I have finally, FINALLY finished editing ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up’. Now, I have to find the time to send it out. And not screw up anything as I have in the past.
As I mentioned in “A Reintroduction: The Prologue,” I intend to post edited chapters every few weeks. Here’s a sample from Chapter 4. As always, feedback is STRONGLY encouraged via the contact tab or comments section.
Everything’s puffy and bright like a citronella candle on a summer night. Except the smell isn’t barbeque and bug repellent – it’s barf and skunked beer – and I’m gagging worse than on the plane ride down.
I rub the sleep out of my eyes, waiting for them to wake up. Glasses once half-full lie broken on the floor; bottles not quite finished still rest on the nightstand. This is exactly the travel study I imagined.
“Everyone alive?” I say, somewhat skeptically.
Tommy flops his arm on top of me, which I take as a yes. He smells like a strip club’s floor.
In my periphery I catch a shadowy movement hobbling from the bathroom with a prominent stain of marinara sauce on his white button-down and in a general state of malaise.
“Candace, that you?”
Tommy moans what might be a laugh. Or just a groan.
“You know it, sugar lips,” Pete says in a mock-sultry voice, heaving. He settles on the edge of the bed and hangs his head between his legs.
“You did it again, didn’t you?”
“Yep. Ya got me, Brown.”
Behind him, I see the sodden crater outlined in the center of his bed. Everyone knows when Pete Goodman’s had too much to drink, he turns his bed into a Slip N Slide. The smell of fetid urine further confirms it.
By the time we smoke a couple clips and get to breakfast, Becky’s just about finished rearranging the contents of her plate. Again and again she does it, but not once does she eat any of the soppresatta, prosciutto, hard Parmesan, or stinking provolone. She smiles when she sees us. We smile back.
Tommy motions towards her genially before whispering to me behind his toothy, put-on smile, “Man, the Nazis would’ve even let her go!” and I play it off like I don’t hear him, but I’d love to rip his throat out with my teeth because he’s such a duplicitous person. All of us are, I guess.
We stroll through the dining room with our sunglasses – the coolest kids in school – and it’s the Balaam cafeteria transplanted into the mahogany-trimmed breakfast hall. There’s Eddy VanderMeer and the mutants, the cheerleaders, Black Michelle and whoever will listen to her, Ant with Large Charley and the rest of the nice and ugly girls, a group of nasty juniors and sophomore fags who both have definite social aspirations, and finally us. My gaze lingers on Ant. I really screwed that up.
Before we sit, there’s a momentary pause where our peers wait for the confrontation that should come with being a solid 15 minutes late. But, outside of Mrs. Weary slamming her fingers into her watch to tell us what we already know and her husband sitting beside her trying to look important, it doesn’t happen. Fringe benefit of screwing a chaperon, I reason.
“You guys like reek!” Candace shouts so loud the Pope can hear her on his deathbed in the Vatican.
“And you stink like sex, what of it?” Pete fires back at her. Her face blooms roses; clearly, she remembers what her boobs got into last night.
“I can’t get that song from last night out of my head. What was it, Pete? Seriously, we played it all night. I felt like it was in my dreams.” Marie’s so placid and puffy, in her own world – the comedown.
“The Caesars – Jerk It Out,” he reminds her.
“That’s right, that’s right,” she says, but she has no idea.
Then, the whispering starts and Lilly looks at me and Marie looks at me and Becky looks at me and Candace looks at me because that’s what the rest of them are doing. Gossip, the currency of Balaam Academy.
“Sooooooo, we’ve been wondering,” Lilly says, trying to sound demure, but it’s too contrived, “was that real last night? About Jess? Is it really that bad? And what about prom? Didn’t you already get her a ticket?”
She’s in some short Native American woven getup, somehow managing to look better than she did yesterday. Funny how she mentions Jess, not my family or anything else I said.
“We said a lot of things last night.” I shrug. So coy, so unaffected. And nothing more. I’d just as soon skip prom too. Something about staged pictures, gaudy suits, garish dresses, spray tans, pop music, dancing in general, key bumps in the bathroom, and Jess up my ass the entire time just doesn’t sound all too enticing.
I notice Becky eating a morsel of bread. She notices me. I avert my gaze. I refuse to feed the beast.
My eyes settle on Lilly again. They have unintended sympathy in them. I can’t forget last night – the scar, her mother. “Guess I’ll just worry about it when we’re back.”
Now, it’s her turn to shrug – “Touché, Andrew, touché” – and just like that, she’s over it and on to her sister and this “hot” club she’s going to set us up at.
“You’re better off, Brown. Don’t need to be tied down,” Pete throws his two cents in. The irony isn’t lost on me, especially when he shoots a furtive glance at the chaperons’ table. He should take his own advice sometime. “You really–” I nod – he’s still talking – but I’ve stopped listening.
One table over, I hear Black Michelle complaining to Bags about the “offensive lack of ethnic cuisine.” His face, flushed with its characteristic sweat, is about as animated as boiled cabbage. He clearly doesn’t give two shits.
As the only Black girl in the senior class and one of the only minority students at Balaam, Michelle’s definitely a fish-out-of-water in a pool of Great Whites. But that doesn’t mean I owe her 40 acres and a mule.
Copyright (C) 2017 Andrew Chapin