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Duckling (Part 1)

Your mom stood there in her orange parka. The air was cold. When she breathed-in her throat was cold. When she breathed-out she could see her breath. Her head was okay in her beanie and hood. Her neck was okay. It was covered by her scarf. Her hands were okay. They were covered by her mittens. Her face was cold. She was waiting for the school bus. Her feet were okay. She was wearing boots. It was too cold to make snowballs. The snow would fall apart in her mittens. So she stood still there.

She heard voices. They sounded like boy voices. She couldn’t see because of her jacket hood. The voices sounded familiar. She couldn’t see though because she was too cold to look. The voices got closer. Then she recognized a voice. It was Ken’s. She didn’t look because she was nervous.

-Oh cripes, he said.

She didn’t want to look. Ken was one year older than her. He was her next-door neighbor.

-What’s wrong?, Ken’s friend asked. Forgot your homework again?

-No, butthead, Ken said.

Your mom was too nervous to look. He said a bad word. Your mom kept her mouth shut.

-It’s her, Ken said.

-Your neighbor?, Ken’s other friend asked. The one with the big teeth?

-Yeah, Ken said. Buck teeth. The Buck Teeth-

Then Ken whispered something to his friends. Your mom couldn’t hear. She didn’t turn her head. She was too nervous. And she was too cold anyways. She stood there and waited for her bus. She sat at the front of the bus. She liked the front. The bus driver was at the front. The bus driver didn’t like tomfoolery. Nobody sat with your mom at the front. Your mom liked it that way. It meant no tomfoolery.

-That’s her. That’s her jacket, Ken said. I can tell. She can hear us. But she’s not looking.

-Let her not look, someone replied.

-She’s not looking because she’s hiding, Ken said. She thinks I’m dumb and I don’t see her standing right there.

-Let her stand there, someone replied again.

-Yeah, another one said. What are you going to do about her standing there, Ken? You’re just going to stand there too.

-I’ll show you, Ken said.

Your mom heard boots in the snow. She didn’t look because she was nervous. She felt a hand grab her arm and a leg come out and hook her leg. It pulled and she fell to the ground. Her knees hurt. But they were okay. She was wearing orange snow pants. She had never fell so fast before. She put her hands on the ground and got up. Her hands were cold. Her mittens were cold.

She felt an arm grab her and a leg came again and hooked her leg. She fell again. She put out her hands and the snow made it so they didn’t hurt much. She looked down at the snow. She felt a hand on the back of her head. It pushed her into the snow. Her head was cold. Her face was very cold. She didn’t look because she was nervous. She didn’t feel much. She only felt nervous.

-What’s the matter? Ken said. Did you fall on your big buck teeth?

Your mom didn’t say anything. She didn’t look. She was nervous and her face was cold. Her head and her hands were cold too. Her legs were okay. She was wearing snow pants.

She got back up. Before she stood up she felt a hand grab the back of her neck. It pulled her. Then it pushed her. It was a strong push. She fell over his leg.

-Stay down, Ken said.

He was over top of her. She could hear his voice. She didn’t look to see his face. She just lay there. Her stomach and her legs were cold. Her hands and face were very cold. She didn’t say anything. She was very nervous and cold. But otherwise, she didn’t feel much.

-Hey Ken, said a voice. She’s going to tell on us. Don’t.

-Just leave her be, Ken, said another voice. She isn’t hurting us by just standing there.

-Her buck teeth hurt me, Ken said. When she smiles I can see them and they’re so annoying.

-The bus driver might see, Ken. Just leave her be.

-Wait, Ken said. Watch this.

The hands came off your mom. Your mom lay there. She was very cold. She didn’t move. She was very cold and nervous. She heard nothing except for the wind and cars far away. She lay there. She could sleep there fine if it weren’t so cold. But if there was no cold, it would be a good place to lay down. She just hoped he didn’t talk anymore. There was no talking.

-Whoa, a voice said.

Then your mom felt a warmth. It was on her back. It was very very warm. Like a warm bath. There was a splashing noise. And the warm spread. Then she felt tickled on her back. And she felt water going on her back. Very warm water. It was the water that made it feel warm.

She heard laughing as she lay there.

-Ken! What are you doing? A voice said. The voice was laughing.

-She’s for sure going to tell on us now.

-No, she won’t Ken said.

He was standing over her. His butt and privates were cold. He was whizzing. There was splashing on her back. She was soaked.

-She doesn’t talk, he said. Even if she did, I’ll say she did it on herself. It’s not my fault she’s not potty trained.

The splashing was getting lighter. Your mom felt the warm. It was getting less warm. Your mom felt wet. It didn’t feel good now. Your mom felt cold, nervous, and wet. The warm was gone. Now she felt even colder. The smell was weird. Like pennies. She smelled pennies. She didn’t want to look. She was nervous and cold and wet. She heard a zip noise. She saw Ken’s boots.

-I can’t believe you Ken, someone said. I’ve never seen such a thing before.

-Buck teeth and now she smells like pee, Ken said.

-She’s going to tell.

-No, she’s not, Ken said. She doesn’t tell anyone anything. She doesn’t talk. She just sits down with her buck teeth and now she smells like pee.

Your mom lay there.

-The bus is coming.

-Oh crud, get up, get up, Ken said. And she felt hands grab her and pick her up.

The bus came. She got on the bus and sat at the front of the bus. She was warm in the bus. But she was wet. Her back was on the seat. It was weird feeling. She felt not good because she was all wet on her back. But at the front of the bus there was no tomfoolery. The bus driver didn’t like tomfoolery. And she was alone. She didn’t have to tell anyone why she was wet or smelled like pennies because she was alone.

In class, Mrs. Rose had a funny look on her face. Only from time to time. Then she looked at her. And she kept looking at her from time to time. But she didn’t say anything. She could smell the pennies too. Your mom thought that was why Mrs. Rose was looking funny. But Mrs. Rose didn’t say anything.

