2 September 2004 | Vol. 4, No. 3
Richard is an outcast. He has bony elbows and a face that's all nose. His last name is Burns. He's incapable of using the bathroom when the janitor is in there because he's uncomfortable with the way his body is changing. This summer he's going to do some serious camping in Arkansas.
He won't have to worry about a janitor out there.
Devin is a high school dropout. He's a giant with an imbecile's mind. He whips his tongue out and vibrates it in the air whenever a hot girl walks by. If you ask him to, he'll roll his chin around on a tabletop and let you listen to all the broken bits of bone crunching around on the inside. He'll also show you the scar in the middle of his palm, going straight through to the other side.
This is from when he experimented with a nail gun.
Shina is proud of her belly, joking that she's pregnant. She carries a hardship license and has already been in three car wrecks, all her fault. She brags about her brother's case, about how the FBI and two private investigators from New Orleans are involved, about how she's going to L.A. with her mother to be on daytime television because some court TV show is very interested in her brother's case. They called yesterday and offered to fly them out this summer for the recording, all expenses paid.
Her brother is dead. Shot and killed. Murdered. He was going to be thirteen.
Lucy is a future writer. She already has her high school diploma after taking the GED and is working on raising her SAT scores to get into college. But instead of going to the math tutor that her parents pay for, she drives to her boyfriend's house and has sex. Today the condom slips off when he's pulling out, gets lost inside her. There's some confusion and then she's in her car, speeding to get to the clinic, to swallow the morning-after pill. It's 3:30 PM on a weekday.
Her math tutor is flipping through a magazine at the bookstore, waiting.
Rebecca is fat. She's a third grader. Her eyes are set too close together; her arm is in a cast because she bothered the hindquarters of a horse and got kicked. Her mother buys her fast food everyday after school, for what she calls a late lunch, a second lunch. Rebecca always seems to be carrying a bag with an order of French fries and a cheeseburger. If she isn't carrying this bag, she's complaining about being hungry, about how her mother is so stupid. Stupid and mean, and she doesn't love her anymore.
The corner of her eyes touch when she starts to cry.
William is quiet. He wears a thick, silver chain that hangs low around his neck. The girls ask if they can see what the chain feels like on them. But he always shakes his head, bunches it up in his palm, and tucks it away underneath his T-shirt. The girls also wonder if those really are his pecan-colored eyes. He shakes his head and says, I wear contacts. Then the girls say, No wonder you're eyes look so big.
He tells them, They're even bigger when I don't have them on.
Erik is from Norway. He's a slight boy with a shock of blonde hair resting on the lids of his blue eyes; however, in his mother's womb, he was abnormally large. The doctors had trouble during his delivery because of his unwieldy frame: his left arm got caught on something on the way out. As a result, the nerves were damaged. Someday he'll have reconstructive surgery.
But for now his left arm remains small, with the fingers of a fetus.
Rashod is seven. Although he tries his best in school, he never does well enough for his parents. They worry that Rashod has ADD. In the mornings, before starting the day, Rashod's mother gives him four wedgies. Whenever he gets less than four wedgies, he tells everyone he sees that day about his good fortune, holding up his hand and using his fingers to show how many times he got his underwear rammed up his butt crack, always less than four digits standing.
Camille carries candy in her purse. She's always chewing on something, and it shows. Oliver is the son of a neurosurgeon. He doesn't wear the same pair of shoes twice. Toniecia has naturally red hair that she dyes a darker red, almost purple. She also has crude swipes of black nail polish on her nails, and, when asked why, says she's too lazy to clean them and that she's not gothic. Amanda wears mascara shaped like a black diamond cutting through the middle of her eyes. She gets defensive whenever anybody questions her style. Camille wears sandals and plays with her toes. She speaks in whispers to her girlfriends. Sheila is Jewish but doesn't make a big deal out of it. She states matter-of-factly that she wears a size double zero and then curtly denies being anorexic when accused of this disorder. Grant is tall. He claims music helps him study. Trey keeps to himself. Sina just shaved his head clean. By using his tongue and the webbing between his forefinger and thumb, he's able to simulate the way a vagina might look on the inside during oral sex. And Mr. Rob limps around his classroom. The result of a poorly healed hipbone injured in the war.
The kids make fun of him, asking if he ate too much cheese.
About the author:
Michael Davidson, a graduate of the University of Chicago, has had stories published in Literary Potpourri, Whistling Shade, Snow Monkey, and Outsider Ink. Born in 1979 in Miami, he now lives in Houston, where he teaches math and edits the online journal, The Open End. He can be reached at [email protected].