs. Prince withdrew two worn dollar bills with some coins and proceeded to hand them to Philip. He felt a coldness run down his spine. What should he do? He knew that he wasn’t supposed to receive change back. Mrs. Prince looked at Philip’s bewildered appearance and inquired, “What’s the matter young man? You gave me too much.”
Now Philip took a step back, unsure as to what to do. If he takes the change being offered by Mrs. Prince, he could probably be arrested. Or worse, his parents could find out that he took money without their permission and that would mean a severe butt whooping. Unsure of what to do, Philip glanced at Henry, whose lips and mouth was stained with the colors of his candies that he was consuming.
“What’s the matter? Come on, we got to get to class,” Henry said with a couple pieces of candies in his mouth.
Slowly Philip turned back to face Mrs. Prince. She stood in front of him, behind the glass counter, offering him his bag of candies and his change.