Your mom went home on the bus. She sat at the front. She felt dry at the end of school. But her jacket was still wet. It smelled like pennies. She got up. She heard laughing. She got off the bus. She walked to her house. She heard laughing on the bus from behind. She went inside.

When she saw her mom, she felt happy. Her mom looked happy when she saw her. Her mom had a funny look on her face sometimes. She looked at your mom. She smelled in the air. She took your mom to the bathroom and gave her a bath.

-If you ever have to go, just tell your teacher, sweety. It’s too cold out there to walk around with wet underwear.

Your mom didn’t say anything. She was warm in the water. The water in the bath was warm. It smelled like oranges. The smell of the pennies was gone.

Her mom tucked her in bed.

-Good night sweety. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

She shut off the light.

Your mom laid in her bed. The night light was orange. She looked up at the ceiling. It was orange. She was warm in the bed. She was dry and she was warm. And she didn’t feel nervous. She just looked up at the ceiling. She fell asleep.


Your mom walks to her school with her orange backpack on. Some of the boys are roughhousing and she hears one call another boy a fart. Your mom laughs. She had a big smile. Her two front teeth stick out.

They’re very noticeable. She doesn’t know that people notice them. Only one person ever tells her about them and she tries to never talk to that person.

It’s a very nice spring outside. Your mom is happy she’s allowed to walk to school. It’s not very far. And she’s old enough now to do it. Next year, she hopes her mom will let her wear some makeup. She lets her paint her nails orange. She’s been doing it for a year. She thinks it looks cool and very nice. She thought someone would notice, but nobody ever notices it. She still thinks it looks cool and nice and she does it every day.

She goes inside. Class is boring, but that’s life her mom always says. Homework is not very fun either. But she likes that she can do it alone. She doesn’t like being in class. Her classmates make her annoyed and sometimes she feels a sensation in her stomach when she’s around them. She doesn’t like her classmates. Some are okay. But others are weird or annoying.

At lunch, she goes to the radiator to sit and eat. In class, the kids are funny but they’re loud. Some are quiet like her, but she has nothing to say to them so she sits at the radiator outside class. The teacher said she could. So she does. She eats her sandwich.

She hears voices from the other class. This class is a year older than hers.

-Vanessa. Yeah, she’s a total dog.

-I put her as number 1.

-No way, Claire is way, way worse, a boy says, insisting it hard.

-No. Vanessa. Back me up here, Ken.

Your mom stops chewing and listens.

-It’s neither of them, says a voice.

She knows the voice. She has a weird feeling.

-She, her at number 6, she’s number 1.

It was Ken talking. She knew for sure now.

-No way! She shouldn’t even be number 6. She’s not even the ugliest girl in her grade.

-What, do you want to make out with her or something? the familiar voice asks. She’s been beat with an ugly stick. And then she was cured at the hospital. And then she got beat when she got out even more.

-She’s not good looking. But she’s not a dog either. She only has one thing wrong with her. You just hate her because she’s your neighbor.

Your mom dropped her sandwich. It fell on the dirty floor.

-Oh whatever, the familiar voice said. Just make sure you don’t cut your mouth on her big teeth when you go to kiss her.

-Shut up, idiot.

They started fighting. Your mom could barely hear them though because she got up and ran outside. She sat at the bench by the bushes and faced away from the school. A tear trickled down beside her nose. She held her lips together tightly over her teeth. She asked why she had those teeth. The bell rang and her classmates came outside. She just sat there and didn’t look at them. And she tried not to cry. But sometimes she would. Then the bell rang and they all went in. Her face was dry by the time they went in and she was glad because she didn’t want anyone to see her crying.

After school was done, your mom felt sad again. She had tried to forget. But she was remembering now. She went to the back of the school, where the gym was because nobody left from there. She sat at the bench. The tears came hard now and she was sobbing. She thought she was alone, so she thought it was okay. It was hard not to cry. She felt very bad about herself.

-It’s your neighbor, one of the boys whispered.

-Yeah, it is, Ken said. What’s she blubbering about now?

They were both whispering, looking down at her from within the terrace. There was shade. She was just below them in the sun, but she couldn’t hear over the wind because they were whispering and she was crying too loud.

-Maybe you should ask her what’s wrong.

-What? Ken said. Why me?

-Because she’s your neighbor. You never heard of lending a neighbor a helping hand?

Ken looked at his friend, annoyed. Then a thought flashed in his mind and he looked around. He looked like he had a good idea.

-You know what, he said. I think you’re right. I have just the way to help cheer her up, he said.

He stood up and his friend watched as Ken undid his zipper.

-Ken, he said. But he only sat there watching.

Ken undid his zipper, and then stood at the edge of the terrace. Your mom was crying into her hands below.

-Oh no, his friend said. He was afraid they were going to get in trouble.

Ken stood there, and then a yellow stream went from the shadows of the terrace out into the sun. It was in a curve. It landed on the back of your mom’s sweater. Its orange got darker and it dripped all over her. Ken’s friend watched. His eyes were wide. It was the craziest thing he had ever seen.

-Ken, he whispered.

Your mom felt something weird. Her back was warm and wet. It was like she was crying so hard she was getting it on her back. And then she smelled pennies and she shot up very fast. She turned around and saw Ken standing there, with his friend’s head just over the railing, looking down at her with a shocked but happy face.

-Ken, he said.

She saw Ken’s stream falling from out the shadow, down on to the bench and grass where she had been sitting. She looked with a crying face. Then she turned around and she ran off.

-Ken, his friend said. She’s gone.

