I remember flipping through TV channels and seeing a commercial where two white kids couldn't go to sleep because they were so excited about going to Disney World the next day. The twist in the commercial was that the parents were so excited they couldn't sleep either. I remember all of their dumb smiles and wanting to feel that excitement so badly. I thought it was because I wanted to go to Disney World too. All I really wanted was to feel that eagerness only money can buy. The closest I ever came was Christmas Eve back when I was in middle school. I couldn't sleep because there was a chance that Santa Claus was real and that he’d fill my stockings with small trinkets as an appetizer along with dozens of presents on top of the few my parents had already bought.

We lived in a small one bedroom apartment, so that made the fake Christmas tree in the living room look like the big ass tree from Rockefeller on TV. My mom was always doing her best to compensate in spirit what we lacked in funds. While other moms were at the salon getting their hair dyed or permed, my mom worked at a deli.

“I get paid $14 an hour,” she’d brag to me. “That’s more than anyone else in the deli.”

My mom reminded me of a Korean Molly Ringwald with the same big mouth and teeth, with the exception that my mom’s hair was black. She even scowled like Molly whenever she thought I was watching too much TV, and not reading enough.

“The library is free,” she’d say. “You can get smart for free!”

My dad worked at the post office, so I never saw him. He’d go to bed around 6pm and wake up at 2am to get ready for his shift. Whenever I did see him, he reminded me of Rambo. My dad didn’t look anything like Sylvester Stallone, he was 5’5 at best with a pot belly ever since I could remember. But the same glum expression of despair Rambo wore throughout his movies was the same one my dad had. I think all he wanted to do was sleep.

I woke up on Christmas day and checked the stockings, which were full of candy. Underneath the tree were the same few presents there had been the previous night. In hindsight, I had enough. My parents did the best they could with what they had. Unfortunately, I had friends whose parents gave them whatever the fuck they wanted. That was painfully clear when I got back to school in the New Year.

“Three PS2 games, four CDs, this hoodie, these pants, other pants, oh I got this sick KG jersey. The real one with the stitches and shit. Uh, yeah that’s it,” Daniel said nonchalantly. “Oh, I wanted the new Iverson’s, the Answers, but they didn’t have the color I wanted.”

“What color were you trying to get?” someone else asked.

“Red,” Daniel answered matter-of-factly. “Duh.” I wanted to slap the smugness off his face, but I would’ve been the same way if I had as much money as Daniel’s family did. We went around the lunch table listing out what we got until it came to me. I sprained my ankle playing basketball during the break, so I told them I got a “fucked up leg” for Christmas and that got some laughs, but not enough to make me feel better about what I actually got. A Jay-Z CD and some Korean movie my aunt recommended to my mom to help me learn more Korean. The movie was about four dudes trying to rob a gas station.

Even after Christmas and New Year’s, Daniel and the other guys seemed to get new shit every other week. I was stuck recycling through the same three shirts until laundry day. Mondays, I wore my white Tommy shirt. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I wore my blue Polo shirt. Wednesdays and Fridays, I wore my black Nautica shirt.

“Didn’t you wear that shirt yesterday?” Daniel called me out in the locker room.

“No,” I said, flashing him a dirty look. It was Wednesday and I had spilled Capri Sun on my Tommy shirt during the weekend, so I jumped ahead of schedule and wore my Nautica shirt the previous day. I quickly pulled my hoodie on even though I was still sweating from dodgeball and rushed to my next class, flustered.

As I walked down the hallway, I ran into a kid and felt a sudden splash from an ice cold Coke can onto the front of my hoodie. I looked up and saw this pale bone-thin kid with thick glasses sliding off the bridge of his nose. He was wearing an Iverson jersey, a real one.

“What the fuck?” he yelled.

He shoved me with one hand and my overweight backpack nearly tipped me over. I reached out and grabbed his jersey, pulling his whole body forward. As I regained my balance, he shoved me off him and threw his Coke at me. I rushed him and wrapped my arms around his wiry frame and slammed him into the ground. I wasn’t tall, but I was stocky and used every bit of my weight to keep him down. He tried to buck me off him, but my backpack suddenly turned into an advantage and I started wailing down shots until somebody pulled me off him.

