Whir and Whistle – Courtney King

Cindy is buying snacks. Brian sees her. Dave is slipping quarters into the Pacman machine.

Cindy asks the cashier if they have fat free butter. They don’t. Brian flees to the bathroom. Dave mashes buttons on the machine, unaware of Brian’s disappearance.

Cindy gets the popcorn with the regular butter, she is alone after all. Brian is in the bathroom, fists clenched, breathing heavily. Pacman is swallowed by a ghost and Dave hits the machine in frustration, one life left.

Cindy fishes around in her purse, searching for her wallet. Brian splashes his face with water. Dave is out of lives and quarters and now notices Brian is gone.

Cindy grows more frantic looking for her wallet. Brian’s phone rings. Dave voice echoes in the bathroom from the phone speaker, asking Brian where he went.

Cindy grabs her phone. Brian meets back up with Dave as his phone rings again. Dave looks down at Brian’s phone screen.

Cindy hears Brian’s ringtone and sees the boys standing together, hand in hand, by the arcade games.

Everyone’s faces fall. The boys hands drop. No one speaks. The arcade games whir and whistle.

“Ma’am?” The cashier looks between Cindy and the boys, “did you still want the popcorn?”

Cindy’s knuckles are pale, clenched around her phone. Dave stares at his feet. Brian speaks, “hey mom.”

Cindy turns away.

“I seem to have lost my appetite,” she says to the cashier.