When she got home, she hoped her mom wasn’t in the living room. Luckily, her mom was downstairs, doing laundry. Your mom pulled off her sweater and shirt and put them in the laundry basket and she got into the shower. The water in the shower was warm. She wanted to get rid of the smell of pennies so bad. She cried in the shower because she needed to cry, and she knew the water was so loud and her mom couldn’t hear her. When she was done, she saw that she forgot a towel, so she ran to her bedroom without one. She stayed in her bedroom for the evening. At night she laid in her bed, looking up at the ceiling. The ceiling was orange because her nightlight was orange. She didn’t need it, but she liked how it looked. She looked at her orange nail polish but her whole hand looked orange all the same. She thought about how maybe next year, her mom would let her wear makeup. But then she thought about her buck teeth. How makeup can’t make them go away. And very, very softly she started to cry. She cried hard, but very softly so that her mom couldn’t hear. She wanted to be alone. She looked up at the ceiling and cried. And then sleep came.


Your mom was excited for the party. She was terrified that there would be alcohol there, but when she heard from Sara that Mindy’s mom was going to be in the basement, she knew that all the drinks would be non-alcoholic. This had been the first party your mom had been invited to. People started going to them last year, but it was only this year that she went, and she was kind of excited, though very nervous too. She made her mom drop her off down the street because she felt kind of nerdy being driven by her mom. Her mom told her that everybody else would be driven too, unless they lived close, but your mom couldn’t shake the feeling that it was weird.

As your mom neared the house, seeing cars pulling up and people from school getting out, she smiled, holding her lips together as she did. She always did that, first to hide her teeth, then to hide her retainers. She was very self conscious about them, and she wanted people to focus on her eyes. She had been told, very often in the last two years, that she had pretty eyes. First by Mrs. Robbie on the first day of middle school, then by one of the girls she sat beside. After a while, she heard it many other times and it made her feel really good to hear. She felt so good about it sometimes that she would smile while forgetting to hide her teeth.

Your mom stood on the stoup, listening to music in her orange blouse and jeans, unsure of whether she could just walk in. But when she saw a boy and a girl open the door and go in, she followed. The party had a lot of people and the music was really loud. It sounded exciting. She never listened to music that loud before.

People danced and she was too shy to dance, so she went over to the couch. Everyone had a drink in a red cup and she was wondering to herself where they got their drinks. She was too shy to ask anyone so she got up and wandered around, as if she wasn’t looking for anything. Then she found the table with a cloth over it. It had bottles full of coke, and bottles full of ginger ale. Half of the coke bottles were empty. The ginger ale didn’t seem to have been touched at all.

Your mom watched as two girls poured themselves coke. And after they left, your mom went to the table to pour herself a drink.

-How about over there, a boy said, nudging his friend. The girl in the orange.

Ken turned around and looked. He saw a girl standing there, her skin pale and smooth, with her hair jet black, just how he liked it. She was facing the wall. He couldn’t see her face.

-You know my type, Ken said. And she’s the only one drinking ginger ale. That means she’s one of a kind.

Your mom sipped from her cup, and then she looked around. She noticed that she must have looked just like everyone else there, sipping from her cup, and she began to smile. She turned around.

When she turned around, Ken saw her face, and her buck teeth, which she had smiled too hard to hide, and then he turned.

-Ugh, he said.

-What’s the matter? his friend asked.

-Look at her mouth, he said.

His friend laughed.

-So, she has goofy teeth.

-Oh, Ken said, sarcastically. You noticed that, huh?

-And just what do you think you look like? How about instead of focusing on her flaws why don’t you take in the whole package.

-No thanks, Ken said, flippantly. Then he looked back at her and away. What is it about her package that you can salvage? I’m interested to hear this. He said this very dismissively.

-Well, his friend said. You said you like girls with dark hair.

-Not if they look like a beaver.

His friend stood there, trying to think.

-Her eyes, he said. She has pretty nice eyes.

Ken winced at his friend, and then looked over at her. She was looking back and their eyes caught each other’s. When it occurred to her who she was looking at, she scowled without realizing, and she turned to look away. Then she walked off with her cup.

-Whoah, his friend said. Guess beggars can’t be choosers then.

-It’s because she knows me, he said.

-Ah, his friend replied with a smile. That explains everything.

-She lives next door to me. She’s a total spaz. I haven’t even done anything to her in years and she’s still holding it against me. Stupid ugly bitch.

-You know, his friend said. When we had our first class together and everyone from your grade school told me you were crazy, I thought they were overexaggerating.

-Oh yeah, Ken said, sounding as if he took it as a dare. Want to see how crazy I can really get?

His friend raised his eyebrow.

As your mom sat on the couch, the only one for one person she could find, she looked out at the party. The music was loud. People were dancing and talking. She wasn’t doing either, but she felt really good being there. It felt good to be doing what other people her age were doing. It felt like if something happened, she would be there to see it. Like she was a part of everything that was going on with her grade, and she liked that feeling.

As her eyes scanned over the people, she saw a face looking back at her. When she caught his eyes, he looked away.

She knew that face. It was the new guy in her class. He was looking down at the floor, then he looked back up at her.

She didn’t mean to, but when he looked at her, she looked down at the ground. When she looked up, she saw his eyes on her and he looked away. She thought to herself that when he looks back, she’ll try to keep looking, but something in her knew that she would look away even though she’d try not to, and the thought made her smile. Her smile was big and she forgot to hide her teeth.

He looked back up at her, and then there was almost a moment of shock.

Your mom’s face dropped.

He kept his eyes on her. Her mouth was shut.

She looked away. She didn’t feel very nice then. She felt very self conscious. Then she looked up again. He was still looking at her. She smiled widely. Her teeth were showing. He was still looking at her. Then, to her shock and surprise, he smiled back.

-What in the flying hell are you doing? his friend asked.

-Quiet, Ken said. And just make sure nobody is looking.

-I shouldn’t be looking.

-Shut up. It’s just so you don’t doubt me.

-This is a very weird thing to try to be showing off. You know you can use a toilet. You don’t have to piss into a ginger ale bottles every time.

Ken finished, tapping his penis head against the rim of the bottle.

-And now that I finished, Ken said. He began screwing its cap back on. Where do you think I’m going to put this?

-I don’t know, his friend said. Do you collect your own piss?

