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An alarm clock is ringing. The child it belongs to reaches out to stop it, and yawns herself awake. With a stretch of her arms over her head, she leans over and cartwheels out of bed.

As she skips down the stairs, she nearly slips on various wrappers and old clothes, but catches herself with cushioned giggles. Bits of lumber have fallen out of the bannister. Pictures of family that once lined the walls now line the floor. She kicks and shatters one with her last descending step, and jumps over her parents on the way to the kitchen.

Standing on a chair, she takes the last bowl from the cupboard and slams it on the counter. She fills it with bits of various cereals — Fruit Squares and Chocolate Zeros and Marshmallow Bystanders and Tiny Fiber Governments — that touch each other lightly, tenderly, in a bounded pile. She leaves the collection where it sits, and reaches into the refrigerator for an ice cold can of Coca-Cola. As she pours, the stack dissolves and condenses into a mushier stack. She scoops some into her mouth and laughs at the flavor, which isn’t real. Nothing is real. The bowl goes to the sink with the other bowls, and the girl heads out for school.

“Marisa, you’ve been wearing the same clothes all week. Is everything all right at home?”

“Yes, Mrs. Korkberkley.”

She comes home to a dark house. The only light she needs is in the refrigerator, and she opens its door. She leaves it open and sits beside it on the floor. The light reaches as far as her father’s face, and she watches his shadow as she pops the top of another Coke. “Not before dinner,” he used to say.

COCA-COLA: YOUR ONLY RESPONSIBILITY

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