Child’s Play (fiction)

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The day Mrs. Yarborough arrived a child came with her. They were to live in the guest house on a grand estate. She certainly wasn’t going to leave her daughter with distant relatives while she tutored another man’s prodigy, Lilly. This was the day that Lilly met Aisha; and, so a bond was born. So strong was this bond that time, space, money, age, or indiscretion couldn’t touch it, much less tarnish it.

Aisha was French-creole, originally growing up in Louisiana, except during her stay with Lilly. Immediately, Lilly and Aisha shadowed one another. One could not be found without the other sternly in tow. If someone was up to no good, everybody knew they were both in on it. If caught, they were equally punished. They both devised schemes, but Lilly was usually the planner while Aisha the executioner. Lilly spent lots of time on look-out so their plans could unfold. They were in a constant war with the boys that played street hockey in Lilly’s neighborhood. Their favorite activity was to prank those wretched creatures.

The day the war started the boys, who were only a few years older than the girls, were playing street hockey during the summer. Otherwise, during the rest of the year, the boys were preoccupied playing ice hockey for their school. But the boys would not let Lilly or Aisha play with them in the summer, even though they both had inline skates, sticks, and protective gear. The boys said the girls were too young and too little. The boys laughed at them and their protective gear. Then, the boys started setting up their goal net in the street in front of Lilly’s gated driveway. The boys wanted to rub it in and it worked. Never had two girls so hastily agreed upon revenge than on that day. If the girls couldn’t play street hockey with the boys, then the girls would make sure the boys couldn’t play, either. And, so the summer war was on.

“We should tell your uncle and get him to make them move that goal,” Aisha adamantly proclaimed.

“No. That would take all the fun out of it. Let’s see how much we can get away with first,” Lilly suggested.

After a momentary pause to go over it in her head, Aisha replied, “I like the way you think!  Okay, I’m in.”

They pinky swore on it and the summer’s fate was sealed. That day sent a rush through Lilly that she’d never felt before: the warm companionship of a best friend.

Lilly was great with numbers and devised a point scale based upon successfully executing missions without getting caught red-handed. The girls decided to prank each boy, but make him think his buddies did it. How much trouble they could get the boys into once the prank was pulled counted for bonus points.

However, if the boys managed to gain substantial satisfaction by pulling any jokes of their own, the girls lost their points for the week. The boys would learn what was in store for them soon enough. The girls hoped that by being hockey players, the boys might catch on to the point system, but never did. Stupid boys.

The girls’ command center consisted of Lilly’s tree fortress, as they called it. It was wired with electricity and plumbing and was more like a condo built around a majestic tree than any kind of home-spun tree fort of old wood. Instead of a rope ladder, it had a spiral staircase that wrapped around the tree leading to a back porch. Bean bags riddled the interior floor. Video games and big screen TVs centered the main living area. Lilly, also, had a separate room she referred to as the “laboratory” where she worked on special projects for her advanced electronics and computing tutor, Mrs. Yarborough. Lilly even had an art room with a window as a wall overlooking a lake to inspire her creativity. She had a baby grand piano in there, too, which she played beautifully. Yet, the girls renamed this the “war room” and they drew up schematics of the neighborhood on top of the baby grand while planning their raids on the boys.

The girls were serious about reconnaissance and would watch the boys in the street by duplicating and, then, rerouting the estate’s security feeds to Lilly’s tree fortress.  They also used sonic laser targeting, one of Lilly’s “special projects”, to get audio from outside the gates. They watched and listened to what was happening during the street hockey games on the living room screens. They knew what the boys argued about and what made them celebrate. They even knew which boy would get mad if anyone talked smack about his momma. But Aisha believed in first-hand intelligence, too.

Six boys comprised this “boys only” hockey team. Drew was a defenseman and their Captain. Nick rounded out the defensive pair. The triplets, Ron, Tom, and Jon, made up their offensive line. Andy was the goalkeeper. The “penalty box” was Lilly’s driveway: the boys’ choice, but a perfect one for the girls’ efforts. Stupid boys.