-If I did, why would I piss it into a half-full bottle of ginger ale?

-We all have our thing.

-Okay, dumbass. Just follow me and watch.

-Oh, there’s more. Delightful.

Ken lead his friend back to the living room, bottle in hand. When he got there, he placed the bottle back with the others.

-What in the heck?

-Just watch, Ken said, and then he lead his friend back to the kitchen.

Your mom lifted her cup to her lips and was surprised to feel nothing coming her way. Her cup was empty. She looked again at the new guy, seeing that he wasn’t there anymore, then she stood up and headed toward the table of drinks.

She saw a boy and a girl, the same two who she followed into the house, pouring themselves cups of cokes. They were both very nervous around each other. Your mom liked seeing that because it made her feel alright to be nervous herself. After they were done, your mom went to the table. She looked at the coke bottle and pondered to herself if she should drink from it. Then she looked at the ginger ale, and she decided to stick with that.

-Holy moly.

-I told you, Ken said. Just watch.


-Just watch, he again asserted.

Your mom poured her cup almost to the brim. She picked it up and turned around. Suddenly, a face stopped in front of hers. She was so startled by it that she almost dropped her cup. Luckily, saving her from embarrassment, not a single drop went over the brim.

Realizing she had stabilized herself, she looked up, and standing in front of her, blushing with some sort of intention in his face, was the new guy.

-Sorry, she said.

He just looked at her. He looked into her eyes.

She stood there, unsure of what to say. Nervous.

-Uhh, he said. No, no, I’m sorry. I-

-It’s alright, she said.

He looked at her, then down and he nodded.

-I uhh.

Your mom stared at him as he tried hard to say a single word.

-Yes? she said, assuming it would help him, but then feeling bad right after, feeling like she was rushing him.

-I uhh… Umm.

She didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. She was afraid she’d make him nervous. She just watched him stammering there. Then all of a sudden, she felt a funny feeling. She began to smile. She smiled too hard, she forgot to keep her mouth closed.

He looked at her, mouth and all.

-Uh, he said, and then laughed to himself. Yeah. Um, listen. Do you want… he pointed his thumb over his shoulder. Would you like to dance?

-No, she said.

When she saw the look on his face, she put her hand out with her palm open.

-No, no. I don’t mean like that, she clarified. It’s just that… I hate dancing.

-Oh, he said.

-It’s not anything to do with you. I just don’t like dancing. Like, at all.

He looked at her, nodding his head.

-That’s funny, he said. He put his hands in his pockets.


-Yeah, he said. Neither do I.

They both smiled at each other.

They looked into each other’s eyes.

He took a sip from his drink.

She took a sip from hers.

She grimaced when she did.

-Oh my god

-I told you, Ken said. Crazier than a fox.

-Crazier than a dog marking its territory, his friend said.

-Well, Ken said. She is my neighbor after all.

-Maybe if you made nice with your neighbor, you can be more like that guy.

Ken looked at his friend confused, then over at the guy standing opposite your mom. He was geeky and his hair was frazzled. He was looking deeply into her eyes. And she into his. They both smiled. And in her smile, Ken only saw her protruding teeth. He wanted to puke.

-No thanks, Ken said. I’d rather die alone than end up with the ugliest woman in the world. You know she was voted the ugliest girl by my friends back in grade school.

-You must have had a pretty blessed grade school if she was the worst it had to offer.

-You’re crazy.

-Maybe. But at least I’m not piss-in-a-girl’s-ginger-ale crazy.

-Are you complaining that you have a new story to tell?

-Not at all, his friend said. Not at all.

Your mom and the new boy found a couch and they both sat on it, with their drinks in hand, talking to each other for the rest of the night. Whenever your mom ran out of ginger ale, he took her cup and went to pour her more, and she sat and waited for him to get back. She drank the whole bottle.

When the night was over, your mom said goodbye to him on the stoup, and she watched as he got into his mom’s car. After he was gone, she walked down the lane herself, and when she got to the stop sign, her mom’s car was parked there, exactly where she told her to pick her up.

When she got into the car, her mom asked her how it went.

-Good, she said. And one the entire car ride home, your mom smiled in the darkness. A wide smile. No smile could be too wide.

When she got home, she took off her blouse and jeans and she got into the shower. The water was warm and it felt very good against her skin. When she got out she brushed her teeth because she had a funny taste in her mouth, a taste similar to copper. Then she went to her room and changed into her pumpkin pajamas, put on her orange retainer, and she crawled into bed. As she lay there, she thought about his face and she looked up at the ceiling. She smiled hard, and as she did, she didn’t even think about keeping her lips together. And slowly her eyes closed, and she was off to bed.


Your mom kicked up to the surface, seeing the rays of the sun glimmer against it in a world she could only hear as muffled. When she reached the surface, she exploded into life.

She grabbed the pool’s edge, and wiping her face clean, she saw her boyfriend of a few years, your father, standing there with his friends, looking at her. She smiled, and silvery braces glimmered, reflecting sunlight.

-How’d you land something that beautiful, your dad’s cousin asked.

-Fate, your dad said.

-Well, tell me how I can get in contact with her.

-Screw off, your dad said.

-I meant with Fate.

Your dad smiled and looked back at the pool

Your mom pulled herself out. As she did, all eyes were on her. Her orange onesie hugged her body, covering up more than anything the other girls were wearing, but it couldn’t cover up her shape. Very little could. She passed by, heading to the cooler for a ginger ale.

-Jesus Christ, your dad’s cousin said.

-Careful, your dad said. Keep your eyes above her waist.

-You had to know it would be like this, his cousin said. It was a pool party. Unless…

-Unless what?

-Unless you hadn’t seen her like this yourself.

-Oh, fuck off, your dad said. I’ve seen her with nothing at all.

-Oh, yeah, his cousin said, leaning on his shoulder. Do tell.

-How about you fuck yourself, your dad said, saying “fuck yourself” with the same cadence that his friend said “do tell.”

