, October 2021

Moments earlier, Angus had stolen the silver change out of his mother’s purse. Now he was at the laundromat two blocks away, which had an old soda machine that sold cans for 35 cents. He usually bought Welch’s strawberry soda, sometimes grape, but, today, in addition to the strawberry, he purchased a Mello Yello, and brought both to his secret hideout behind the garage.

The back of their garage faced the back of their rear neighbor’s garage. The space was the only part of their small yard offering privacy, the properties separated by a rusted chain link fence. He sat on his overturned milk crate and placed the Welch’s can on his upright cinder block table, then cracked open the Mello Yello. He sipped until it was half-empty, then rose, placed the can on the cinder block, and dropped his shorts. It took a moment, but the pee started flowing into the small opening atop the can. He backfilled it to about three-quarters, then finished peeing through the fence, onto the neighbor’s garage. After pulling up his shorts, he swirled the now warmer can.

Leaving the strawberry behind, he emerged from the hideout, can of Mello Yello dangling from his fingertips at his side, and up the driveway to the sidewalk. Seeing that the coast was clear, he proceeded up the street. At the fourth house, he turned up the front walk and placed the can on the ledge of the old brick stoop, then climbed the three steps and rang the doorbell. Hearing the bell inside, he leapt off the stoop and ran up the block, away from his own house, and hid behind the hedges next to someone’s driveway, from where he had a clear view.

At first, nothing happened. About a minute went by before the door opened and he stepped out. It was him. He looked around for a moment, then turned to go back inside, but stopped when he noticed the can. Mello Yello was his favorite. He stared at it for a while before finally taking it and raising it to his lips. He stopped, looked at the can again, shrugged, then swigged, only to spray it back out as a golden mist in the morning sunlight. He slammed the liquid-heavy can onto the concrete, the contents splashing on his pajama pant legs and spilling onto the walk, then stormed up the steps and into the house, slamming the door behind him.

Angus waited a moment, then emerged from the hedges. He continued up the street, made a right at the corner, and went around the block, emerging onto his own street from the lower end. At his driveway, he snuck a glance up the street at the overturned yellow can on the front walk.

Behind the garage, he sat on his milk crate and cracked open the Welch’s, taking a long, slow sip, until the carbonated strawberry began to burn his throat. ▪