Aisha showed Lilly how a master of manipulation went to work. She wanted the boys to think they were safe outside the confines of Lilly’s gate. Aisha would strike up conversations with her little head pressed against the bars proclaiming that she was bored while Lilly studied. The boys tried to ignore her, but Aisha was the kind of girl that could make you feel like spilling your guts. They fell for it every time.

Aisha wanted to unearth what the boys would never talk about during a game. She managed to get most of their dirty laundry – their fears, the names of the girls they liked at school, their favorite foods, their birthdays – pretty much anything Aisha wanted to know. All one boy had to do to reveal another’s secret was to take a bad hit or penalty. Then, they sat in the penalty box steaming mad, chirping away in Aisha’s ear. She discovered that Drew’s parents were going out of town, which, finally, set the pranks in motion.

Drew’s parents traveled from time to time and left him without a sitter since they considered him old enough to be responsible at fourteen. It was Drew himself that told Aisha about the party but was quick to point out that only girly girls were invited, which did not include her or Lilly.

On the night of the party, the girls “borrowed” Mrs. Yarborough’s satellite phone. Instead of calling the real cops, they called Drew’s parents pretending to be the cops. They wore voice modifiers that Lily built to make them sound like adult men. The “officers” gave Drew’s parents the opportunity to keep them from going over to the house if they could have a neighbor handle the situation.

Drew’s parents called Nick’s parents, who caught the entire team of boys with liquor, weed, and girls. They were all grounded for a week. Lilly and Aisha were free from the boys outside of the gate for seven whole days. When the boys were finally allowed to play street hockey again, the girls rode their bikes down to the end of the driveway. With a toot of their banana seat bike horns, police sirens played and the girls giggled. The boys didn’t get it. Stupid boys.

It didn’t take long for the hockey boys of a small town with large mansions to get a reputation for being the bad boys on the block. The boys loved it, which kind of back-fired on the girls. So, they lost their points for the week and set out to make things right again in the universe.

Next on the girls’ hit list were the triplets. They were the oldest of the bunch, turning fifteen at the end of the week. They couldn’t wait to get their learners permits so they could learn to drive. The day of the written test came and all three boys passed with flying colors. Their father agreed to take them all for a spin the next day.

Knowing this, the girls prepared. Aisha watched internet videos on how to build a homemade “Slim Jim” and, then, did it. She practiced using it on some older model cars owned by the mansion staff, but always locked the cars back up before scampering off. Lilly designed and built a device that gave off a small-ranged electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This device would temporarily disable all electronic devices within its range. All Lilly needed was one that would disable cameras and alarms for five minutes at a time. It was a lot to do within a week, but the girls were ready when the time came. They waited until the night after Ron, Tom, and Jon passed their tests and, then, at the witching hour, the girls slipped out of Lilly’s compound estate to go to work. Lilly’s EMP device worked well enough to disable the estate’s security feed, so they could slip out. The girls followed the tree line, up the hill, toward the triplet’s house.

The EMP device also worked on the security system for their estate grounds and the used Volvo the boys were going to take for that spin. Aisha was quick with the Jimmy. They were in. Out of Aisha’s knapsack came the biggest bag of glitter the girls could get at the town craft store. They dumped all of it into the air conditioner intake vents. They worked quickly and were back home in time to get in a good night’s rest.

In the morning, the girls heard fighting at the end of Lilly’s driveway. There were the boys, the triplets covered head-to-toe in glitter fist fighting the other three glitter-free boys. By the time the girls managed to ride their bikes to the end of the driveway, all six boys had enough glitter on them to be mistaken for a woodland fairy. The boys stopped fighting just long enough for the girls to roll up to the gate and each toss a handful of glitter into the air with giggles. The boys stood there dumbfounded. Points earned.

This time, there was no doubt about it; the boys finally knew that war had been waged.

That night, the boys tin foiled Lilly’s entire gate, for what they thought would keep them hidden from the girls’ prying eyes. But, the girls just watched them on TV, instead. Stupid boys. That day, the stubborn boys didn’t take the tin foil down even though it was reflecting the heat of the sun right into their faces. Their bodies dripped with sweat and their eyes squinted. The remaining glitter from the day before still sparkled on their uniforms.

