Introducing Vintage Fringe, a monthly feature highlighting excellent writing from a past issue of Fringe.
Annie moved quickly down the street, dodging in and out of the shadows as best she could. Despite her evident haste, she tried to avoid close contact with passersby, tried to move unnoticed down the street, hunching her darkened figure in an effort to diminish her large frame. Her wide shoulders were rounded over her stomach, her thick fists jammed in the pockets of her denim jacket. She kept her head down, the soft folds of her face purposely obscured by the hood of the sweatshirt she wore under her coat. It began to rain harder, which suggested that her awkward hurry was an attempt to get out of the weather.
But really, Annie was nervous. Deep in her coat pocket, she fingered the precious package she carried, thumbing the protective Saran Wrap over and over, the slick plastic rebounding gently from the touch of her fingers. She couldn’t believe it. It was there, in her pocket. Soon she would be able to enjoy the fruit of her illicit labor, if she could make it to a secure place. Frankie had told her about a burned-out apartment building near the projects that was still waiting approval for demolition. Until it was knocked down, it was the best place to enjoy her black market jewel in peace. If she wasn’t caught first.
Carefully, Annie gripped the package, cradling her precious cargo from being too jostled as she hurried up the cobbled sidewalk. In her hand, she nestled the soft cake in the flesh of her palm in order to prevent any damage, any squashing imperfection, any loss of cream filling. Annie couldn’t believe it. There it was, the real thing. “It oughta be,” she said to herself. “Cost me a whole regimen’s worth of carbs.” An actual Hostess Cupcake. Totally illegal.
The man that sold it to her had sworn up and down that it was authentic. “Never mind the packaging,” he’d said when he noticed Annie’s hesitation at the plain plastic covering the treat. “Environmental laws make it hard to get the right kind of cellophane. But that there, that’s the gen-u-whine article.”
Annie flinched slightly as his pronunciation. He sounded exactly like a used car salesman, exactly like a fraud. She was vaguely certain that her money was not going to be well-spent. But it had been so long. So long since she had even smelled something as sweet and processed as a Hostess cupcake. Even if it were a fake, it would be nice to be reminded of what chocolate and sugar tasted like. It would beat the hell out of the cardboard NutriMeals she ate every day as part of her state-regulated diet.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” she said. “Just take care of the switch and lemme get outta here. I gotta be home for my marriage counselor’s appointment in a couple hours.”
The guy gave her a tight smile and took her debit card. “It’ll just be a moment, missy. Just have to exchange these carbs appropriately. Make everything seem nice and legit. Lessee… What’s your daily cal count?”