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My sister scampers up the tree, I struggle up, and both of us wedge ourselves in. Safe from adult eyes, we’re ready to do what we came here to do.
I produce the little container from my pocket and twist off its metal lid. We sniff at the contents and deem it quite a nice scent.
We both take a pinch and put it between our cheek and gum, the way Rolling Stone magazine, from whose back pages we ordered it, told us.
Unfortunately it doesn’t taste as good as it smells.
We spit, scamper/struggle down, and go back home.
Ms. Murphy, my prominent browed, bushy-banged, beady-eyded tenth grade “health” teacher pronounces “mastectomy” without the first “t”. I snicker at her ignorance.
“You think it’s funny?” She stares straight at me, her thin lips making her look like a stern Muppet.
“You think cancer’s funny?”
“Of course not,” I say. My paternal grandmother had a mastectomy, you stupid fucking cunt. Stop pretending you’re a real teacher and go back to coaching field hockey, where all you need to pronounce is “stick” and “I’m a washed-up never-was whose only joy in life is ogling high school girls in plaid skirts.”
The scrawny kid with bangs hanging down to his glasses shocked our high school with the best “robot” mime/dance any of us had ever seen. Girls who had never given him a second look were now giving him at least thirds, thanks not only to his skill but also his use of Barry Manilow’s “Time In New England”.
Years after graduation, he’s the sexy bad boy “lover” of my best friend, and he’s showing off lean biceps in tank tops. I’m sure the boys in prison loved him after he was sent there for arson of a popular local restaurant.
In seventh grade, we had a “fifties day”, where all students were encouraged to come to school dressed in outfits from that decade.
This was 1975. Fonzie was all the rage, and I was at the height of my frenzied Fonzie fandom. I’d just discovered Henry Winkler was Jewish, which meant that if we met, he’d want me above all others. Never mind that there were, at the time, a dozen other Jewish girls out there.
My mom and I created an ensemble that won my grade’s prize for the girls. Alas, I never met the prize I really wanted!
I’m in Banana Republic, boyfriend-shirt-shopping. A really cute guy, the same size as mine, is in the shirt section too, so I ask if I can hold a shirt up to him for size. I know this seems like a line, but I don’t care. Because it is.
It’s a perfect fit.
He accompanies me to check-out and walks me outside. Like a boy scout, he walks me home. Like a boy scout leader, he comes inside and shows me that, in other ways as well, he’s the same size as my boyfriend.
Because he is. My boyfriend, that is.
The jingle of the windchimes on my patio has increased to a jangle, and I lift up a slat of the blinds with my left index finger to spy on them. Why all the music? The wind has not picked up.
I expect to see everything is as it should be. Round metal table with four little chairs, prettified with brightly striped orange and red cushions, flower pots awaiting the re-emergence of hostice, the landlord’s astroturf struggling to impersonate grass.
Instead, I am met with the profile of a tiny Japanese woman, tending to a bonsai, setting up for tea!
Vermont is gorgeous, and if I tried, I couldn’t be happier to be in the bed and breakfast we stumbled on only an hour or so earlier. Dusk blankets the town that already looked tucked even before sundown, and we’ve got time to fill before we take advantage of the big bed and each other. Believe it or not, we’re ravenous, despite a fattening-food-fest at an adorable diner a few hours earlier.
What better way to spend the lull than digging into the small white styrofoam container of leftover macaroni and cheese without the benefit of utensils.
Fuck veganism today!
Lonny lived in the cul-de-sac in the house with the white rattan carriage from an old Atlantic City tram car parked on the front porch. A stationary seat on that thing was almost as exciting as taking an actual ride – especially if Lonny was next to you.
Ahhh, Lonny. Quiet, soft-spoken Lonny, with his thick, shiny, dark brown hair, well past his ears, falling from one side down over his forehead, almost into his enormous matching Bambi eyes.
Oh, how the 44-year-old version of me would love to see whatever became of the eight-year-old boy the six-year-old me crushed on!
I’ve had a crush on Clark since before my brother’s bar mitzvah. Tall, lanky Clark, his straight light brown hair threatening to pass his chin and try for the shoulders, his blue eyes, his broad shoulders and smile almost as broad. Imagine! A teenaged boy’s smile -- just for me!
Almost seven years later, nearing 16 (which I hope is sweeter than 15), and Clark, now free from high school, is meeting me at the elementary school playground. And a few hours later, I’ll be twirling in my bedroom, having finally tasted that smile in the form of a kiss!