Finally, the girls quietly made their way down Lilly’s driveway. Their arms went crashing through the tin foil like caged zombies, grabbing at the boys as they sat outside the gate drinking water. The goalie nearly choked. The girls ripped down the rest of the foil and made silver snowballs to throw at the boys, which they immediately swatted back at the girls with the end of their hockey sticks. The silver foil, snowball fight went on for a while, until the girls announced a truce at sunset. Particularly suspicious, the boys waited for the trick.

“Hey, Drew,” Aisha started, “You know, I think you’re kind of cute.”

“Me, too,” added Lilly in an innocent voice, “in that Tomato Head kind of way.”

“It’s Potato Head, silly,” Aisha corrected with a smirk.

“Tomato, Potato,” Lilly responded. “Whichever.” Lilly and Aisha slid mirrors and moisturizer in between the gate grates, turned around and whistled while they held hands and skipped back to the tree fortress.

Drew picked up one of the mirrors. In the dimming light, he could finally see the purplish sunburn starting to blister around his lips. He looked at the other boys. Their own tin foil master plan had done them in. Another week went by without any street hockey and the girls kept their points.

The girls knew they had to step up their attacks now that the boys were in on the war. Lilly used her lab computer to hack into the boys’ cell phones. Not only were their voice calls and text messages cracked, but so were their pictures and music files. Lilly sent a picture of Nick flexing naked into his mirror to Andy’s mom with a “bow-chicka-wow-wow” song in the background. Then, Lilly sent a duplicate message to every boy on the team. After that, Andy wasn’t allowed to play outside with the team anymore, and Nick couldn’t be coaxed out of his room. The team was two down, one of which was the goalie, Andy. Drew was forced to step in as the only defender against the triplets for their games. Yet, again, the girls rolled up on their bicycles and began showing each other their phones and laughing hysterically. The boys called it a day and didn’t finish their game. Points earned.

The four remaining boys, led by Drew, tried fast to retaliate. They hatched a plan to fill water balloons with rubber cement to chuck at the girls if they came anywhere near the driveway gate the next day. The boys didn’t consider that the girls were still tapped into their phones. In their defense, not one of them knew that Lilly and Aisha, together, may have been evil geniuses. Still, stupid boys.

Territorial, to say the least, Lilly was quick in the lab mixing chemicals and plant mash into a funnel as Aisha held out their balloons while wearing rubber gloves and goggles. They were ready for the boys’ ambush.

As bright as any other summer day, the boys stopped playing street hockey as soon as they saw the girls coming. The girls, however, wore hooded raincoats with slickers and had a stack of water balloons of their own in their bicycle baskets. They stopped their bikes well away from the gate.

The boys did not retreat, but instead, continued with their rubber cement strategy. They threw their cement-filled balloons high into the air, over the gate at the girls, but none had an arm good enough to reach them.

The girls used slingshots to skyrocket their balloons at the boys. The balloons exploded on the street and splashed upwards, others rained down right on their targets, although Aisha was a better shot than Lilly. The girls dowsed the boys with Lilly’s green concoction. Satisfied, the girls rode back to the tree fortress.

The boys wiped themselves dry with their sports towels and resumed their game. However, within the hour Ron was the first to scratch his neck. Then, within minutes, every other boy was driven mad by itching. Lilly had used liquid poison ivy in her balloons. To this day, Aisha doesn’t know how she came up with that one. But if there was one thing Aisha really loved about Lilly, it was her ability to improvise.

While the boys’ parents were in a frenzy to find calamine lotion anywhere they could, Lilly explained to Aisha that she sometimes she walked around the property lakes and woods to pick poison ivy and poison oak. She was already doing experiments with it in her laboratory before the fight but still insisted on lecturing Aisha on the dangers of making chemical weapons. But, Aisha was hard to convince when another ten days went by with no boys and no street hockey. Points earned.

With the boys locked inside, stripped of their cell phones and dignity, the girls finally felt the freedom to venture beyond the front gate of the property. They rode their bikes to the top of the high, steep hill, pedaling hard, only to race each other down as fast as their banana seat bikes could carry them. At the bottom of the hill, the girls skidded to a stop in front of Lilly’s gate.

