I Would’ve Asked

Fiction by Phebe Jewell

Mom hates convenience stores, so when she drives me straight to the 7-Eleven after picking me up from the hospital this time, I know she’s run out of ideas. Parking in front, she keeps the engine running and hands me a five without saying anything. Mom knows how hard it is for me to be in public. One glance at my bandaged wrists tells my story.

I make my way past hot dogs, wings, and Taquitos to the coolers in back and grab two bottles of Gatorade. No one notices me. That’s why I love 7-Eleven. Keep the change, I tell the cashier, turning away before he can put quarters and pennies in my palm.

At the hospital they never asked why. I don’t know what I would’ve said if they did. Mom always says it’s a dog-eat-dog world. You’ve got to speak up if you want something. Still, I would have liked to be asked. They brought me tiny cups loaded with cubes of jello, breakfast and dinner trays I left untouched.

Mom’s checking her teeth in the rearview mirror when I tug open the door. Barely enough time to click the seat belt before she backs the car out and speeds toward the light, slowing for the amber. I unscrew the Gatorade, she turns on the car radio, and we listen to disco all the way to the drive-thru at Burger King.

Rolling down the window, she orders our usual—two chocolate shakes and Whoppers with cheese – using the tone she saves for Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on our door. When the voice in the box squawks, Would you like fries with that, ma’am?, I know what’s coming. If I wanted it I would’ve asked for it, Mom says, smiling at me as she adds, but thanks for asking, and I sink back into the seat, hungry for the first time in weeks.

Phebe Jewell

Phebe Jewell’s flash appears in numerous journals, including SoFloPoJo, Bending Genres, XRAY, Monkeybicycle, MoonPark Review, Milk Candy Review, Pithead Chapel, Flash Boulevard, and Drunk Monkeys. A teacher at Seattle Central College, she also volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for incarcerated women, trans-identified and gender non-conforming people in Washington State. Read her at https://phebejewellwrites.com.

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