The Right Kind by J. Galvin
My dad tapped the top of his beer can and turned Tom Petty up louder.
“Make sure you get the right kind.”
He eyed me in the passenger seat. I clutched my doll to my chest. I knew the right kind was a carton of cigarettes in the red box and a book of free matches.
He swung the Jeep into the parking lot of the corner store. As he smoothed his mustache in the rearview mirror, he nodded to me to get out. I held onto my doll, trying to gauge his reaction.
“Leave that damn doll here.” I shouldn’t have held onto her so tightly.
I maneuvered out of the Jeep, my gangly legs getting in the way of the long drop to the pavement. I heard his booming laughter behind me.
I entered the musty store that smelled of cigars. Old men sat along the counter and stared at me. They took in my skinny legs and mismatched shoes.
“Can I help you little lady?” The clerk rested his hand on his huge stomach.
“Just this please.” I took the red carton off the shelf.
“Aren’t you a little young for those?” I curled the five dollar bill between my fingers.
“They’re for my dad. He’s in the car.” The clerk stepped to the side and glanced out to the parking lot.
“Is that there your Dad in the Jeep?”
I placed the money on the counter and put my hand over the carton. I felt the relief spill out of me. I was happy, elated even. I knew the ride home would be fine.
“Well little lady, I can’t give them to you, but holler to your dad and I can give them to him.”
My stomach dropped like a stone.
The old men seated at the counter started to lose interest. I felt like the fireflies I caught at dusk in glass jars.
The clerk turned his back to me.
I glanced out the window and saw my dad tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. I knew my time was up. I fingered the red carton and looked around. The old men and the clerk were fighting about the Red Sox’s losing streak. My heart raged. I looked around one final time. I grasped the carton to my chest. I turned and ran. I felt light headed, giddy with relief.
I hopped up into the Jeep. I was sweating with the exertion. I wanted to throw the cigarettes at my father, but handed them over nonchalantly.
“They were out of matches.”
He lifted the beer can to his lips and took a long, thoughtful sip. He popped a cigarette into his mouth and put the Jeep into gear. I was sick with release to be moving away from the store.
He blew smoke in my face.
“Next time buy a lighter.”
I held my doll, not too tightly, and nodded my head in agreement.