Lilly said, “You know, Aisha, maybe we went a little hard on the boys.”

“What? Are you crazy? This has been the best summer ever!” was her reply.

“Yeah, but it’s not like the boys really have a choice about where they can play street hockey. We live at the bottom of the hill. They can’t play at the top, in case one of their balls rolls all the way down here,” Lilly said with some practicality in her voice.

“Forget them,” Aisha protested, “All they had to do was let us play, too. They brought it all upon themselves.”

“Is that, right?” called out a voice from in the distance. “Fire!”

Aisha’s eyes focused like a hawk’s, but before she could warn Lilly about the snipers in the window, the paintballs started buzzing by their bodies. The girls fell off their bikes and landed on the hard pavement. They screamed as the fast-moving paintballs exploded against their bare skin. They were scratched and slightly bloodied with welts forming red swells all over their arms and legs.

“Hold your fire!” yelled out a single voice. Drew and Nick walked around from behind a tree. When the girls looked back in the direction the paintballs had come from, Andy and the triplets gave a little wave, and, then, refocused their sights on the girls.

“So, you think you can just run around and do whatever you want? Now, it’s about time we taught you a lesson about messing with a hockey team,” Drew threatened.

“What team? You’re dreaming! You’re just five barely pubescent boys and a fat goalie!” Lilly shouted.

“Hey, I’m gonna grow out of that,” Andy defended from his window perch.

“Alright, you asked for it,” Drew replied.

“What’s going on down here?” came the voice of sweet relief from Lilly’s Uncle. “What the hell do you boys think you’re doing to my girls?”

Nick stood by Drew in shock and could barely stammer out a response. On cue, the girls huddled and started crying. They held on tightly to one another to keep the other from turning her crocodile tears into bursts of laughter.

“Get the hell out of here and don’t let me see any of you down at the bottom of this hill, again!” Lilly’s Uncle yelled out and, then, proceeded over to the girls, who pulled themselves together.

“Young Ladies, that’ll be quite enough out of the two of you – glitter, hacking, and poison ivy balloons? I’ve had enough phone calls from these boys’ parents to last a lifetime.”

Lilly tried to break in, “But, they started it!”

“No, they didn’t. They just wouldn’t let you play a game with them. And they were right. You are too young and too little to play with them. Now, you got hurt, anyway. Are you happy, now?”

The girls looked at one another. “No, Sir,” they said.

He continued, “Now, both of you go to the study in the main house. Consider the tree fortress closed for the rest of the summer and you’re both grounded.”

“But, what are we going to do all day?” Lilly whined as Mrs. Yarborough approached. Aisha stiffened up.

Aisha’s mother told them, “Grammar – in English and French. You’ll be learning proper grammar rules for the rest of the summer. Maybe that will teach you to be proper, young ladies.”

The girls looked at each other defeated. Points no longer mattered. The summer war was over. There were, now, causalities on both sides.

Lilly’s Uncle continued, “Lilly, Aisha, you’re both too smart for this. Now, move it.”

The girls walked back to the house.

Mrs. Yarborough turned to Lilly’s Uncle when the girls were out of earshot and said, “Don’t worry, Harry. I’ll teach them – gloating only gets you caught.”

Harry looked at Mrs. Yarborough. “That’s always a tough lesson.”

She replied, “Not half as tough as grammar, though.”

They both laughed. Harry continued to chuckle as he spoke, “Well, you’ve got to admit, they make a great team.”

Mrs. Yarborough smiled and said, “They do.”

Return to JennWhittaker.com

 

 

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Flying (fiction) by Jenn Whittaker

model-2425700_1920She’s not the kind of girl to ask for help. She can solve this equation on her own, although the unpredictability of adjusting for windage is throwing her off a bit. She should be able to precisely calculate the arc needed to hit her target. Her long, blonde hair is swept around in front of her face by the winter wind. She sits on her twelfth-story balcony, tiny as it may be, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. There is nothing above the balcony but sky thanks to the district ordnance that no building can be higher than the U.S. Capitol building.

