This was a short story I wrote for the Florida Writers Association’s annual anthology collection (this year’s theme – “It’s a Crime”). It didn’t make the cut of the top 60 to be put in the anthology. Oh, well.
So I get to indie publish it here. Enjoy.
And feel free to leave comments.
The soft knock barely registered in the fog of early morning slumber. “Cinda, you up?” Kobie Lockett called to his sister as he made his way to the laptop on her desk.
“Mmmnnn,” Jacinda mumbled rolling toward the thin stream of light filtering through the crack in her bedroom door. She glanced at her alarm clock – 8:05 – and burrowed deeper under her comforter. Church didn’t start until ten. She had at least another half-hour to sleep, and after last night’s fiasco she needed it.
Kobie switched on the reading lamp then the laptop before settling into Jacinda’s rolling chair. The hum of the computer followed by the beeps and chimes of the computer’s start-up program echoed through the silent room.
“Ugh” Jacinda moaned. She uncovered her head and peeked at her younger brother through squinting eyes. “Kobie, what’re you doing?”
“Cinda, you’ve got to see this,” he said as he clicked away at the computer keys. An actor in a pop-up ad shouted the beginnings of his commercial before Kobie could hit the mute button. “You’re on YouVid.”
“So,” Jacinda said shoving the covers to her waist and rubbing her eyes. “Lots of my friends have YouVid channels.” She turned her head to watch as Kobie typed in keywords for a search.
“I know,” he said, maximizing the screen, “but I don’t think this is one of your friends’ channels.” He turned up the volume and rolled away for Jacinda to see the screen.
The shaky, cell phone video showed teen after teen entering a big box discount store that was already teeming with adolescents. None of the faces looked familiar, but any of them could have been students at Jacinda’s high school. Most of the people in the video were young and African-American, like Jacinda. Their muffled yells were unintelligible as they knuckle-bumped and backslapped other teens who were steadily streaming in the through the automatic doors.
Jacinda catapulted out of bed and nudged her brother out of the chair to take his place at the desk. Her fingers fumbled across the touchpad to lower the volume as a whoop from the camera operator cut through the stillness of her room. Jacinda watched in horror as a couple of guys onscreen ran down the produce aisle each pushing a cart with a squealing girl in it. Fruit was being thrown like footballs over the produce bins. Boys were playing one-on-one with tightly rolled tee shirts, tossing them into round ice-filled soda coolers. A shirt bounced out of the cooler and landed on the floor. That’s when Jacinda saw herself.
“Oh my God, Kobie.” She covered her gaping mouth with pink-nailed fingers as she watched herself jump from the path of the cart racers’ second lap. “I didn’t know we was gonna end up in that mess when Andréa invited me to the party.” The Jacinda in the video giggled as the cart in the outer lane collided with a Coke display, knocking part of it over, and causing an explosion of soda to spew up Jacinda’s leg.
“Come on, Cinda.” Andréa Newsom led her friend further into the store away from the guy manning the camera. The video’s focus turned to the finale of the cart race: two carts on their sides and two riders struggling to get up with no help from their drivers.
Jacinda paused the video, fully awake now, her focus drawn to the counter under the image. “Do you see how many hits this got?” Kobie leaned over her shoulder to read the number. “It’s only been up for a few hours and it’s already got over 1,500 hits!”
“I know.” Kobie knelt down next to Jacinda. “You should read the comments.” He ran his finger over the touch pad on the laptop to scroll down the screen.
“What’re they saying?” Jacinda scanned the comments. None of them seemed too bad. There were a few obscenities, but the majority were just typical responses to an outrageous video – “Where were the parents?” “No respect for private property.” And Jacinda’s favorite, “It’s because of that damned rap music.”
“None of them are that bad,” Jacinda said. A couple of the screen names she recognized as friends from school.
“Check this one out.” Kobie clicked to page two of the comments and read aloud. “Just like a bunch of naprats to make such a mess. No side of town is safe anymore.” It was signed Original O-dub 12.
“What’re naprats?” Jacinda imagined a cluster of sleeping mice.
“Who knows?” Kobie looked over his shoulder at his sister before shrugging.
“Kobie, did you wake your sister up yet?” Mrs. Lockett called from downstairs.
Both of them jumped at the sound of their mother’s voice. Jacinda double-clicked the screen exit before shutting down her computer.
“Just did, Ma,” Kobie said as he rose quickly and hurried to the door. “You better pray that Mom and Dad don’t see that.”
“There’s no way,” Jacinda said. “They don’t even know how to post pictures to their Facepage accounts yet.” She rose from the chair and followed her brother out the door.
Kobie continued down the stairs as Jacinda went to the bathroom. She completed her morning routine and returned to her room to straighten her bed covers before making her way to the kitchen. She was stopped short by the voice of the local newscaster. “A flash mob of nearly 300 teens descended on a local Valu-Mart last night causing more than two thousand dollars in damages, a JSO spokesperson said. The teens travelled to the Valu-Mart on Tim Lerner Road after a house party got out of hand. As seen on the cell phone video, the youth converged on the Valu-Mart around midnight. Employees and security could do very little to stop the teens and JSO had to be called to handle the situation.”
The video, playing behind the newscaster, paused and Jacinda’s smiling face was plastered across the family’s fifty-inch flat screen. Her stomach lurched as she snatched the remote and fumbled to switch the TV off, but she wasn’t quick enough.
“Jacinda Mishell Lockett!” Her mother’s angry voice bellowed across the family room. “Girl, what have you done?”
Jacinda turned toward the kitchen and, from the look on her mother’s face, knew Reverend Carpenter’s sermon wasn’t the only one she’d have to sit through today.