k a t h y f i s h
Sea Creatures of Indiana
Benny's teaching me to French inhale under the street light outside Dairy Queen. It's his last night before he goes up North to some little college his dad went to.
I'd been craving a dip cone and now we're passing the dip cone and a joint back and forth, taking turns on each. The dip cone's drooping.
"Blow it out your mouth," Benny says. “Now, suck the smoke in deep. Through your nose, brainless.”
I'm doing it all wrong but getting high as shit regardless. The dip cone looks like Mick Jagger.
Benny knows what he wants to do with his life. It's something to do with marine biology, but more specific than that.
"Benny, my friend, I just realized something very key." I start to laugh, then cough. Laugh. Cough.
He pitches the dip cone and pulls me out of the light, to a picnic table recently vacated by a couple and their two kids. Plunks me down. I set my elbow in a puddle of melted ice cream. We sit gazing at each other in the dark. He's French inhaling like a pro.
"What did you realize, burnout?" he asks.
My train of thought has left the station. Benny has a boyfriend, Jon, his dad doesn't know about. Or maybe he does. But I'm Benny's best friend. His only girl friend.
The manager comes out with a broom, starts to sweep up wrappers, cigarette butts, a few fallen leaves. He comes over.
"You two better beat it," he says. Benny and I crack up. I am practically falling off the picnic table. The manager’s standing there in his paper hat, aiming that broom at us like a rifle.
"Take your marijuana and go," he says, but he calls it mari-JEW-ana.
We are dying. Then walking real fast. I stop and lean on a tree.
"I've got it," I say.
"Benny do you realize there's no ocean in Indiana?”
He's looking at me. He's super tall and I'm super short. One Halloween we went as Ketchup and Mustard. Mustard's always the small one.
"Right?" I say. "I mean, why do they even have a marine biology program there?”
Benny says, fuck. Real slow.
I want to keep talking. To talk so fast he'll have no choice but to listen to me. I want to remind him about Jon. What happens when people move far away? They drift. They float apart. And Benny's dad. He knows, right?
Now we're at our old elementary school and it's getting chilly, but we're swinging on the swings anyway. Benny's standing on his. Some guys drive by and yell out their window.
We know these guys. We graduated with them. They call me a faggot too. I'm a girl with super short hair who dresses like a guy. I get it.
They're slowing down.
I yell back, “Hey you guys want to French inhale?”
I guess they take it wrong.
Now they're flying out of that car. Benny leaps off the swing, starts running, but they're upon him. One of them pulls me off my swing and has me on the ground, on the new, spongy surface all the playgrounds have now.
Nobody gets hurt on playgrounds anymore.
I'm being punched repeatedly. There's a rhythm to it. Flump, flump, flump. I feel nothing. I only hear Benny screaming and it sounds too far away. Just before I lose consciousness, I realize he's not calling Mom, Mom, Mom but...Jon, Jon, Jon.
These days I work at the Orange Julius in the food court at the mall. Jon works at Sunglass Hut. We talk sometimes. I give him free fries. Benny left without saying goodbye to either of us, but we see him on Facebook. He's doing ok. He's studying the sea creatures of Indiana. They say you can study anything, anywhere now.
KATHY FISH’s stories have been published or are forthcoming in The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), Yemassee Journal, Guernica, Indiana Review and various other journals and anthologies. She is the author of four collections of short fiction: Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2013), Wild Life (Matter Press, 2012), a chapbook in A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness (Rose Metal Press, 2008) and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, late 2015).
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