-I’m just kidding. It’s just that I still don’t get it.

-Don’t get what? Your mom said, approaching with a ginger ale can in her hand. The full appeal of your mom’s body could only be vaguely glimpsed at from her front, which only made it all the more appetizing in that moment. Her thighs were wet and succulently thick, and she stood on her orange-painted toes as she held your dad close beside her.

-I don’t get how a guy like my cousin here, his cousin started, then he stopped to gather his thoughts. Can host such a cool pool party.

Your mom smiled at your dad’s cousin, then she leaned to your dad and wrapped her arms around him.

-Because he’s a total stud, that’s why, she said. He could have any pool party in the world, but he chose this one. And this pool party would have nobody else.

She looked up at him with her dimpled face, and then she smiled a beautiful smile, one which shone brightly in the sun.

As she clung there, Ken stood at this window, looking over in his neighbor’s backyard. He saw your mom standing there from behind, as she clung onto your dad’s body. The cheeks of her ass were maddeningly shaped and pronounced because of the pressure that was built up in her lower half from standing on her toes, and Ken had stood baffled at how her shape could just seem to have come out of nowhere. He remembered the exact moment he saw her walking through the hallway when it had occurred to him. He was skipping class, and she had had emerged from out the library, scaring him. They were the only two people in the hall, and seeing each other, neither was willing to lose face by turning around and walking in the opposite direction. Instead, they both kept going, getting closer to each other with each step. And it was then looking at her, and then looking away, and then looking at her again, that he noticed something.

She was beautiful.

And then she looked up, their eyes met, and with it, a sudden disgust rose in her face, and when it happened, her mouth opened in disgust, and her teeth were all visible, but for the thin section of them, top and bottom, which had been covered over in braces. And that’s when he noticed, that the buck teeth were almost all gone now.

A few months later, he would be walking down the hall, and as he went, a girl with jet black hair emerged from a classroom. Noticing her ass, which happened to be his favorite part of a woman, and her jet-black hair, exactly his type, he followed her, not eager to get to his next class early.

At some point, this mystery woman, the one he was thinking about tapping on the shoulder and talking to, turned around to look, and though she hadn’t seen him, he had seen her, and when he realized who it was he had been following with filthy and fluffy dreams filling his mind, he could have died right there.

He watched her from the darkness of his bedroom, in absolute shock at what her body looked like shining bronzed by the sun, gleaming white in in parts from being wet with pool water. It was beyond reality. Like his wet dreams had found a way to walk out into the waking world by manifesting themselves as a female body. And she stood there, clinging to that dweeb. From her head to her toe, she had cocooned a lowly silk worm and emerged from that cocoon on the other side, her monarch wings bright with all the lustre of silk and the scent of peach.

And this glorious butterfly, the one he watched from afar, red-faced, visibly scowled in disgust, he had seen it happen more than once, at his mere presence, never mind at the prospect of being caught in his net, or, even worse, being preserved in his airhole-poked jar at his bedside. She was free from him now, sitting on another man’s twig, and he was standing here alone, watching her through his bedroom curtains, sipping on one of his dad’s warm beers.

-Why don’t I just head over there, he murmured to himself. I’m her neighbor after all. I can just head there and say hello. Perfectly normal neighbor behavior if you think about it.

He lifted the rim of the beer can to his bottom lip and chugged it back until it was empty. When it was, he dropped its hollow carcass to the floor, where it landed near three other empty cans.

He picked up another one from his bed and cracked it open.

-All I need’s just a little more liquid courage. That’s all. Then, he said, stopping to think about it with his index finger raised straight up off the can. Then – I can got there in my swimming trunks, talk, conversate, sip a few with my friends, hop in the pool and - oh, I don’t know – maybe relieve myself there.

He snickered to himself thinking about it.

-Just like old time, huh? Just piss in the pool and let that golden body swim through it. Swim through my golden shower.

She slapped your dad on the shoulder, causing her butt to jiggle.

-If you think about it, Ken said. She probably wouldn’t have developed so well if I hadn’t helped with my own special recipe.

He grabbed at his cock, and when he did, he noticed how hard it was.

-Yeah, he said. If anything, she owes me.

She stopped talking to her friends, let go of your dad, and she moved quickly toward, the pool. Reaching the pool side, she dived in majestically, jetting through the water to the other end where nobody was swimming. Making it to the end alone, she grabbed the pool’s edge and floated there, just her, smiling with her gorgeous shining smile. Her intoxicating form, obscured by the water’s motion separating it into ribbon-like glimpses, hinting at its shape in a way that teased and aroused further.

-Oh god, Ken said. What have I done?

By the time Ken’s dad had gotten home, the sun was setting. He came in, tired from a hard day’s work, and noticing with anger that the beers in his fridge were gone, he stomped to his son’s room, his steps vibrating trinkets on the mantle above the fireplace, his hand itching to teach his son an important lesson in property rights. He knocked on his son’s door.

-Ken? he said, assertively. Ken!

When nobody answered, he opened the door. Laying there on the floor, surrounded by the aluminum aftermath of a teenage bender, Ken lay there, passed out against his wall, underneath his bedroom window, with his empty tin victims all around him, and a cold, dark spot in his pants, a puddle beneath him. The whole room smelled like pennies.

Your mom stood in the shower, washing herself clean of that chlorine scent. The shower water was pouring ice cold to fight the hot day, and when she stepped out of the shower, she felt refreshed. Her mom wasn’t home for the weekend, luckily, and that meant she could have her boyfriend over. Your mom was nervous as she wrapped her towel around herself.

Coming into her room, she saw your dad laying there, looking up at her ceiling. His eyes fell slowly to her. She stood there in an orange towel.

They both looked at each other for a bit.

Then he smiled.

She smiled back.

He lay there with his legs crossed at his ankles and his body, completely bare, looking a freshly-washed beige. This had been her first time seeing it. She could have seen it in the shower, but she told him she wanted it to happen in her bedroom.

