Winner of the 2010 Short Story Prize
That was the same summer I turned eighteen and the child support payments stopped—transforming me overnight from adolescent into liability. My mother’s on-line jewelry business had dried up too, so I found work as a “cone girl” at Last Licks on Thayer Street, and Mom rented our basement to an incoming graduate student who’d pulled her glitter-speckled flyer from a telephone pole opposite the philosophy department.The tenant’s name was Jonah Saxon.We watched through the bay windows in the parlor as he unloaded cartons of books from his U-haul—a longhaired, long-faced creature who looked more like a medieval shepherd than a modern-day intellectual—and then Adriana, my new friend from the ice cream shop, declared: “He’s creepy!”
“You think everyone’s creepy,” I shot back—and instantly felt self-conscious. Less passionately, I said,“He looks pretty normal to me.”
“Not everyone’s creepy. Just all men over twenty.” Adriana sighed, her mode of expressing mock frustration with my chronic naiveté.The girl was barely sixteen, but attractive in an upbeat carhop sort of way, and she was far more experienced than yours truly when it came to all things male.“Trust me on this one, babe,” she said. “He looks like the Grim Reaper. All he needs is one of those slicing tools….”
“Yeah. One of those,” she agreed. “He’ll be trying to get inside your pants by the end of the week.”
I faked a cough so my new friend wouldn’t catch me blushing.
Adriana let the damask curtains fall shut, blinding me with swift darkness. “What are you going to do when Dr. Death makes his move?” she demanded.
“He’s not going to.”
“And if he does? If he tries to kiss you?”
“Jesus, Addy. I don’t know….Maybe I’ll let him.” I feared that I had confessed too much, so I added, “Just to be nice.”
This was clearly the admission that Adriana had been waiting for. “You don’t want that,” she warned me—as though kissing our tenant had been entirely my idea.“The guy for you is Zank’s brother, Gideon. Stepbrother, actually.They’re only four months apart.” She laughed. A short, high-pitched squeal that she could turn on and off like a spigot.“Gideon will be back from his mother’s place in a couple of weeks. He is going to cream in his shorts over you.”
Zank was Adriana’s boyfriend du jour, a community college drop-out who played banjo in a bluegrass garage band. He was also the assistant manager at Last Licks. I had a difficult time imaging that his stepbrother—or anybody else—was going to find my full-boned face and twenty extra pounds alluring.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I said.
“Have some faith, babe. It’s practically taken care of.”
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