Sunshine and Poppycock: Chapter 3
My mom had her first split days off the following night. While I do believe she is aware of my excursions, I never go out when she is at home. Sometimes we manage a dinner together. Other times it’s TV. Most of the time, it’s sleep. While she does not ask it, I feel compelled also to sleep early, so I am not keeping her awake with the lights and sounds of my regularly scheduled night time activities.
I sleep late the next day nonetheless. The lack of natural light in my sleeping quarters has allowed me to evolve away from the the genus and species in which I was born to become a completely separate entity devoid of a circadian rhythm. Sometimes I am left with leftovers, which I am able to consume, like a bear freshly coming out of a hibernation in the spring. That afternoon it was dry chicken breast, joined by a side of freshly prepared toast and ketchup.
That night I stayed in. The night after was the second night of my mom’s split weekend. There was a movie on TV and we ate orange cheese flavored curly noodles. We- or rather, just my mom- enjoys this time with me. She fell asleep on the couch half way through, and eventually went to her bed sometime while I was doing the dishes to the music of the credits rolling, before they were cut off by the late night news.
By the end of my mom’s weekend, I have a renewed hankering for my high-fructose fix. That night I headed out. It was 10:43. The pavement was still warm from the hours of soaking up the sun. I left the sweatshirt at home, but alas, I was still sweaty by the time I had reached the bottom of the stairs across that final street to the convenience store.
Nobody was present at the front of the store, which also seemed to be the case of the interior and its barren counter and cash register. I walked up anyway and tried the door. It budged a half centimeter. I stepped back and stared into the twenty-four-seven sign that had never changed once ever. I took yet another step back, being careful of the drop from the curb, to peer up at the crusty and cracked logo for the store which was also of indeterminate existence.
“Boy went to the bathroom there, Sunshine.” I heard the man sniff and snort loudly behind me. I braced myself with one foot on the curb and looked to the side.
“Poppy.” I muttered.
“You’re early. Or late. I dunno.” He shrugged and wound himself in a circle, arms out, around the cigarette totem.
“Late?” I glanced about, attempting to fine any sort of time-telling device somewhere inside the store.
“Yeah, where ya’ been?” Poppy whined, finally stopping and shoving his hands back into his pockets.
“I’m not here every night.” I frowned at him. “Like you, it seems.”
“I ain’t.” Poppy pursed his lips and tilted his head back and forth. “Well, maybe I am.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t gotten you for loitering.”
“Who’s they? An’ besides, I’m not, I’m always moving around.” He jumped off the curb, attempting what appeared to be some sort of skateboard trick, minus the board. “Get this, I asked the guy if he knew where you went, and he wouldn’t tell me a thing. I kept sayin’ you know, Sunshine, the girl with the grumpy face ‘n stuff.”
“Sunshine isn’t my real name.” I corrected. “And besides, of course they wouldn’t tell you anything about me, they don’t know me or where I live, and it isn’t even yours or their business to know in the first place.”
Poppy stopped his jumping around and stared at the ground for a few moments, hands in his armpits. It was as if I had somehow said the magic words to somehow unlock his one other emotion. His head turned to nodding, before jolting back up with his regular grin. “Guess you’re right!”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the blue-polo’d worker marching up from the back and to the door, keys in hand. He glanced first to me, then to Poppy, as he pushed the door outward to allow me in. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
I nodded and ducked around his arm, leaving Poppy behind. Cashier returned back around behind the counter while I collected my regular things. As I came up to the register, Cashier’s face was locked blankly to the window. I dropped the M&Ms down louder than usual to catch his attention.
“Oh, $2.24.” He said, tacking away at the register’s buttons. “That guy-” He shot another glance outside.
“I know.” I shrugged and focused my attention to the dollar bills in my wallet. “He’s harmless.” I concluded as we finished the exchange.
Poppy had retaken up some dance routine in the shadows just at the edge of the curb when I came back outside. With a jump and a twist, he returned to facing me. “I knew it! Knew that yellow wrapper!”
“Yeah…” I failed for force a smile and sipped on my drink.
“You’re a creature of habit, just like me.”
“What other habits do you have?” I suggested, looking up to where the stars would be if they had not been erased by the light pollution.
“You know, just going places, talking to people.”
“You come here and… talk with me.”
“And other people, other places too. I should introduce you to them, the places, the people!”
“That would be forcing me out of my habits, then.”
Poppy let out a long, humid sigh and draped his arms down to the ground. “Guess you’re right. But why some routine like this? So late at night? Oh right, the vampirism, right?”
“Can’t tell if you’re sayin’ one big word, or two. Gee, you’re smart. A genuine smarty-pants. How did you manage to learn so much if you’re haunting away the night hours?”
“Oh yeah!?” He flashed a grin shifty enough to possibly grind all his teeth away. “Then you’re learning from one smart cookie. Is it you mom or you dad with the brains? Or both of ‘em?”
“Well, I take classes on-line. But it’s easier to say that I’m home-schooled.”
“Hum, I get it, yeah.” He stroked the fine, pale stubble on his chin. “Should’a guessed that. No parent is in their right mind letting their little girl out so late at night, all ‘lone. Oh, but your folks are probably great, just, uh, letting you be free-willed, am I right?”
“You are a living slippery-slope fallacy.” I sighed.
I exercised a reasonable amount of patience waiting for Poppy to finish whatever thought he was conjuring, but it never came. “So?” I returned him the singular conjunction.
“So, I mean, your parents must know you’re out this late, right?”
“Actually, it’s just me and my mom, and she works her second job at this hour.”
“Ah, well, rad.” He grated his foot on the asphalt, before turning the tread-less sole of his shoe up to examine it.
“Are you going to follow me home now that you know its just going to be me all alone, defenseless?”
“Ah shoot, man.” Poppy shook his head furiously, causing his hair to fly out like the mane of a lion. “Why are you still on that?”
“I’m just kidding. But seriously, what do you even come here for? Do you live around here too?”
“I said I did, I got a house too.” He folded his arms before his chest, nodding interestedly.
“And what do you do for money?”
“I do jobs… on-line…” Poppy jutted out his bottom lip in thought.
“Are you just parroting my story back at me?” I shot him an interrogating look.
“Holy- you are really putting on the pressure tonight. I get it! You’re one of those secret shoppers who comes by and checks that everyone is working away as they should.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Sun’s coming up soon.” Poppy stated blatantly, shifting his eyes to the sky a few times in quick succession.
“It isn’t.” I said, double checking anyway. “You’re just trying to get me out of here.”
“Now why would I go an’ do that?”
I gave my soda a shake just to hear something other than his voice. It rattled loudly with ice and the soda mixed among it sizzled. I took a short sip to measure the amount of water that had melted to join it. “Well, can’t be too safe about the sun, then, I guess.” I declared, taking a few determined steps to the end of the curb just beyond Poppy. ”I’ll be seeing you, then.”
Poppy nodded but didn’t respond, but rather turned back to rolling the arches of his foot on the edge of the concrete, before waiving me away with his elbow.