Standing on the top rung of the footstool, up on his tiptoes, he could just reach it. His mother’s secret stash was kept in an old cookie tin on the top shelf of the kitchen pantry. She didn’t think anybody knew about it, but he’d seen her once, through the backdoor, arms stretched out of reach.
The top shelf was a graveyard for failed gifts. Nobody went up there. It was where they kept the pasta maker his father had given her for Christmas, back when they were married. They’d probably only used it a couple of times. The counters covered in flour, a clothesline strung up across the room to hold drying fettuccine. He’d thought it was fun, but his mother said it was a pain in the ass. Also up there was a fondue set and a fancy coffee maker, each with a similar history.
She’d squirrel things away in other more obvious places too. He’d been through desk drawers, jewelry boxes, a set of those Russian dolls that sit inside each other. He’d climbed up on top of the refrigerator and found a box of black licorice secreted behind the flour and rice canisters.
Sometimes he would turn up a bag of sweets and slip a few out if there were enough to not draw suspicion. If he found a lottery ticket or a gift receipt or a dry cleaning tag, he’d just look at it and try to imagine where it had come from and why she held on to it. The paperwork on the desk was largely unintelligible, but in a pinch, he’d excavate looking for clues on the blotter underneath.
Coat pockets and a black day planner she called her brain held the biggest mysteries. Scraps of paper with phone numbers, dates and times, and abbreviated names. One time he’d gotten bold and telephoned a number from a matchbook found in the bathroom trashcan. When a man’s voice answered, he’d panicked and hung up.
Her shift ended right around the time Solid Gold came on. He’d make sure to be soundly planted in the beanbag, in front of the TV, with his RC Cola and Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie. Hi honey, she’d say, coming in the door with a bag of groceries, what did you do today? Not much, he’d answer, not much.
Will is a musician, writer, photographer, and general curious soul. He grew up in cheap "soda" country, but does his thing in Pittsburgh, which is firmly "pop"—an adjustment that still feels weird.