Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hula-hoops, Boys, and Bottle Rockets

She didn’t write about what I had said to her, or what I had done to her.

She only wrote about who I would never be.

It was a summer day. Hotter than hell-fire, mom said before she sent me into town on my bicycle. That’s when I first seen her, the new girl. She was swinging her hips around the inside of a hula-hoop on the sidewalk in front of the local five and dime when I spotted her that first time. I thought she was a little flaky just standing there all alone swizzling that pink plastic around her tiny waste while the summer bees swarmed the bottle of soda she had left in the sun to get warm. I said “Hi,” and she said “Hi” back, cracked her gum, and kept on swizzling. I was with the brass band at a school practice earlier. Was still in my uniform. It was itchy and tight, and I remember how small her toes looked in the little plastic grocery store flip-flops she was wearing. I remember thinking that bare feet were romantic. My mom had got me new shoes for practice. They were shiny, but they were tight and made my feet feel hot and cramped. I had to get the laundry at the fluff and fold. Mom would be angry if I came back late, wasted her time and her money if the clothes were crinkled up, but I couldn’t stop staring at this girl. The hula-hoop had ball bearings or something inside of it, and it made this shucking sound as it swung in circles around her. With the laundry money, I thought, I could get us both some ice cream.

“Would you like some ice cream,” I asked her. She didn’t even look at me, just replied, “What kind?” and went on swinging, her tan summer toes gripping the concrete beneath her feet as if the hoop might spin her out into orbit.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Whatever kind you want, I suppose. We could go down to the marsh, sit in the shade for a bit.”

“I don’t go with boys,” she said all matter of fact like, scrunching up her nose at my boy stink, but I wasn’t a boy. Not in my uniform. Mom said I looked like a man in my uniform, so I told her that, pointed to all my shiny buttons and stuff. She smiled at me and said, “Ok.” The marsh was warm, quiet, still, and she didn’t scream that much when I hit her. It was really hot that day. I felt feverish. I don’t remember what she said to me, or much after she said it, except her ice cream, melting clotted milk into the mud.

That girl doesn’t hula-hoop outside of the five and dime anymore. I go there every day, and I wait, change for ice cream jingling in my pocket. I wait there alone; sometimes so long I forget what she looks like. I still see her sometimes, though, at the back of the schoolyard, in the shadows, writing in her little book. She has this look in her eyes as she scratches and tears at the pages, and I just know she isn’t writing about me.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

When she isn't writing, Cheryl Anne Gardner likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. She writes art-house novellas and abstract flash fiction, some published, some not.

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