Paper Mushy

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Twenty-Three

Let me be the first to tell you that I would have felt no remorse if Shawn didn’t get his car or money back. He deserved neither. He was a monster. Special and Ianchelle, however, were not monsters and decided it was in their best interest to give back what was his. I drove his car with an envelope of cash to a parking lot where Ianchelle told Shawn to meet (a number she then deleted and blocked). I waited until he showed, which was about a half-hour after the designated time. He was constantly looking over his shoulder and his hands were trembling. He found the envelope of cash under the floor mat in the backseat. There was also a little surprise Special had left inside the envelope: a single wiggly eye glued to a blue piece of paper. We never heard from him again.

Special and Ianchelle invited me over for dinner every night. I started to help out in the yard—pulling weeds, picking up sticks, raking. Special scraped loose paint off the house. She decided the entire place needed to be painted light grey with white trim. I think it will look beautiful.

On one particular night, we were enjoying a mock Thanksgiving dinner consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. It had been almost two weeks since the Paper War, the name Special had come up with for the event that took place in Morrow Square. The wheels of the rumor mills were turning in the Square. The tall tale about Special’s paper mushies became an even taller one, too tall to climb and reach the top.

Some people blamed drugs.

Some people blamed gangs.

Some people blamed ghosts.

Some people did believe that Special’s paper mushies had come to life, but where was the evidence they declared? Where was the place that you used to bring them to life? Can you show it to us?

We never did tell anyone. You’re the first to find out and that’s for a good reason. People would have taken the barrel and misused it. They would have corrupted the magic that Special had discovered. It wouldn’t have gone to those in need, it would have gone to the highest bidder. But don’t worry. The barrel isn’t at Special’s play spot anymore. There was one last promise Special made me keep, one last oath before we dipped into that pumpkin pie.

“Can I ask you a question?” Special said.

I was eating an ear of corn when she leaned over. “Of course you can,” I said.

“Do you know someone else like me?”

“Why, there’s no one else like you, Special.”

She laughed. “I know that. Do you know someone else like me who needs help and doesn’t know how to get it? Who needs the magic from the barrel? Who needs to know that they’re not alone. Do you know someone like that?”

I finished taking a bite of my corn and set it on the plate. “I do. Someone like you. Someone very much like you.”

“Then it’s their turn now. Take the barrel to them and show them what it can do. They need it now.”

“But how do you know it will work again?”

“It will.” She smiled. “It has to. Because a kid needs help.”

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