A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Legacy
Here’s the thing: the best legacy is knowledge, but having that with a sum of money would certainly help.
Not that I blame both my parents for not leaving me even a small amount of pocket money worth of a yellow-and-orange-dyed ice cream (hopefully not textile, although I should say some sugar would cover it just fine), but it really is a no-brainer that I won’t have to deal with a lot of shit right now had they did. In which case, I’m gonna buy that chemical-loaded brain freezer and sell it to Big Pete–the typical bully conveniently marking his dominion in a local abandoned shed across the street– behind his momma who’s worried about his weight; that way I can make a net profit of five bucks.
My name is Laurie, and I remember my mother used to tell me the name is from a book she loves as a kid called “Little Women”, while my father simply can’t argue for a better name. Up to today, I personally have not the intention to read it simply because I don’t want to be considered vain if I happen to enjoy the book.
It’s been about a year since they are gone and I have been living as a modern nomad. See, I beg to differ from being called “homeless” because I do have one in form of a tent, which comes in handy to support the lifestyle I adopted to fit my situation. Where did I get the tent, you ask? Well, as I have touched upon before, knowledge is the best legacy, but in my case, that is my only legacy… in hard-copy, if you catch my drift. My parents are both avid readers, and they have shelves of books in the little-rented apartment we used to live in before. After they’re gone, I sold most of them to secondhand bookstores, save for three I kept for myself: my father’s favorite, my mother’s and mine. I put enough shirts, pants and underwear in my nifty backpack, bought the cheapest tent, saved the remaining amount of money and went out of the place as quickly as possible.
Did I sound a little too detached? That should be credited as part of the legacy my parents left behind as well. Both of them are the very definition of lethargy sometimes I wonder how they ended up together. My father told me he was an only child, and his parents died in a car crash when he was ten. His aunt who then became his guardian died on a plane crash, which scarred him for life. My mother told me she and her older sister left home and changed their names to save themselves from their father’s gambling and alcohol problem, which at that point had gotten worse after their mother’s death. Her sister died because of the same illness their mother had three years before she had me. Will you look at that? Solitary life is just part of the family heritage.
They never really bothered to mingle with anyone personally, as we have never had guests in our house. Their jobs also does not seem to require a lot of long-term interaction–my father was a flower arranger, and my mother was a technician… talking about gender-bending stereotypes, huh?–to other people, and for the three of us, at least we got to eat regularly, and my parents afford to buy at least one book monthly, albeit some secondhand ones. My mother home-schooled me herself when she does not receive any calls. My father would read me stuff if he’s off from work. And I guess we were quite happy with the arrangement, seeing there are no complaints whatsoever.
We spent Sundays doing laundry together, at the rooftop of our shabby apartment, which quite surprisingly is almost always unoccupied. After we finish spreading all the garments to dry, the three of us would just sprawl on the old wooden bench to relax and enjoy the morning sun. At those moments, my parents would always tell me, “Son, one day you’ll grow up and we might not be around anymore. When that day comes, don’t let anyone hold you against what they think we did or didn’t do that they try to take advantage of. If that happens, don’t hesitate to leave, move on and never look back.”
Obviously, that is, to speak the least, cryptic for a ten-year-old. But one day, at the age of fifteen, I brought back some groceries only to find our abode, despite its already humbling qualities, in ramshackle; shelves knocked over, drawers opened, papers scattered, bloodstains on the floor; and my parents nowhere to be found. Whilst still trying to make sense of what happened, my eyes caught view of torn pictures of my parents separately, both seemingly taken from far away. That’s when I knew it’s the day; the day to leave, move on and never look back.
I didn’t even bother to call the police because I know I will leave a trace, and that’s exactly what my parents don’t want me to do. In fact, it appeared that they beat me to it. There was a police line barring the front door, which was ajar, but weirdly no one was there to investigate the place or even display a tinge of curiosity. I am convinced that dealing with the authorities would not help me much, and if by chance my alcoholic grandfather is still alive and them adults think that’s the best I can get, then no, thanks, I’d rather take the streets as I might end up there anyways.
Which brings me to today, contemplating in a crowded park whether I should give up my tent and be properly homeless.
Apparently, people have noticed and reported it to the authorities, and that is certainly what I have been avoiding so far. Life is cruel that way; it gave you exactly the things you don’t want or need, resulting in unending ironic envy.
That’s when I made my way to the nearest pawn shop, sell the tent and proceed to a nearby store to buy two chemical delicacies while saving up the rest of the money. I cautiously approached the one familiar neighborhood, the one shed, and waited until the big guy dismissed his minions. Once he was on his own, he pulled out some sweets from his pockets, I made my less-than-dramatic entrance… well, not exactly as I waited behind the wooden wall of the shed where there are two punched holes.
“You’re not supposed to be eating that.”
Big Pete was perplexed and hurriedly put back the sweets in his pockets. Dum-dum. He could’ve just feign ignorance. Moreover he asked the obvious, “Who’s that?”
“Put it away, your momma’s on her way here,” I told him, and I swiftly hide on the opposite side so he or his momma wouldn’t see me. Just as I did, Big Pete’s momma was calling out his name, telling him there was a kid who asked for him earlier, saying he’s from school and has a science project together. Big Pete was making a fuss with his momma coming to the shed. I even caught her telling herself that it was just a phase he’s going through and she should’ve known what she did isn’t “cool”. She then apologized and told him she just want to make sure he didn’t miss dinner, which will be ready in an hour. After she left, he let out a sigh of relief. I made my way to lean next to the hole on the wall in the opposite side so he won’t see me.
“That was a close one.”
“Hell yeah, it was,” he still tried to catch his breath, “what do you want?”
Great, he doesn’t need any explanation of a tit-for-tat. I showed him two ice-cream sticks from outside the hole, “prepared you a treat. Just want you to pay them for five bucks each.”
“You think I would eat anything after that?” he sounded like he almost meant it, “and dinner is in an hour. She’ll know if I can’t finish it.”
“Come on, don’t sell yourself short,” I coaxed, “after all you can just tell her you want to eat less because you’re taking the diet more seriously.”
I can tell Big Pete was reconsidering when he muttered a soft ‘huh’. Then he said, “I’ll give you six bucks for two.”
“Uh-uh,” I disagreed, “bid higher or I’ll let her in a sweet little secret.”
“Pfftt,” he mocked, “and she’ll believe you?”
“Of course, I’ll let her know I finally found you and that we ended up having too much ice-cream together instead of working on the science project.”
“You sneaky little shit,” he hesitated, but then handed out a ten-dollar bill from the hole and grabbed the ice cream, “just this once, because I don’t have more one-dollar bills. Take it and scram! I’ll break your neck if you ever come here again or tell anyone else about this.”
“Don’t worry, you won’t,” I pocketed the money, “nice doing business with you.”
Before he changed his mind, found me with his minions and beat me into pulp, I ran to a nearby subway station, buy a one-way ticket to the farthest suburbs, and board the train. Just in case I don’t find the library for a free shower and a bedtime story, I hope the pawn shop there sells a tent that fits my budget.
As I stared blankly from the window, I reckon I might be wrong; it is not knowledge, and certainly not money (though I maintain both helps) which makes the best legacy. It’s probably something more primal, like survival instinct–which also makes it the worst for those unwanted and wanted at the same time.