THE RED WAGON by Brian Hurley

I had forgotten until now about the red wagon. It lived in our garage, between the wood pile and the washing machine. Before taking it out someone had to sweep a hand along its inner rail to pull apart any spiderwebs. That someone was always my mom. She had carved a swatch of carpet to fit inside the wagon, so I could ride comfortably with my baby sister resting between my legs.

In denims and walking shoes, my mom pulled the wagon over pavement cracks and spackled gum. I let my palms brush the poppies and wild fuschia that hung over the sidewalk, careful to pull back at the sight of a bee. If my sister got fussy, I swatted her. But if she raised a finger in the direction of our neighbor's chestnut-colored chow, I shouted for my mom to halt, and we all watched that big, strange animal drag its owner across the street on four shaggy paws.

Coming back, I clutched our bags of cantaloupe, radishes, grapes, cilantro, red and green peppers, and tried to keep everything from spilling out. A car crossing at the wrong moment could force us to stop on a hill, with two wheels off the curb, and I would flush with horror for all those soft, breakable things in my arms, sweet potatoes and a baby sister and a sack of plums, all jostling away from me, and nothing I could do to right us.

An onion fell out once. I watched it poke the sidewalk and wobble away. I didn't say anything.

Brian Hurley's short fiction has been published in The L Magazine, Thieves Jargon, Pindeldyboz, Identity Theory, and elsewhere. He blogs at
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