D.C. has not been kind to her. It’s claustrophobic. The balcony is her only escape, positioned on the inside and in the middle of a squared, u-shaped building. Yet, it feels more like a cage. The black, metal bars are only three feet tall. The balcony is so tiny, in fact, that even slumped in her chair, working on her calculations, she can see the ground below.

Who is she, she wonders sometimes when she peers across the city after lifting her head out of her notebook? It doesn’t matter. She doesn’t even like her name; she might as well not even have one. Does she disappear among the lights to onlookers from the buildings to her left or right? The only thing they have in common is their tiny balconies anyway.

As she stares at the ground through the spaces in the metal bars on the balcony she can see the pool, closed for the winter, surrounded by surprisingly still lush bushes. There is a wrought iron fence that creates the enclosure. Each of those black bars has a pointed tip, as if they’d been cut short from Spartan spears. Hard ground surrounds the outside of the enclosure, but not concrete. Her equation still needs work.

She could eyeball it, but if she misses, she may end up in a soft pile of bushes. That’s just her luck and her greatest fear – survival. She wouldn’t want to end up with a simple flesh wound, or worse, impaling only a limb and then needing to have said limb amputated. How would she explain herself if she survived? She couldn’t. They’d know. They’d all know she tried and failed, and that would be worse than death.

It’s all she can focus on. She stares at her calculus equations and their counterparts of height, weight, and air resistance ratios. How can she be sure, sure enough to take the leap? The leap. How could she forget about the leap? Does she need to take one? Definitely, yes. The iron spears aren’t directly beneath her. But what kind of leap: just a springy step or a swan dive? Perhaps she’ll just crawl over the bars, plant her feet on the inch of cement balcony remaining past her tiny cell and just let go backwards. She discards the thought immediately. She must face outward. She’ll lean forward as if carved into the bow of an old Viking ship. Yes. That’s it. It only saddens her to know that she hasn’t a long, silky, white robe to billow in the wind as she plunges from the sky.

The sky. The sky directly in front of her is a plank of death. It is her electric chair, her gas chamber, her oncoming traffic, her razor blade, her shot gun. It’s her way out. How beautiful it is devoid of all physical substance. The aether of her demise.

There will be no note. There will be no calls or long goodbyes or cries for help. She has left no hints. Her success only depends on her landing. Granted, from twelve stories up, any landing has a high potential for getting the job done, but she’s not one for potential. That’s how she’s ended up here in the first place. She needs a spear through the chest.

Each night as she pines away at the idea of execution, she wonders how long it will take to convince herself that it’s time. Time. That’s the factor in her equation that she couldn’t resolve until now. She has settled on the eve of daybreak. She wants to see the earth moving up to meet her.

***

God damn it. I hate my fucking name. Sure, the cops let me off the D.U.I. charge and escorted me back to my place, lights blazing, but that’s only because of my father’s name. Senator Sol. I haven’t done anything with my own name yet, so “Anthony, you must stop riding my coattails.” I can already hear the words coming out of his mouth before I get the call. It’s not my fault the cops ran my license and plates and realized I’m his son. But the lecture is going to be hell.

I guess I should feel lucky. Anybody else would have to spend the night in the drunk tank with prostitutes and full-fledge alcoholics. Their car would have gone to impound and they’d have a criminal record for the rest of their life. They may even get their license taken from them. But why should I stop drinking? I’m only twenty-three and that’s what twenty-three years olds do. I’m hungry. Got to love the drunk munchies. The sun will be coming up soon and I still have to go to class. Maybe I can still get some sleep. I need to smoke some loud. That’ll settle my nerves.

As I walk onto my seventh floor balcony, the day is just starting to wake up. It gets bright so early or maybe it’s just that late. Who cares? I light my blunt, one that I already had on-hand, pre-rolled, inside a cigar box, and out of the corner of my eye I see a girl. She’s just standing on her balcony at the top of the building. As I turn my head to get a better look, I see the look is amazing.

She’s completely naked, free as a bird. She must be on some good shit. It’s not snowing, but the wind has a bitter chill. I can see her hard nipples. I start to get hard myself. I can’t stop staring, but who could? She hasn’t moved a muscle, but she must be shivering. Then, she climbs over her balcony’s railing. I want to yell. I want to cry out for her to stop, but I’m afraid I might startle her and she’ll slip. But then she takes a spring and her body lays out flat, perpendicular to the balcony. Everything slows down.

