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The Wagon This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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I never knew how a little red wagon could change my life. Growing up in Spokane, we never had much money. We never had much of anything, actually. The cupboards were usually bare and our only source of entertainment was the small TV that was perched on a bar stool in our main room. Momma had been saying for a long time that we were going to get rid of that TV so we could buy some extra food for ourselves. We were always so hungry and the TV made us forget about that. It made us laugh and cry, wonder and imagine. But it had to go. Momma packed it up one day, took it to the pawn shop and that was that. She put the money she gained under her mattress for safekeeping, so we would have supplies for food. Eventually though, that money ran out, and we were back to where we were before, but without a TV. We groaned at Momma and cried for food, but she just told us to hush, because she didn’t have the money for it, and she knew it.

One day Momma went out to get a loaf of bread with the money she still had. On her way out the door she gave a loud, “Good Heavens!” and stopped in the doorway. We all rushed to her side to see what was on the other side of the screen door. Lying on the porch, motionless, was a little red wagon, all shiny and glossy. But the gloss was not the important part. The important part was what was inside. Placed inside that little red wagon was a plump loaf of bread. “My, my,” Momma said, “and I believe it’s still steaming.” My older brother Bobby pulled on her skirt, asking her where it came from. She just brushed him away, saying, “Well now, I guess it really doesn’t matter, now does it.” She rushed the loaf into the kitchen and dropped it onto the counter, landing with a plunk. Drawing a silver knife from the drawer, she pierced the bread, and it sunk in like it was made of butter. She made another cut and little slice fell off the end and landed on the counter with an airy whoosh. Momma quickly snatched it up and took a cautious bite out of it. “Boys!” she yelled suddenly, turning sharply to face us. “Go grab that wagon and bring it here.” Bobby and I broke into a sprint and stumbled towards the front door, each one of us competing to get there first. Bobby pushed me down and ran for the screen door, swinging it open so it smashed against the house with a metallic clang. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got to the door. Sitting there, where the little red wagon had been, was absolutely nothing. Thin air, as if it had dissolved into the atmosphere.

“Well?” Momma yelled from the kitchen, “Bring it here!” Bobby piped up and yelled back at her, “Momma, it’s not here!” She strode out of the kitchen, wiping the flour from the bread onto her apron, and stopped in the entryway. “What do you mean it’s not there?” She walked to the door and leaned over us to get a good look. “Good Lord!” she exclaimed. Sharply turning to us, she demanded, “Where is it?” We just stood there looking at her with blank stares. She leaned down to us and again asked us, “Where is it?” I answered, “I don’t know, Momma.” With a quizzical look on her face she stood back up and quickly walked back into the kitchen. We quietly followed her and peeked around the wall to spy on her as she stumbled around in the drawers for the knife she set back. Se opened one then slammed it close, turning around to open another. She kept mumbling to herself about wagons, no good neighborhood kids and whatnot. As she turned around yet again she caught sight of us standing there staring at her. “Well?” she said, “Get to bed!” We wailed, “But Momma, it’s not even dark yet!” She ruffled her hair with her hands and wiped down her face, spreading what seemed to be tears along her cheeks. Suddenly she looked back at us with anger in her eyes and yelled, “Just get!” Bobby and I quickly turned and made a break for it towards our room, slamming the door immediately after we entered. We were breathing hard as we stood there with our backs to the door, barricading it shut. Bobby still begs to differ, but I swear that I heard Momma crying right then.

After about half an hour of sitting at the door listening to Momma clang around the kitchen and curse as she bumped into tables and chairs, we put ourselves into bed and turned out the only light. “Bobby,” I asked, “Who do you think put that wagon there?” He groaned and turned on his side. “I don’t know, and I wouldn’t talk about it to Momma if I were you anymore,” he said. “I know.” I just lay there a while after Bobby went to sleep, wondering why Momma would get so frustrated. I mean, we had just gotten ourselves new food, which we hadn’t had in a while. And we didn’t even get any of it. It would just be lying there on the counter with no one eating it, all night. I lay there for a bit longer, until I heard Momma’s bedroom door slam shut. I slunk out of bed and tiptoed to the door. Opening it a little, I looked through the crack and saw that the coast was clear. I slipped out of the door and quietly shut it, heading for the kitchen. I grabbed a tool and slid it to the base of the counter as I climbed onto it. There it was, the most beautiful thing I had seen all week. I poked the bread, and it puffed back into place as I pulled my finger away. Looking for a knife I searched the counter until I found the dull silver blade Momma used to cut the bread. To make it look unsuspicious I cut a tiny slice off of the end Momma had cut, wiped off the knife, and set it back exactly where it had been.

