“Excuse me.” The young voice startled me, and I looked up from where I was hunched into the trunk of my car, rummaging for the jack. She looked Japanese and about fourteen. Her black and silver clothes made me think of the night sky. She stood in the center of the sidewalk, a hopeful expression on her face.
“Do you have a map I could borrow?” she asked.
“Uhh…” It took me a moment to pull my brain from the track it was on, to one that could answer her question. Poor kid was lost. I realized she wasn’t alone, though. Another girl, similarly dressed, stood in the grass several feet back. She was holding what looked like a couple of brooms behind her back. “I don’t have like a paper map or anything,” I said, wondering what happened to the one I used to keep in the glove box. “But I could pull one up on my phone, if that would help.”
She looked puzzled. “You can do that?” she asked.
I smiled and straightened up, taking a step closer. “Yeah.” I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and held it up for her to see. “Here, I’ll show you.” My fingers slid quickly across the screen, unlocking the device, then navigating to the map app. While it loaded, I turned it toward her.
“That’s a phone?” She blinked a couple of times.
I nodded. “Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a smart phone.” It didn’t seem possible.
She smiled, and something about it was secretive. “I’ve never seen a phone like this.” She glanced over her shoulder, her straight black hair twirling out about her shoulders. “San, do you want to see it?”
The other girl shook her head stiffly.
The first one shrugged and turned back to my phone. “She’s a little nervous,” she whispered. “It’s her first big outing and she’s never been lost before.”
“You have?” I asked. The map had loaded, and I tapped the GPS button, and it adjusted to our location.
She giggled. “Lots of times.”
“So why don’t you have a map?” It seemed a bit obvious.
“It’s more fun if you have to work at it,” she said. “So it’s more memorable. You don’t ever forget and get lost in the same place twice this way.”
“Where are you from?” I asked, thinking it odd that a girl her age was accustomed to getting lost. Her philosophy about it was strangely mature.
“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of it,” she assured me. “It’s a tiny little town.” She stared at the screen. “So we’re… here?” She pointed to the red pin marking our place on the map.
“Yup. Where are you trying to get to?”
She chewed on her lower lip as she thought for a moment. “I think you call it Raspberry Island.”
I smiled, it sounded like she was a tourist, translating the place name from her own language. “Do you have a different name for it?” I turned my phone sideways and dragged the map a little to find the island.
“Of course. Oh!” She smiled brightly and pointed to the screen, careful not to touch it. “There it is.” She glanced back over her shoulder. “We’re only a little off course San. We’ll be there in no time.”
“So what are you doing?” I asked. “How’d you get lost?”
“We’re meeting at Raspberry Island,” she said. “We’ve all been left someplace we’ve never been, and we have to find our way there.” She looked up at me. “Don’t worry. It’s not cheating to get help like this.”
“So it’s a competition or something?” Someone had dropped young teens all over St. Paul with these instructions? That seemed kind of harsh.
“More of a test,” she corrected.
“Do you need a ride or want the bus schedule or anything?” Raspberry Island was easily three miles away.
She grinned. “Oh, no thank you. But it’s very kind of you to offer.” She looked at my car, parked at the curb. “And I do appreciate you interrupting what you’re doing to help us.”
“No problem.” I’d forgotten about my flat tire, and the break from that frustration had actually been quite welcome.
“Have a good evening,” she said, before turning to her friend, her hand held out. The other girl passed one of the brooms to her.
“Thanks. You too.” Then I froze and watched, dumbfounded as they straddled their brooms and floated up into the evening sky. When I finally got back to my tire, it was no longer flat.
Prompt: Do you have a map I could borrow?