With a clanging sound the can of juice fell out of the vending machine and lay still at its bottom. Chris let out a small sigh while he bowed down and pressed against the metal case to get it out. Leaning against the wall next to the vending machine, he started drinking with long gulps while wiping the sweat from his forehead. Running a little late again today. Soccer practice had kept him longer than most of the other kids after school. These days he was practicing harder than usual, the upcoming tournament and the increased pressure in mind. His club was getting better, but they had to put their all into it. Although his parents understood his tardiness, it still bothered his mom every time if she didn’t know for how many people to cook. I should text her. Propelling himself away from the wall with a light movement of his hips, he took out his cellphone with his right, while still holding the cold can in his left. Typing a message, a small pang of pain reminded him of the bruise he had received earlier during practice. Not a big deal though. On his way to the school entrance he waved back at some random other late runners he faintly knew from other clubs. He must’ve looked silly waving with a can. Emptying it he finished texting and hit sent. His mom answered faster than he had expected; only seconds after the message had left his phone, it rang with a response. “Buy milk on your way home. Two bottles.” Chris had just walked past the school gate and turned left, only to stop in his tracks now. Buying milk…? What a pain in the ass. He sighed as he realized he’d have to take a small detour. He put his cellphone back into his pocket and turned the other direction. But, knowing his mother, she was probably cooking up something delicious for him alone this instant even though they had already had dinner. Not for a second did the thought of refusing her pass through his head, even if he thought the small errand to be a hassle. A small drop of water landed on Chris’s face. Shading his eyes with his hand still holding the empty can, he looked up at the grey late afternoon sky. Heavy clouds were slowly brewing together over his head. Looks like rain. On his way he elegantly threw away the crumbled can while aiming for a nearby trash bin. It flew and landed in all elegance a few inches next to the bin. Picking it up and throwing it away for good, Chris let out another sigh. Not really my day.
“Thank you for your purchase!” The cashier at the small convenience store looked like she was barely older than Chris. Her wavy red hair bounced around her head while she was quickly moving one item after the other over the board. She had a nice smile though as she thanked him for buying two cans of local milk from happy cows. Chris returned the smile and gave her a little extra. When he left the store he put the milk in his shoulder bag and his hands in the pockets of his jackets. The thick clouds in the sky were still only dreading with rain, but so far only the occasional drop reminded the pedestrian of the wet plague. It was a little cold considering the season and most people on the street were wearing a jacket or jumper. Walking at his usual calm pace, Chris watched the cars passing by on the street. Carlisle was a small town. With only around 70’000 thousand residents it barely counted as a city by modern standards, and was part of a larger government district in the north of England. The nearby woods and streams flowing through it gave it the relaxed sensation of a laid back rural town. Yet there were many cars driving through the town’s central street today. Chris briefly reflected if there were any big events in the surroundings of the city. No way. There was nothing he could think of. The border of Scotland was only ten miles north, maybe people were drawn there over the autumn. Whatever the reason, Chris didn’t really care much as he watched a black wagon that looked a bit like a hearse halt to let an old man cross the street. In a nearby park Chris was passing, there were a bunch of kids playing on the playground surrounded by trees and benches. Their happy laughter and childish cries reminded Chris of when he had been at that age. Good times, good times. He reflected on his own childhood a little while walking past the playground. Umpf. Something had bumped into his lower stomach area and forced him to a halt. Looking down he saw a wild mane of brown hair buried in his jacket, shivering and moving frantically. A heartbeat later the furry thing revealed itself to be a little girl around the age of five, all in tears. As she was looking up at him, her watery blue eyes showed a sense of recognition. Ah yeah, she’s that one. Chris remembered her from a visit at his house recently. She was the little sister of his little sister’s friend. “Lost…” The girl – Chris couldn’t quite recall her name – was mumbling something he couldn’t quite make out. “Huh?” He encouraged her to speak up while moving back a step or two to bring some space between them. “Lost it!” Now she was all tears again. Apparently she had lost something. Only now Chris noticed the bag the girl was carrying; on one side there was a large hole. “What did you lose... Claire?” Chris asked as the girl’s name finally came to him again. “Doll!” Claire seemed to catch a little hope by receiving attention for her troubles. Her watery eyes were staring up at Chris with a mixture of anticipation and pure begging. “Over there!” as she beckoned to the playground she had apparently spent her afternoon in. Chris’s eyes moved slowly between the playground and the tiny girl in front of him. Finally, he let out a very long, very loud sigh while rubbing his nose in defeat. “Let’s get to it then.”
In the end it took him almost an hour to find the ten inch small puppet. When he finally found her, she was buried in between the leaves of a small bush on the side of the playground; god knows how she got there. Claire’s parents were all over him with gratitude and praise, but Chris was just glad he had at last managed to find the goddamn thing. Waving the family goodbye as they were on their way home, his new small fan was waving back at him the most vehemently. What a pain. It was clear he was more than late now and his mother had probably already sent dozens of messages. Chris decided to sit on one of the nearby benches for a sec and check his phone. The heavy clouds over his head had dispersed a little. The rain had of course come when he had been crawling around the bushes on his knees, looking for a silly toy while being drenched from both above and below. His clothes looked like he had just come from army camp. Sitting on the bench he tried to come up with an answer to his mother’s messages, the last few of which looked like General Capslock had personally seized his parent’s home. Really not my day. He leaned back on the wet bench and watched the clouds passing by. The sky had turned a crimson orange that would have looked beautiful if Chris had been in the mood of enjoying it. Closing his eyes he just sat there wondering what cruel fate had in store for him next.