He looked at her. She looked at his penis, the first she had ever seen, which was throbbing hard.

She stood there, unable to move, nervous.

-So, he said.

-So? she replied.

He grinned.

-You promised, he said.

She stood there, not saying anything.

-Drop the towel, he said softly. Like you said you would.

Your mom stood there, terrified. She could see, it manifesting physically, in more ways than one, just how eager he was to see her at her most basic, but something in her, something nagging, small, and mean, warned her against it, warned her that a happiness this strong could only be illusory or transitory. That when that towel dropped, he’d see that one thing, whatever it was, which would turn it all around, which would ruin the night, which would ruin… would ruin them.

-Come on, babe, he said.

She stood there, holding the edge of her towel, it wrapped around her tightly enough to tease him with her shape, a shape which he had watched come into being before him, emerging from her as transformative as the two front teeth that her braces had forced back into place. He missed that awkward smile, always being too afraid to tell her that it was what had drawn him to her in the first place. The first thing he noticed about her, even before her eyes, and it was those teeth which kept him staring at her from across the classroom, hoping that one day she’d notice him. But as much as he loved those teeth, looking at her now, he saw perfection, the exact place between where the beautiful and the sexually enticing met and pressed violently into each other, so aggressively that one would almost expect something cataclysmic to come from it.

But nothing did. All that stood there was her, your mom, the love of his life, looking at him nervously. And he sat there, naked before her, exhibiting his excitement, just waiting for her to drop that towel, knowing how close to heaven it would bring him.

-It’s just you and me, babe, he said, warm and assuringly. So, he continued with a devilish smile, drop it.

Your mom heard that nagging voice within her, that terrifying voice of familiar timbre and tone, daring her to recede, daring her to run, to hide, and to shelter herself from the acceptance of her, and, more, desire for her. It felt too good to be real. Too sudden to be long lasting. The voice had to be right, she pondered, and feared that her pondering was informed. But something in her pushed. And, hearing it all the same, in that golden moment, as if she feared it was the only moment that would matter, holding her towel tightly against herself, she decided, against all precedent, to ignore those nagging words within.

-Okay, she said, and her smile went wide and beautiful. Get ready.

Her towel dropped to the floor.


Your mom felt some nightclub jitters. They never really did go away entirely. She just learned to tamper them down with experience and the occasional drink. Her heels clacked against sidewalk pavement, inaudibly over the booming noises of club music, loud chatter, and the subtle whirring of neon signage, and she weaved between walking, standing, or stumbling bodies, every few looking over at her in her orange dress, which was hugging her form nicely, as she passed, the gesticulation and gyration within its on-the-go maneuvering only increasing its magnetic attraction.

She was excited to hang out with her friends, but hated being around the inebriated, their arrogance and dim-wittedness almost wordlessly offensive to her. Even her friends, in moments of being completely plastered, got on her nerves from time to time, but she would never say anything about it, loving peace more than the slight probability of resolution at conflict’s end.

-There it is, she thought, looking up at its tacky blue signage. The Queen’s Throne.

Even if she hadn’t remembered its name or location, she would have known she had made it to the right bar by seeing the drunk standing outside, urinating on the building’s wall, right there on the crowded sidewalk, his piss foaming as it dripped between the sidewalk cracks.

-Excuse me, she said, and she squeezed passed a few guys standing on the bar’s steps.

They all turned their heads to look at the sight, the muscles of her proud ass tensing delightfully with the strength needed to bring her up those stairs, until she disappeared inside, then they turned to each other to share a moment of male camaraderie, its essence built on the foundation of intertribal conflict, intratribal status-jockeying, and the shape and soft flesh of the female body, a tri-pointed pantheon which brought them as separate entities into one.

When she got inside, she was annoyed that the same guy was carding her at the front again. She had been there more than enough times that he should have recognized her by face alone.

He looked at her driver’s license, then back up at her, then down at her license with a raised eyebrow, a smile in the corner of his mouth.

-Maybe Susan was right, she thought. He does it because he has a thing for me.

-21 years old. This appears to all be on the up and up, he said, handing her back her I.D. and flashing her a wink. Have a good time.

-Sure, she said.

As she walked into the bar, another group of three stopping in front of him, he watched her from behind until she was gone.

Your mom saw her two friends, Susan and Clarissa, over in their usual corner. She could tell they had pre-gamed at the dorm and were already blitzed before arriving. She decided as she approached the corner booth that she’d lie if they asked her what took her so long. They had been ragging her a lot lately for her constant calls back and forth with your father. They would say that they were embarrassed when people would visit the dorm and ask who the girl was they’d see every second time sitting on the dormitory phone at random hours of the day or night.

Your mom had just left from there, after another long conversation with your dad.

-I wish we could have both gotten in, he said.

-I do too, she replied, holding the phone tightly to her ear. But why are you thinking about that now? It’s been years.

-Yeah, he said. I guess. There was silence on the line. Maybe that’s it, he said. I’m getting sick of only spending half the year without you.

She looked down at the carpet.

-I know, she said. The whole time, I feel like a part of me is missing.

-Do you ever get lonely? he asked, after some hesitation.

-Yeah, she said. Of course.

-No, he said. I don’t mean like that.

A panic overtook her.

-Are you getting lonely… like that? she asked apprehensively, gripping the phone in her fingers.

-No, he said, and he said it with enough assertiveness that she knew it was the truth.

-Then why are you… and it occurred to her then that he wasn’t asking, assuming that she’d relate, but asking out of genuine fear that she felt a need, a need to wander, that he couldn’t even, in his most desperate dreams, entertain for himself. No, she said, getting ahead of his thought. I’ve never felt lonely in that way. She too said it in a way, imitating his assertiveness, and doing so without reluctance.

A girl came in through the front, stepping lightly with a man in tow next to her, trying not to make any noise as she went down the hall.