His name was Mike and we were both suspended from school for a few days. The whole time we were in the principal’s office, we didn’t say anything. Mike’s face was bloodied and swollen, the lens in his glasses were cracked over his right eye. I kinda felt bad about that since I knew how expensive glasses could be, but he just kept biting his nails. He acted like no one had touched him. His jersey had a few stitches torn out, but he didn’t seem to care. I was pissed since I had even less clothes to wear now. The principal called both our parents, except I had written our home phone number down as the emergency contact just for times like these. Mike’s parents came to pick him up early, while I had to wait for the final bell to ring.

When I got home, I made sure to erase the answering machine and planned on pretending to go to school in the morning before sneaking back into the house. Then I realized my dad would be home. He had the next day off and would probably be sleeping, but I couldn’t risk him waking up to find me at home. I spent the whole night thinking of where the hell to go instead of school and fell asleep soon after I heard my dad’s 2 am alarm go off. He had forgotten to turn it off.

I got up as usual and zombied my way through a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios before heading out to my bus stop. I sat back around the corner and watched the bus come and go. Then I made my way towards school, which was about a thirty minute walk if I took the shortcut through the townhouse neighborhoods. I dragged my feet on the sidewalk, hoping to double my time and delay the inevitable boredom that awaited me.

I didn’t have money to waste and all my friends were at school, which was embedded within a bunch of single home neighborhoods. I took the scenic route, which took me even longer and walked through a trail that ran behind the houses through dense woods. About halfway through, I started getting thirsty and thought about the chocolate milk that came with my free lunch.

I made it out of the woods and onto the playground. It had a twisting slide attached to a coned top steeple at one end, a firepole attached to a little bridge that was connected to a straight slide for those less adventurous. No water fountain in sight. I plopped my backpack down on the ground and a few woodchips went flying. I laid myself down on the straight slide and stared up into the sky. There were a few clouds, enough for shade, but not enough to rain. There was one water fountain in school that was almost always dry because someone said a special ed kid put his mouth on the spout. I hoped thinking of that fountain would make me forget how thirsty I was, but all it did was make my throat drier. I closed my eyes, hoping to sleep away the day until I heard a sharp ping against the slide. The vibrations reverberated down the slide and I felt something cold slide up against my neck. I shot up.

I looked behind me and saw a copper Abe Lincoln. A penny. Then there was another ping and another and another. A rapid fire of pennies hit the slide, clattering down to where I sat, the coins ringing in my ears. Some pennies began to hit me in my face, so I turtled up and waited out the attack. Once it was over, I opened one of my eyes and saw Mike. He was holding some kind of launcher, a penny gun. A mischievous smile spread across his bruised face. He was wearing a different outfit from the previous day, a Vince Carter jersey and new glasses. I got up and sprinted towards him.  

Mike bolted and ran towards one of the houses nearby. His long strides made it seem like he was faster than he was. I scurried my way to the front of his lawn. Right when I was about to charge him, he pointed the penny gun back at me.

“This is my house,” Mike said. “You can’t come in.”

“I don’t want to come in... I’m... gonna beat your ass again.” I gulped down air between words.

Mike closed one eye as if he was taking aim. “I saw you coming,” he said. “From my window.”

I took a look up at his house. There were so many windows and blue panes on his house, even a chimney.

“How’d you know where I lived?” Mike asked. I ignored his question, lost in awe of the house he stood in front of. It looked like the house from “Home Alone.”

“Do you have any water?” I asked him. Mike opened his other eye and looked straight at me.


“Water,” I repeated.

Mike snickered. “There’s a hose in the back.” I forgot how thirsty I was until that moment, until I found myself walking around to the back of Mike’s house. As I turned on the hose faucet, Mike stared at me through the sliding glass door with a sick satisfaction on his face. I lapped up the water from the hose and imagined what it must’ve been like for Mike to stay home all day in that castle. It must’ve been like going to Disney World.

Ryan Kim


Ryan Kim is a Creative Writing MFA graduate from UBC in Vancouver. He was a 2019 Nickelodeon Writing Program Semi-Finalist. He's had short fiction published on Hidden Chapter and The 22 Magazine Blog, and non-fiction published in Popula, RipRap, and Ricepaper.


  1. neat story but really wish we didnt have to mention race like it really means something these days. in fact disneyland is for everyone.

Previous Post Next Post