Her face. I can’t stop looking at her face. Her body is robust in all the right places and poised, but it’s her face that draws my attention. It’s so peaceful. She’s smiling. Her eyes are open and excited. I can see the weight, all her weight, simply lift off her body in that one fluid jump.

I’m jealous. Here she is, brave and carefree. She doesn’t struggle or flail at all. It’s like she’s floating on a quickly sinking cloud, evaporating all around her. Will I ever know that freedom?

I’ve fallen in love. This girl lives in my building, but I’ve never come across her once. How could destiny wait to make our meeting until now? It isn’t fair. Only two seconds with her will have to last a lifetime. All alone, she escapes from her balcony, and, me, I’m standing on mine like a coward. She passes me. Time lights up again.

The crash and whining metal only lasts a blinking moment. By the time I look down, she’s already on the fence, that twists and bends all around her. Now, my glorious maiden lies pierced through the chest, which has surely ripped apart the heart that I now call my own. How intimate; she shared the best moment of her life with only me. It’s enough.

Return to JennWhittaker.com

Axle (fiction)

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The dirty, white van screeched to a halt, just missing her. She couldn’t believe her eyes. The van had been mounted sideways on new axles. Why, she thought. There must be a rational explanation, but no. Out popped a fiery blonde with tangled waves in her hair that fell to her chin, her features pointy but appealing. She got out to inspect her van.

“Here. Put this on,” she said with no introduction as she handed the enchanted girl an eye patch. It wasn’t as small as a pirate’s patch, but a large, black post-surgical patch that came to a soft point in front of her eyeball so that she could still blink behind it.

“It’s the only way to see,” the blonde continued. She was his best friend. She knew it without any words passing between them.

One of the back doors fell open flat, like a tailgate, since it sat sideways, as the blonde popped the handle. The new girl peaked inside.

“Cool,” was her awkward response.

“Not really,” said the blonde. “We can’t eat at the table.”

The girl bent down a little more to see through the door and, sure enough, a small round table was mounted to what would have been the bottom in any plain, old caravan. No, this one jetted out of the left wall. She could see through the sparse, metal interior straight to the windshield. It looked like the driver and passenger seats had been remounted in a normal position. They sat with the windshield facing out. No, the van was just twisted in the middle, the front wheels mounted on their plain, old, regular axle. It was only the back axle that had been retooled. There was no glass in the skylight that sat on the right side of the van. The glass in the windows on the top and bottom were also missing.

“Sit up front. Hurry! Let’s go!” she commanded.

The girl did as she was told, maybe to get in the blonde’s good graces, but felt instant vertigo as she did. The blonde pushed the gas pedal to the floor and before she knew it, they were swerving back and forth as the velocity held the girl in her seat. She hadn’t bothered with a seat belt. It was a van that had seen a lot of gravity.

The lot they steamed through must have been measured in acres with flat, creamy cement. Only one tree stood off to the left side, somehow immune to the cement ground. Tall grass and whippersnappers demarked the line of sanity on all four sides ending the horizons. There he was watching, holding onto the chain-link fence with his tender hands.

“He’s a pompous academic, you know,” the blonde said flatly as she continued to dodge things only she could see. The eyepatch wasn’t helping the girl at all.

“I know. I kind of like that about him,” the girl stated with no emotion.

He hadn’t been so pompous when she laid almost naked on the four-post bed with a cushy down mattress. She wore nothing but his open robe. Another girl laid there, too, but she had her clothes. How funny, thought the girl.

“Why would you be here? Are you his girlfriend?” she said to the other woman.

The other woman began to explain, but the words coming out of her mouthed turned inside out, going back into her throat. So much so that her words became softer and softer until she was mute. Our enchanted girl felt like an intruder and got up, putting her clothes on, again. Then, he walked through the door to stop her.

