Before hiding the money away, Simon pulled one of the stacks of hundred dollar bills from the package and slid two from the top. He marveled that they were out of sequence – even from different years – and for a moment, cold excitement made a circuit through his limbs, radiating out from his heart as if he were hit with cardiac paddles. It was more money that he ever dreamed of having, and as he replaced the bricks to hideaway the stash deep in the quiet alley, he thought about Alec getting the new bike he’d been asking for. It would be amazing to grant a wish for his son instead of just answering “maybe” as he always did with the word trailing off his lips the way it would from a parrot, devoid of promise or meaning. Unsequential, unmarked bills. It was both unbelievable and thoroughly real, a lottery ticket with a hefty price he still had to pay.
Two hundred was going to be more than enough to get what was needed but time seemed to be accelerating, spiraling away from him like a feather dropped from a building ledge. He stuffed the two bills into pocket and walked fast toward the the busiest part of Hastings Corner where a few small businesses, restaurants and a pharmacy sat beneath high-rent condominiums and apartments. Shoppers walking in and out of these places were well-dressed, confident. They chewed life as if it were tender steak cooked just to their liking and Simon stared as one woman in break-neck heels teetered elegantly by him on her way out of a trendy shop with faceless mannequins pretending royalty in the window. His own life had been overcooked, bitterly charred, and as he walked into the store, he felt everyone there could smell that he didn’t belong. Simon suddenly wanted to be one of the mannequins, faceless and forgettable to the delicacy-dining bourgeoisie. Then he realized he already was invisible to them, his dirty blue jeans, old sweat-stained baseball cap and lifeless eyes announcing his plebeian status; a leaf blown into place on an indifferent breeze and unnoticed by those still thriving on branches.