Your mom stopped talking, waiting for them to pass, their collective shadows, huddled together as one mass, covering her for a moment as they went. When they were further down the hall, your mom, with her eyes still on the couple, replied to your dad in a hushed voice.

-The only one I’ve ever felt lonely for… in that way… is you.

There was silence on his end. She almost imagined him, eyes closed in relief, leaning into his phone.

-I’m happy to hear that, he said. Just another month and I’ll be down there, okay.

-Okay, she said.

-Will you have time to talk tomorrow?

-Maybe, she said.

-Okay, good. I’ll talk to you then?

-Yeah, she said.

-Okay. I… uh… I love you. Okay?

She smiled, big and wide, a beautiful row of white teeth exposed. This was how she always smiled these days.

-I love you too, she said.

He sounded happy when he hung up the phone. She felt the same.

Your mom slid into the booth next to her friends.

-Oh, here’s little miss ‘I’m too late for my friend’s birthday.’

Your mom knew it was only mock outrage.

-Sorry, she said.

-What kept you? said Clarissa.

-I was studying.

-Ah, Susan said loudly. Studying. I’m sure that was it.

Your mom didn’t reply.

-When are the guys coming? Clarissa asked Susan.

-What guys? your mom said.

-Oh, the birthday girl replied. Why so curious?

Your mom looked away.

-Just Jack and Che.

Your mom lightened up.

-And their friend.

Your mom tried to hide her annoyance.

-He’s just tagging along, is all, said the birthday girl. He doesn’t have a date for the night.

Your mom sat there silently, looking off.

-Although, I hear he’s an ass man.

Your mom got up and went to storm off. She felt a hand grab her wrist.

She looked back to see Susan laughing.

-We were just kidding. It’s Jack and Che only. We swear.

Your mom looked at them both in their eyes.

-We swear.

Your mom went back to her seat, her friend’s hand on her wrist until she sat down.

-See, Susan said. It’s the lack of action, it’s making you uptight.

Your mom didn’t say anything, knowing that they’d get bored and the talk would pass.

-After a moment, she said, I’m going to get a drink.

As she approached the bar, she noticed who the bartender was, so she went to the other end of the bar where there was a female working instead.

He noticed her, and seeing her, intuiting correctly that she was avoiding him, he just looked down, grabbed a glass, and began cleaning it.

She saw him in the corner of her eye, and she felt bad that she was hurting him through her avoidance, knowing that he was nice, and appreciating that as someone who was as tall, charismatic, and attractive, as he was, wasn’t used to this sort of rejection; but she knew no other way to make it obvious that she wasn’t interested other than outright saying as much, which she didn’t believe she had the directness of speech to be able to do.

As she tipped the female bartender with her change and turned around to take her gin and ginger ale back to the booth, the male bartender, shining his glass, looked over at her leaving, watching her ass wistfully as it went.

When she slid back into her booth, he occasionally looked over at her in between customers, hoping to catch her in a moment of happiness, just so he could see her smile.

-Whoever it is who gets to know that ass and that smile intimately, he thought… is the luckiest guy in the world.

Ken couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be his big break. Eighty-thousand dollars in one go, or so it was advertised to him by his supplier, who had made the original connection. Instead, he came away with nothing, or more accurately, with a mental note of negative income in the form of the gas it took to get himself here, and this awful diner meal.

When he had left the motel, he had been so drawn and quartered emotionally by it all falling through, that he had pondered a dangerous thought. He looked back behind himself from the driver seat at nothing really, only just imagining at the small fortune in his trunk. He imagined booking a room, taking it with him inside, and cracking it open, diving into its supply himself, trying to chalk away the slippery pain with white powder, and the exhaustion with its exhilaration.

But he knew where that could lead, he had looked it right into the face at that motel, after he was told that the interested buyers couldn’t come up with the money, unless he were willing to let go of it for half. He looked at them with disgust, not just for the time they wasted, and the failed attempt at a cheap fix, but also for their sunken humanity, tortured out of them by the artificial bliss that sat in that suitcase. He wasn’t selling it to dealers -- who by all accounts were reliable, if not trustworthy – like he initially thought he was coming here to do. He was selling to junkies.

When he had realized the nature of his situation, he stood more cautiously, half-afraid it would be a set-up. It turned out he was safe, but when the raven-haired girlfriend/fuck buddy/sister/friend/acquaintance-in-addiction -- whatever she was to the head buyer among the small cabal of junkies -- seemed to be shooting him fuck-me eyes, it was at first only the fear that it was part of a larger plan to rob him which had kept him from giving in to his natural urges. But even still, his cock, hard from days worth of travel without attention paid to its beckoning stiffness, seemed to be toughing out his brain within the small outfit of roughs that operated his mind and body, and because of it, he had almost decided to make the plunge, maybe even just to make sure that the entire few days and forty-thousand dollars spent, hadn’t been a complete write-off. He was only moments from it when she looked at him, smiled, and exposed to him two rows of teeth, completely obliterated by the rough edges of her addiction. Fighting back an intense hatred, born of disgust and insult, he went back to his car, parked among many to make its location obscure, and drove off with his product still sitting securely in his trunk.

That car with its product was just down the street in the parking lot of the hotel he had booked a room at. He had walked to this restaurant and decided to eat here based on proximity alone, not wanting to get too far from his car and its treasure trove it hid within it.

He took a few more bites of his pizza, and then he dropped what was left of it to the paper plate, unsated, but unwilling to have any more. If he did, he would probably lose all of it the same way it came in, over in the bathroom behind him, the drunks who wandered in and outside of it making the prospect of spending a loose second in there seem as appetizing as death.

He looked around at the place, seeing all the bored, inebriated, and drunk faces that made up a dump like this in the middle of the night. Even the family who owned it seemed to prefer death over subsistence, only still alive presumably because they didn’t know death was an option.

-Losers, Ken thought, and he took a sip from his coke.