Their ages matched perfectly, but his black hair was already riddled with salt. He shook it out and took the girl into his tight, muscular arms and wrapped them around her waist. They stood nose to nose because his grasp had brought her body up against his, making her feel taller. The other girl on the bed was plump and upset. Her black, moldy face crunched up and he shooed her away while never losing eye contact with the girl. He had been a rock climber once, which explained his muscles, before becoming a Ph.D., which came with all the benefits of student sex.

“She’s a graduate,” he protested to the other woman. The other gave up and collected her yellow purse from the ground and exited the wide-open space of the bedroom.

Once the other was gone, they kissed, the girl trying passion, as he remained tight-lipped, sucking. Her face was twirling, almost lost to a black hole. It wasn’t a marvelous kiss, so she tried again. Again, she was met with the same kiss, but he rubbed her close to him with a moan. He was trying passion and that meant the most.

He took her clothes back off and went down on her. Now, the sucking kiss felt right. That explained it. She’d teach him the difference later. But he knew he had Chlamydia and he warned her that they should wait. After consideration, she did. It would clear up soon, she knew, after the season for it.

“So, what does this mean moving forward for our future?” he asked, sincere.

“You mean you want more than this?” the girl felt surprised.

“You’re a graduate and capable,” he said. “Meet me at the festival parade,” he followed up with, not explaining his meaning, but her butterflies knew exactly.

She couldn’t wait but had to. She despised this season.

“I have to go feed my dogs, you understand,” he said as he walked, shuffling the papers beneath his feet. “I can grade later.”

She went to get some coffee out of his pot, waiting for his return, as his two cats, already fed, twirled between her legs, putting on a fluffy show. It was a sign of good times to come. He wanted a future.

With that future upon her, the day of the demolition festival arrived. Now, being vetted by the wonky blonde, she could start to see the derby with her good eye behind the patch. The blonde made it out. With stretching metal creaking, the van tried to keep up.

Return to JennWhittaker.com

Homesick: A Geographical Whirlwind (fiction)

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I’m happy to be back. After a two-year return to my birth state some of the things I disliked most are now the most comforting, familiar. I don’t even mind the thickness of the humidity in the air. This place is teaming with life, from the neighborhood cats to the wasp that occasionally gets trapped on the screen porch. I don’t even mind the bugs so much. There is a plethora. Except for the cockroaches. I never missed those.

I made it to D.C. where to my great disappointment it was just as humid as Florida. I still knew no relief. I hadn’t traveled anywhere else. D.C. was more conservative than I imagined in my liberal leaning mind, though there was that one time when they put up fences all around town for the G-8 summit. This was before the permanent barricades installed after 9/11. I felt naked in a tank top. The attire of the vast majority were full suits, ladies too. I only went to one so-called protest where people sat on the lawn of the National Mall smoking pot. The first time anyone asked me if I had been to the mall, I thought it an odd question because who has never been to a shopping mall? But that’s what the locals call it, The Mall. Just like locals call it the National Airport, not Reagan. It has several metro stops. The first time I rode in a metro I stuck my hand in the doors as they were closing, thinking they operated like the elevators I’ve always known. But the doors did not open back up, trapping my arm. Passengers pried the doors back open so I could jump on before the underground bullet took off. It frightened me, then, but I eventually found myself nodding off on long metro rides soothed by the sway of the cars. I walk too slow for this city.

From my stay in the Arizona desert, the still, yet crisp air gave me sweet relief from the humidity of my life and silken hair-days. Tumbleweeds, thick with thorns, collect against fencing barren of any spectacular pop of color. Bestowed upon me is an appreciation for the floral hues of Florida. I didn’t even know tumbleweeds really existed. I thought they were simply made up for movies. My whole life I lived under this misconception. I don’t know why. No one ever told me they didn’t exist. And grass! How green the Florida grass grows and how fast. I never felt the true meaning of the word “lush” until I returned home after seeing some of the world.

Arizona is where hands dry out and skin painfully cracks. I have never used so much moisturizer. The static electricity is unavoidable in winter. I was always shocking my poor, sweet kitty cats. And they sometimes shocked back, all accidental by everything involved, except the static. I enjoyed the convenience and security of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

The occasional snow in the southwest is made more confusing because the standard road procedure to lay down small pebbles for traction, not salt to melt the snow away, causing pebbles to spit up from the road. I had to get my whole windshield replaced each year I was there. Where Nor’easters are common they have the practical sense to use salt. That’s on the other side of the country.

