Give and Take
Cheryl was mad at her mother so she took her mother’s Howard Miller Mantle Clock, and put it out on the front stoop for trash pickup. The clock was finished in Windsor Cherry and featured Ava Maria chimes. Her mother, who had become deeply religious following her father’s death, found the chimes soothing. Later that night while brushing her teeth, Cheryl looked out to see if the clock was still there. A small non-descript white van was parked in front of her house. As she watched, the door opened and a man popped out--very small—roughly the same size as Cheryl’s eight-year-old brother, Greg. The man was old and stooped with large knobby hands. He wore a white t-shirt and white painter’s pants. He bent over to scoop up the clock and the lamplight illuminated his wiry gray hair. It seemed he couldn’t lift the clock. Soon he gave up and cupped his hands around his mouth. Some sort of signal. The van door opened and a bevy of people, all tiny, all identically clothed, began pouring out. It was like one of those shows where people smash themselves into volkswagens. Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…when more than thirty people had popped out of the van, Cheryl let go of the curtain. She went to her mother’s room and was just about to wake her when she realized she could not tell her about the clock. Her father had given her mother the clock before he was killed in Afghanistan and Cheryl had stolen it because six months grounding seemed excessive for one joint.
Cheryl went back to the bathroom and peeked out the window again. The people had joined hands and were fanned out across her front lawn with their heads bowed. They stayed like that for several minutes and then one by one they got back in the van.
The next day in school, Cheryl got an “A” on her biology paper. Her mother was so pleased she lifted Cheryl’s punishment. Cheryl told her friend Shelly. Shelly told Marie and Marie told Harriet. That night Shelly put out her old bean bag chair. Marie put out the old 18-inch TV that had been languishing in the basement. Harriet her Twilight series. The van pulled up to each house. The next day the girls commiserated. Marie’s boyfriend had asked her to prom that morning. Shelly’s mother had bought her a Moped. Harriet got into Dartmouth.
Word spread fast. Marsha Wright put out a tattered loveseat, Colleen Harris a dinette set, Fred Markham, old golf clubs. No matter what was deposited on the front lawn, the trash pickers hoisted it up and fitted it into the van. Soon people challenged each other to donate larger items—sectionals, flat screens, aquariums, Stairmasters lined the street. Everyone agreed the prayer ceremony was moving. Time went by. Each successive night it was harder to hang on.