I stuffed the bread into my mouth and headed back for my room. Oh man! This wasn’t just bread, it was the greatest bread I had ever tasted in my whole life. It was light and fluffy, as if it where made of air, and it melted in my mouth with the greatest satisfaction. I knew that I just couldn’t stick with just one piece of this heavenly food, so I started back for more. However, I was stopped in my tracks by a sound coming from Momma’s room. Curious, I got on my hands and knees and crawled towards her door. Peeking underneath it, I saw Momma’s feet pacing around the floor as she cried and talked to herself. Between sobs she would say, “Why?” or, “What did I do?” She broke into heavy sobbing for about a minute before she became quiet and whispered, “Why did you have to leave me?” I gasped and my heart dropped. I stood up quickly and drug my feet into my room. I opened my door and walked by my sleeping brother before hopping into bed yet again. I knew who my momma was talking about. She was crying about my Daddy, who left when I was young. He left because of me, because he couldn’t pay for our growing family anymore. After a big fight with Momma, he ran out the door, and I remember hearing the dreaded slam of the screen door behind him. After he left Momma didn’t have a job and we started to run out of money. She tried to find another job, but at that time nobody was hiring. I sat up in my bed and fluffed up my pillows, thinking about how my life would be different if we had my daddy, but I could not hold my consciousness and I drifted into an empty sleep.

The next day we woke up to Momma still clanging around the kitchen. We opened the door a crack and peeked out. She was on her hands and knees, rummaging through cabinets and drawers. It didn’t take long to find out what she was looking for, as she pulled a silver coin from one of the drawers and set it next to a stack of other coins. After a few minutes she stopped and stood back up, wiping the dust from her skirt. When she stood up she grabbed the coins and put them into a pouch in her blouse, and headed for the door. She was only a few strides from exiting when she stopped and put her hands up to her mouth, gasping. Bobby took a chance and flung open the door, shouting, “What’s wrong Momma?” She didn’t answer him; she only stared at the door in disbelief. I too rushed out of my room to see what the matter was with the front door. Hurrying to them I stuck my face between their sides for a good look. When I saw it, I didn’t believe either. Sitting on our porch, filled with cartons of eggs, milk, and cheese, was a little red wagon, glittering in the morning sun.

So that’s how it went. That little red wagon showed up every day with food in it, and then disappeared after Momma took out all the food. Some days she would wait there to see who was bringing it, but she would always fall asleep in the doorway while waiting. When she woke up, the little red wagon was laying there filled with food or money. Momma was able to buy new clothes for us and other necessities, since she now didn’t have to buy food. This gave her more time for herself, which she used to go find a job in a winery. Now with a job, she was able to pay for education for both of us and Bobby and I were able to achieve our dreams. Bobby went off to work as an Astrobiologist at NASA, and I decided to stay closer to home. I got a job as a manager at a large winery in Eastern Washington, where I made enough money to pay for a large house with my wife and three kids. We had just moved into our new house and we weren’t expecting any guests, which is why it was strange when the doorbell rang on a Sunday afternoon. I walked down the stairs and towards the door, reaching out for the bronze handle. I turned the knob and slowly opened the door. But when I opened it, there was no one there. I groaned. Now we had moved in to a neighborhood of no good kids who loved to pull some of those doorbell pranks. I turned to close the door, but a glimmering object caught my eye. I swung around and looked down at my porch. Sitting there, motionless, was a glossy red wagon. I gasped as I leaned down so see what was inside. All that lay inside the wagon was a little note on white paper, with only three words written on it. Pass it on.





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