Your mom sat at the booth with a strong buzz. Clarissa had been pushed into the corner by Che, who planted kisses all up and down her clavicle and neck, a loose limb occasionally making contact with, and rattling, one of the empty glasses or bottles which littered the table. Your mom sat off at the opposite end of the booth, alone to herself, trying to ignore the drunken spectacle.

Susan was basically being held up by Jack as she stumbled awkwardly along the dance floor with him. Watching the marionette show in place of human dancing, the memory of her and your dad awkwardly dancing for the first time, in the basement of his family home, as his grandfather’s record player played from his dad’s record collection, had occurred to her, and at its recollection, an awkward solitary smile started to form on her face. Mistaking herself for alone, she allowed the smile to become a wide, unabashed one, but at looking over and realizing she was being occasionally looked at, and admired, by the male bartender, she quickly put a tamper on it.

Looking down, getting a hold of herself, then looking back up, she saw Jack whispering something, something naughty if his face was any indication, into Susan’s inebriated ear. After saying it, they both, as if in tandem, looking directly over at your mom. Then they looked back at each other.

Your mom’s smile turned into a barely kempt disgust. She had heard Jack’s assertive begging to Susan before, asking her, in a way that obviously titillated her, even if she hadn’t seemed to give into it just yet, for the two of them to bring a third with them into the bedroom. She had heard the list of names he floated by her, many of them getting her off through name alone, but through name only, including Clarissa, Arial, Susan L., Myun-Soon, Carrie, Angela.

Your mom watched them from her booth, a conflagration of legs and arms to her peripheral left, hoping that what she saw on the dance floor wasn’t what it looked like through the blurry lens of alcohol and at modest distance. Jack continued whispering into that white ear, and again, just like clockwork, they had both looked over at her.

-Oh, your mom thought. Why did they have to ruin a fun night?

She then looked over to her left, seeing Che’s hand disappear into the crotch of Clarissa’s pants. She looked away, then she looked back up at the dance floor, seeing Jack standing there alone, looking off in the direction of the bar, then turning to look at her, stumbling backward slightly, then back at the bar.

Your mom looked over to the bar to see Susan standing there, a tray on the table, with five shot glasses, only two of them yet full, being filled by the male bartender.

-Oh god, your mom said, and looked down at the edge of the table with disbelief.

When she looked back up, Susan was coming back to the booth, drunkenly balancing the tray on her palm and the underside of her forearm.

At one point, she seemed almost about to lose the balance of the tray through sheer drunkenness alone, when Jack came up behind her to offer support. Together the effect of their drunkenness was cut in half.

-Okay now, Susan exclaimed. Who here is ready for the Queen’s Throne special?

She looked at your mom, then at a heavily distracted Clarissa.

-That’s not the Queen’s Throne special I meant, she said, and looked back at your mom with wide eyes.

She pushed the tray toward your mom, knocking a glass and bottle down onto the booth chair, the bottle continuing to roll down and fall to the floor, rolling away inaudibly over the music.

-Okay, my love, she said. Take a sip.

Your mom, appalled by the sliminess of her friend’s plan, but also eager to wash away the bad taste it left in her mouth by it, grabbed a shot glass quickly, and before Susan could stop her for a toast, she downed it as quickly as she could.

-Hey! Susan replied. Those are 60 percent. It’s absinthe.

It was inaudible over the sound of your mom’s glass hitting the table, and her hearing was dulled as her faculties focused on the intense burning in her throat.

-I never saw you as being a party girl, Jack said with a smile, his eyes lingering on her for a second too long.

She looked at him with an uncharacteristic defiance and arrogance, so uncharacteristic that he couldn’t pick up on the fact that that was what it was.

-Let’s see if our friends here want to drink, he said, pressing his palm to Susan’s back as she grabbed two glasses. As Susan motioned the glasses towards her kissing friends, Jack looked at your mom and winked.

Your mom felt a sudden sickness. Not a physical one, born of her drunkenness, which was well beyond her previous high-water mark, but an emotional one, one which conjured up strange recollection of emotions born of memories she had likely forgotten, or anecdotes in her life she had forced herself to never remember.

She tried to put on a smile. It was a fake one through and through, and her lips remained clamped together to conceal her rising disgust with her friends, a disgust she had only allowed herself to feel, it coming all at once like water through a burst dam, after she had realized that they were planning on bringing her into the confines of their reckless and sanctity-blind lifestyle, their meaningless contacts of flesh and whispers, and lips that kissed not out of love and necessity, but to kill boredom and to satisfy (and never quite getting there) a need for more.

Susan extended the drinks toward the opposing couple, who at this point had been so far along in their crude make-out session that they were slowly becoming one entity, their two halves combining like Aristophanes’ lovers in The Symposium, a book your mom had read in philosophy class, and then took to her dormitory phone after dark, waiting for the hallway to clear so she could read hushed passages of it to your dad the way other young lovers did poetry.

Susan retracted the drinks.

-I guess they’re busy, she said.

-Well, Jack said, looking at his girlfriend, then at your mom, then back again with a smile. Now that they’re occupied, what should us three do?

As he said it, he slapped his girlfriend on her ass, and seeing it - and knowing that it was something he, in his shameless handsiness, usually didn’t do – your mom had realized that he had done it to Susan’s flat ass in anticipation of the larger ass he was hoping he’d have a chance to do it to tonight, and knowing that implicitly, your mom felt that smack on Susan’s ass as if it were a smack of her own, its cheek violated by a foreign male palm, rough and alien, and strong with the desire to squeeze, pull, and kneed.

Realizing this, your mom shot up, and she grabbed the two glasses meant for the tangled lovers, one in each hand, and in two quick motions, downed the contents of each, storming off immediately after, the wretched burn dulling her from hearing her friend’s calls from behind.

Her tensing, softening body, animated beyond its normal intensity, was watched first by Jack from behind with frustration, then by the male bartender with intense wistfulness, and finally by the man at the door with a smile.

-Have a nice night, he said, and then winked at the back of her head as she exited the door.

Story Continued in Part 2

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