Briann’s Wooden Box

Briann had thrown the carved hummingbird wooden box her dad gave her, into the trash outside her building. She was so mad at her father for telling her she was not allowed to go to her friend’s house. Briann didn’t see the big deal, a lot of her friends visited each other. She was the only one; at least that’s how she felt.

She walked to the nearest grocery store with two men out front with large clothes, which look like they were wearing tents. Briann went into the store that barely had any space to pass; with their boxes of plantains and two liter sodas sitting on the floor. She squeezed by an old man with a cane. He raised it to let her pass and she felt like she was playing the limbo. She could almost taste the bacon, egg, and white cheese cooking; the smell of Bustelo, that seemed to be the greatest champion of coffee.

She waved to the old man who was known as Don Beto who had the face of a senior; with lines like a road map, but the strength of a young man. He smiled at Briann as he put the cow’s milk away. She wasn’t sure what to buy. She had left the house so angry she didn’t remember what her mom wanted. She knew what she wanted—ice cream.

Briann thought of ice cream because of the delivery man who was organizing them. She watched him neatly place all the ice cream in order, by name and flavor. She watched as he argued with the store owner for accusing him and his boss of expensive ice cream. She could see how neatly he stacked them; towers of flavorful ice cream. She was tempted to knock them down like Godzilla to buildings, but she knew that would be mean. So, she just reached for a King Cone.

She stood in front of the counter with money in hand, watching the man talk. Briann could tell he could spend the entire day talking, like a plump queen at a tea party. She waited to see if he would stop, but he just kept yapping away. She cleared her throat trying to grab the round’s man attention. He continued to laugh as his belly shook up and down. She placed the money on the counter and turned away. The jolly man called out to her and said, “You’re missing twenty-five cents.” She stared at him in disbelief, as she listened to the music playing on the radio. She handed him the quarter when an orange tabby cat landed on the counter and bit his pinky. Briann thought maybe the cat had confused it with a sausage—his fingers were that fat. Briann laughed, she probably shouldn’t have, but the thought of a sausage hand—oh so funny! The round man was no longer jolly, but mad and red like an angry bird. She gave him the quarter he had dropped and included a penny. She said as she placed it in the center of his plump hand, “A penny for your trouble.”

She left the store with the King Cone in her mouth; bell ringing as the door closed. The sky was already an orange-purple with lines of blue, like a Neapolitan dessert. The color of the evening gave the buildings a sepia color; the color of old photographs. It was warm outside, not enough to melt her ice cream quickly, but enough to cool her down. She walked towards her building, where her neighbor’s son was playing music, which Briann was sure the pilots could hear. The music vibrated making her teeth clatter as she walked by. She never understood why they played the music so loud. She wondered with all the bass speakers they had in their trunk, if they ever went to bed shaking.

She walked by the seniors of the block playing Dominoes in their palm tree covered Guayabera shirts and salsa songs playing in the back. She wondered what they played for—Perhaps a new set of teeth. They nodded to her; greeting her with their gray broom mustaches.

Briann saw the other kids from the neighborhood playing in the water pump; with their water guns, water balloons, and a used plastic wanton soup container. Girls blowing bubbles, riding scooters, and playing tag with the boys. She wanted to stay and play, but she knew her mom was ready to put her picture on the back of a milk carton.

Briann saw red flashing lights and a loud screaming siren; the ambulance right behind a dark-green garbage truck. Briann thought what an unusual pair. They both stopped. The garbage men grabbing old unwanted treasures and the paramedics running into her building. She wondered if Dona Maria was sick again, and walked past the group of people, as her grandma would call them, “the nosy people.” She stood in front of her building and saw the door open; her mom with tears in her eyes, her dad in a wheelchair with oxygen tubes up his nose. Briann couldn’t believe it, as they placed him in the ambulance. Her mother hugged her and told her to stay with her older sister who was standing beside her. She felt sad as the ambulance drove off yelling goodbye with its siren and flashing lights. By then, the garbage men had parked out in front of her building. The garbage man with the big arms grabbed a trash can, holding it like a barrel in his hands. Briann stopped him, and took back the carved hummingbird box. She sat down on the cement steps and opened it; a picture of her and her dad smiling with cotton candy in their mouths.

She knew in that moment, that there were far more important things than being angry.

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