I was never destined to be a millionaire. My first failure of the task occurred at the age of eight. It was a normal afternoon at day-care. I went to the school funded one, which meant we hung out in the school cafeteria for a few hours with my teacher until parents came to pick us up.
The schedule was always like clockwork. I would spend the first hour playing ‘imagination’ with redheaded Robin. This usually consisted of creating a make-believe house out of lunch tables and singing Tiffany’s ‘I think we’re alone now’ on repeat until we were called in for snack time. Tuesdays were the best because they always included marshmallows for dessert. This was a very special treat for me. My healthy rational parents declared marshmallows ‘nothing but sugar’ and were greatly opposed, which meant my only access to them was on Tuesday afternoons.
I lingered in the moment. I loved everything about them. The texture. The feeling of mushing them closed and seeing the slight sling back. Then the sweet taste as they hit your tongue and hung out just long enough to wallow in the sugariness. I had a habit of mashing three marshmallows together to make mini Mickey Mouse heads. That’s when this particular afternoon got good. I leaned back as my teacher poured my portion from the bag and became giddy when I saw the white fluffs hit my paper towel. I got a deformed marshmallow. These were the best. It was like getting three in one. As I picked it up to examine it further I was completely taken aback. This deformed fluff was in the perfect shape of a Mickey Mouse head. Absolutely perfect. The ears were even perfectly proportioned with the head.
I set it aside to admire it while I ate the rest of my snack. I continued to try and create my own heads but none could even come close to comparison. I was finally just down to the one. My first instinct was to keep it. This was clearly a miracle. The marshmallow should be savored by sitting on a shelf in my bedroom where it could be periodically adored. I stuck to this decision for about three minutes until the temptation to eat it overtook me. It tasted as good as it looked.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a content haze until I found myself to be the last kid waiting. Feeling particularly cheery, I started to help my teachers clean up. I started at the snack table and immediately grabbed the empty marshmallow bag to inspect for any stragglers. I found it empty, but my eye caught something else. It was my perfect Mickey Mouse head, but this time it was a picture on the front of the bag advertising a contest, “Find the Mickey Marshmallow and win $1,000,000 and a trip to Disney!”
My heart stopped beating. My hand guiltily grabbed at my stomach where I felt my first instance of true regret. I reread the contest description to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, but nothing changed in the blazing white text. The letters stayed the same, printed beautifully in front of the Disney Castle and the large Mickey Mouse head that now appeared to be sneering at me from the bag. For a moment the images of my life as a millionaire flowed through my mind on a wave of intense hope. But it was only for a moment.
It was my teacher calling to me that snapped me back to the present. My mom was here. Oh, my sweet mom. I guiltily tossed the bag in the trash with the other rubbish and my dreams, and made my way over to my mother.
more by ANNA KOWALCZUK
photograph by Brent Hofacker