“Precocious” by Thomas Mundt
When I pull into a space in front of the house, she’s there. Waiting.
Precocious is on my front porch, her elbows on her spotless kneecaps and her fists jammed into her jaw. To her immediate left is another fucking tub of cookie dough or, more accurately, a new Gifted Program in need of subsidization.
A bus trip to raise potato bug awareness, perhaps. A lupus quilt in need of mending.
I don’t know her given name.
“What you got for me today?”
I ask, but there’s no question. Precocious has sugar cookies. Every second-Wednesday-of-the-month, I comb through her magnet school’s fundraising menu, order treats with names like Party Train to Funville and Great-Big Birthday Cake Yummers. Two weeks later, I receive the same beige mixture in a bucket, file it away in the freezer beneath boxes of SuperPretzels and twist-tied bags of edamame.
“I regret to inform you that your check bounced.”
Precocious insists we can work something out, that if I can’t cover last month’s order today she’ll talk to her mother about fronting me until my next pay period. I’m to pay with cash going forward, however, as the Program can’t afford to eat the Returned Item fees.
“Today’s your lucky day.”
I hand Precocious a twenty. I don’t tell her that I took it from the Ronald McDonald House till in my work’s break room earlier in the day.
I inquire into her cause du mois.
“The Program is sending me to Infant Massage Camp in Eau Claire, Wisconsin this summer. Your contribution will help me reach my Essential Oils Goal.”
Precocious slips my bill into a manila envelope, scribbles something on her spreadsheet before snapping her shoulders back. Her posture perfect, she extends her right hand, popsicle-sticky.
“On behalf of Mayer Elementary, I’d again like to thank you for your continued support of the Program. We truly believe that, together, anything is possible.”
Precocious bounds my steps two at a time, eager to shake down another mark. I watch as she hits the sidewalk and patiently waits for the next-door neighbors’ sprinkler to cycle, times her traverse of the wet concrete perfectly with the hitch of the water arc.
Funny, I think. She has no idea how alone she’ll be.