The vicious attack dog, doing double duty as a “draft dodger” by the front door, can’t be bothered to do so much as raise his enormous fuzzy German Shepherd head or lift a floppy ear when the delivery guys bring the grocery bags to the service entrance, two rooms away. No, he just lounges cross-pawed on his side, never even once considering that all the noise may be the result of someone entering the apartment to kill the people who feed him.
“Voof,” he says, more an expelling of breath than an actual bark, as a concession to his profession.
My sister and I sit side by side in college calculus class. We resemble each other enough to pass as cousins, not sisters, and our differences are so distinct that you’d have to be a fool to mistake one of us for the other. Long gone are the days when we insisted on wearing matching ensembles that we thought made us look like 2/3 of a mutant brunette Brady girl clan.
So why can’t our teacher figure it out? Why, when handing back tests, does he hover before us with an enormous question mark over his head, asking, “Jodi? Andrea?”
It’s not up to my mother whether I wear shorts on a motorcycle or not. After all, I’m 19 and I don’t need her telling me about “safety”. I’m wearing a helmet, am I not?
Ryan and I take off, me and my bare legs and my helmeted head pressed against him on his Harley. We get to where we’re going with no event. Until I get off the bike.
My bare calf sticks to the searing chrome muffler. The melted, blackened skin bubbles and blisters, and the wound that is eventually revealed beneath looks like pizza without the cheese.
I write this weeks after February 13, because that day I was unable to do much more than cry, wail, sob, and otherwise feel like every tear in my body was torn from it. I was wrong, of course, because every day since then more tears have flowed freely from me, sometimes when I’m not even thinking about their cause.
I am, of course, overjoyed for the eight years I had with this most beloved of dogs. He will always be the love of my life. But still, I keep thinking, it was not enough. It will never be enough.
At his funeral, my cousin mourned her “Poppop”. I never knew him as anything but “Grandpop”, but even that was pushing it insofar as familiarity and warmth were concerned. This beast was the antithesis of the grandfather I did call “Poppop”, my mother’s father, who had died several years earlier. I preferred to think of this stranger merely as “Jack”, a portly bald bigot who couldn’t have been less grandfatherly if he tried.
He didn’t try on any level. Unless you count spitting in my mother’s face at my brother’s bar mitzvah “trying”.
And I didn’t even try to cry.
I used to test out the words, how they would sound aloud, out in the universe, floating around, unattached to any reality. And as soon as I would form them, and their ugly sound would take shape in the air, hanging, heavy, in front of me like a dark warning or a scolding, I would take them back and admonish myself not to even let those words out. Some day those words would be real, some day they would attach themselves to the situation that I dreaded most.
That day arrived on Wednesday.
I cannot speak the unspeakable.
Every once in a while, I think it might be fun to have a kid. But then I remember that kids have this horrible habit of getting older and taller and eventually composing compound sentences, all of which leads to nothing but trouble. All I really want a kid for, anyway, is to dress him or her up.
So, lacking a kid, my cat gets to try on all the cute outfits I buy on sale at Baby Gap. She’s not too fond of the “onesies”, but she does like little pants that snap up the insides of the legs.
Dear Readers of My 100 Words,
When you get to this point in this month’s “batch”, would you please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and say hello? I know a lot of you visit my world-famous website via the link provided in my profile here, and some of you leave messages in my GuestBook, but I’d love to hear from you directly in email.
Don’t worry about sounding “stupid”. And if you do sound stupid, so what. Stupid is fine. I am guilty of stupidity on at least a weekly, if not downright daily, basis.
All he has to do is roll up the sleeves of his button-front shirt -- twice – not too neatly, though, and never above the elbow – and I’m gone. The soft dark hair on his perfectly formed forearms, enough so that there’s no mistaking he’s a man but not too much that I’ll mistake him for a lower primate, practically begs for me to stroke it. And oh, those large, exquisitely formed hands, with nails trimmed to perfection without looking manicured. I’m so mesmerized that I neglect the menu. Who cares about food. All I want to do is devour him.
When cleaning out a closet, my mother came across a medium-blue zippered hat box containing a mess of plastic dollhouse furniture. I probably hadn’t seen the box for 20 years or handled its contents for at least 35.
I sat on the floor and unzipped the zipper – oh, the thrill of that sound! – flipped back the lid, and gazed inside.
The furniture was crap. Just like it always was. Oh, joyous crap!
I rummaged around and discovered one item more colorful than the rest – a plastic “dad” figure.
“So THAT’S where the bastard’s been hiding all these years,” I said.
