A Tiny Indulgence

by Jayne Martin

The aisles of The Dollar Store were teeming with deal-seekers, many those like herself, struggling to stretch the last of the month’s Social Security check. She’d grown skillful at slicing open toothpaste tubes to scrape what remained stubbornly inside—quite a bit, as it turned out. Bars of soap reduced to slivers could be mashed together to make a new bar, sometimes in the shape of a snail, or a bird if her arthritis wasn’t acting up.

But now autumn was upon her. Darkness crept into her tiny apartment earlier and earlier each day stealing the light and warmth of the sun. Windows kept tightly shut against the cold, trapped odors of her neighbors’ cooking grease and cigarette smoke, the bodies of decomposing mice.

And so when she came upon the bin filled with red votive candles soaked in the scent of cinnamon, “Ten 4 A Dollar,” she did not fault herself for ceding to her desire. As she inhaled, her memory came alive with scenes of days gone by: Her home filled with the bouquet of fresh sweet rolls steaming from her oven, children with sticky hands and faces to be wiped, begging for just one more.

In the coming evenings, she will sit by her phone waiting for them to call as each tiny flickering flame releases its gift.