by Timothy Raymond

The woman caught me outside the supermarket. She put a twenty-dollar bill in my hand and told me to buy a test for her. She told me to keep the change. I went inside thinking that I should have kissed the woman, that the moment was somehow right in that wrong way.

She had said, "I know someone in there, that's why," like it was supposed to mean something.

She waited by this small gray truck.

Inside I wandered around the aisles feeling a little like a bird. Eventually I found the tests in aisle 5. A lot of lady-stuff was there, just hanging off the steel hooks. The thing about tests is that they all look the same, but are somehow different enough to have different prices. I chose one somewhere in the middle. It cost 7 dollars.

With some of the change I bought an old flower. It stuck up out of the plastic bag when I handed it over to the woman.

"What's with the flower?" she said.

"I don't know," I said. "Summertime, you know."

She sniffed at it. The flower was once a deep red, you could tell.

"Not much of a smell," she said.

"No, not really."

The woman was maybe too old, anyway. She was a building, a hulking in-the-way sort of block. In that truck she looked far too big. And when she drove away I saw the large dents near the rear wheel. I thought about her going around like that, all dented up. That's how she shook my hand too, all dented up, like part of her was missing.

With the rest of the money I'd made, I went to the farmer's market. It's a thing the local growers do every weekend downtown. It's also a special summer kind of thing. People come in the afternoon and hop around like children flying box-kites, out of their minds and keyed up on fresh corn. Musicians play mandolins and drum with their hands on buckets or snares, it doesn't matter. There's a whole rhythm to the scene. It's a river, and it's moving.

I bought a bag of cherries that absolutely had to be too red. The juice filled my whole head. I bought some green beans too, and a whistle from some young kid selling stuff that he said he had made with his own hands. His booth had a sign that read Some Little Things.

The sun was high and I got tired, so I sat down on the sidewalk, just off the street, and watched the townspeople. I finished the cherries and tied the stems together to keep my hands busy. I threw the stem-string in the gutter.

The whistle was in my mouth. I only blew quiet tones. But I pretended to boom. In my mind I directed the people who were shopping on the street. When a stray dog came to me I kept silent. I opened up the bag of beans and let him sniff around in there. The beans were not to his taste, I could tell, but I whispered to him anyway, a little like you do with dogs, patting his rough fur all the while. In the end, he was not too proud to eat what I had.

Then I was back at Some Little Things, asking the kid his name because he didn't have any customers.

"George," he said.

"How'd you make that?"

"The knife? I just carved it out of a wood block."

"You made the slingshot too?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"I have some money left," I said.

George and I went around the block with the slingshot, walking almost all the way down to the railyard. He said it was fine to leave the booth because the crowd always thins out at the market after noon anyway. He gave me a deal on the slingshot, and even threw in some small rubber balls.

There was an old train car where we were, just sitting there even though it's never used for anything. It was covered in rust, this burned-over color.

"Can you shoot one into the door of the car?" I said. "What do you think?"

"Probably," said George.

He took out a ball and then stuck his arms out like he was testing the wind. I didn't really feel any wind.

The first one went low, but his aim was good. The second one just made it through the door.

"Let me try," I said.

I pulled hard and went for it, but the ball fell a ways short of the car.

"Let me go again," I said.

The second one was still short, and a little off to the right.

"One more," I said.

It went like this, me shooting over and over again, each time getting a little closer but still ultimately falling short. I had a child at home that was still waiting for me, I knew. But I also had two more dollars that I'd made that day.

And then there was the sun, coming down in bits and pieces. And the slingshot. And George too, just standing there with me, mostly quiet, but saying over and over again to aim higher.

BIO: Timothy Raymond grew up in southeastern Wyoming. Currently he studies contemporary American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he also teaches writing. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, The Owen Wister Review, The Legendary, The Battered Suitcase, Word Riot, and Leaf Garden.