What kind of fresh Gidget hell is this, this summer day in 1983? I’m ridiculously tan, sporting a hot pink sweatshort and sweatshirt set, totally “buzzed” after guzzling who the hell knows how many “pony” bottles of beer in my friend Laurie’s car. I’m wrapping my thighs around the neck of some blond kid who’s calling himself “Tad”, who’s wrapping his around the neck of his friend who’s calling himself “Biff”, and now Biff is standing, supporting me and Tad on his shoulders, and I’m cheering like mad for The Beach Boys at Six Flags? Who the hell am I?
At 21, James was an older man and thus out of my 17-year-old reach. Not like my arms could reach that far, anyway, given that he was a gorgeous print model and could have anyone he wanted. No way would he want anything to do with me. Right?
True, what he wanted was his college papers typed, but I was happy he wanted me on any level, no matter how far removed from actual girl/boy desire. I undercharged, but I considered his three-dimensional smile, directed only at me, unlike the two-dimensional smiles in his ads, the real payment anyway.
In the living room, she’s seated at my feet, looking up at me with those enormous teal Margaret Keane eyes, running her fingertips over my bare calf. I don’t stop her.
In the kitchen, she’s standing alongside me, talking to her other guests, her right hand cupping my left ass cheek. I don’t stop her.
In the hallway, she’s facing me, her hand in my hair, her tongue probing my mouth. I don’t stop her.
This is our second little make-out session. I don’t want a third. So how do I tell my “BFF” I want to be “just friends”?
My Polish grandfather spoke at least four languages when he came to this country from Cuba, but English was not among them. He had no idea how to get to the bakery where he’d continue the trade for which he’d apprenticed in Germany 20 years earlier, before either he or the decade were in their teens.
All he had to get him there was “PHILA PA” printed on a slip of paper and trolley tracks. So he set off on foot, followed the tracks into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, for the next 50 years, baked the best bread I’ve ever tasted.
“Get me a dish of vanilla,” he says without looking at me, before I ask for his order.
I peer at the lunk, slumped on a vinyl-covered stool on the other side of the counter, imagining myself introducing his jowly face to the wide, flat expanse of my ice cream trowel.
“Get you?” I say, colder than the stuff he wants.
“I will not GET you anything,” I say. “I will, however, bring you something, if you ask nicely.”
He looks up. “May I please have a dish of vanilla?”
Thus he is spared my sputum in his dish.
The discovery of a bone in the wooded area beyond the creek that separates my parents’ property into two sections leads me to believe this is either hallowed land or the site of an unsolved murder. I wish I’d spent my allowance on a magnifying glass instead of another Archies comic book, so I could better indulge my forensic notions. I cannot decide which I fancy myself more in this situation – archaeologist or detective – but either way, my important work would benefit from a magnifying glass. Really, though, anyone’s naked eye can tell my discovery is just someone’s KFC discard.
He wanted to be my boyfriend, but from the moment we tried kissing, I knew it wouldn’t fly. My interest was non-existent from the get-go anyway, so the disappointment was all his. We remained platonic, and he encouraged me to tell him about my dates.
Soon he was telling me about his escapades, too, and I was impressed with the diversity of his perversity. Although I still wasn’t attracted to him, I was glad many others were.
Years later, he confessed his stories were lies, to make me want him. But then I didn’t want him even as a friend.
I’m visiting a friend at the assisted living facility where she’s been a resident for three years. She’s been in a wheelchair for five times as long, thanks to multiple sclerosis.
She’s two years older than I am, but the extra weight and fewer teeth could help her pass for a woman old enough to be my mom, not young enough to be my sister.
As she laughs at my stupid stories and reaches with a shaky purplish hand for the water tube attached to a container on the back of her wheelchair, I’m again reminded why she’s my inspiration.
A neighbor’s cat is staying with me for eight days while her people are on vacation. My own has been transported to a friend’s place for the duration. She has no idea that a thin, large-headed, tiny-hipped orange cat with an enormous meow like that of a petulant baby is roosting on her favorite spot on the back of the sofa, chomping her bonito flakes, and availing herself of her litter box. She just thinks she’s on vacation herself. I feel like I am, too. But oh, I miss my robust, tiny-headed, broad-hipped black cat with her polysyllabic musical meow!
I don’t know what it was about Louie, but the guy always smelled like mustard. It didn't matter what he'd just eaten -- strawberry ice cream, buttermilk pancakes with real maple syrup, beef stroganoff -- or where he'd just been -- Home Depot, miniature golfing, Spain -- he always smelled like mustard.
It didn't bother me, though, as I was a big big fan of hot dogs, the more overboiled the better, and couldn't get enough of my favorite condiment. I was even happier that the mustard smell was distinctly yellow ballpark type and not any of this fancy-schmancy stuff.
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