The ticks up north are unbearable in their numbers. Entire neighborhoods are being hazed in masses with the most poisonous insecticides, yet it cannot keep them in check. Misquotes, while always troublesome and annoying, are easily deterred by screening.

In the northwest, it just isn’t available. They just don’t do it. They have bugs, too, though the high altitudes and cooler temperatures keep the population limited. I just can’t believe everyone doesn’t see the benefit of screening. In Florida, it can’t be lived without.

I never thought I’d hear myself say that I’m happy to be back. No state tax. It was all I could do to get out of here at the age of twenty-four. It took much longer than expected.

The Midwest is pleasant in the springtime. I visited once before spending five months in Missouri, which many affectionately call Misery. Humid still, but worse with the mixture of unrelenting heat without a sea breeze in summertime. The sweat pooled in the heels of my boots.

Chicago, oh, Chicago! I stayed at The Drake, like Princess Diana, though I’m sure in a different suite. I was working as a cocktail waitress in a dive bar next to a pizza place in a strip mall when the news of her violent death came over every station on the TV sets. But that wasn’t in Chicago. The Drake was and the Blackhawks define Chicago, now a dynasty close to royalty. The Europeans have their royals, South and Latin Americans and many in the far East have their dictators or religious heads of states. In the U.S. we have athletes worshipped just the same, if not more.

I missed Little China in a brush with New York, but not in Portland. The statuesque entrance was less colorful than the Little China in D.C.

Then off abroad to Germany. It’s cleanliness admirable. Every view was of the picturesque Bavarian southern country-side with fields of flowers in bloom to be used in the production of diesel fuels. It’s the Alabama of Germany. The odors from the sugar beet factory offset the pleasantry, and, then, even further, by the abrupt smell of manure in the planting season. The spargel really is worth it.

The Netherlands, land of tulips and channels, with outdoor cafes in the center of town and a striking width for bicycle lanes, is only improved upon by the ease of public transportation, even if pick-pocketing is a nuisance for foreign travelers. The shots at the bar of the brilliant turquoise “Liquid Cocaine” (in translation) almost overtakes the hash and mushroom experience. But the Van Gogh Museum is not to be missed. A canned jigsaw puzzle of a famous work, though I cannot now recall which, still waits to be pieced together. It holds a place of honor on my bookshelf as a memento from the trip. I am inspired to re-visit the Salvador Dali Museum in nearby St. Petersburg. That’s St. Petersburg in Florida, not Russia.

On the bookshelf, too, sits the piggy bank resembling an Alice-In-Wonderland-like bunny bought in a thrift store. It contains various versions and forms of European currency – the euro, the kuna – oops, I forgot about the Canadian penny (that is generally accepted by most stores in the United States). I wonder if this is more a reflection of the common physical characteristics of our pennies than on the value placed upon the economic stability of our northern neighbors.

The kuna hails from Croatia whose coastline is made of colossal granite mountain ranges and canyons with cliffs that drop right off into the Adriatic Sea. The Grand Canyon is less impressive.

Slovenia is small and poor.

The architecture of Vienna will take your breath away at every turn. The shopping District is like no other. Its magnitude like no other. My addiction to Swarovski starts here, though fine crystal is also made elsewhere, but this is the crème-de-la-crème. Their jewelry dazzles and sparkles.

I skipped France because I wasn’t with a man I loved, which I believe is necessary when visiting Paris for the first time.

On the Charles Bridge in the Czech Republic, Prague is like Vienna, but dirtier, sexier. It has an astronomical clock tower in the center of the town square. I have my portrait done by a chalk artist. It all feels so Bohemian in the moment. His rendition is not of my liking, but I pay for it anyway. Do I really look like that? Now, I’m someone with a portrait of myself. How pretentious of me, but it, too, is a cherished souvenir. This one stays turned around facing the wall in the back of my closet.

Over the year since I’ve been back I’ve lounged on the deserted, sandy beaches of the Space Coast with the Atlantic Ocean crashing at my feet. This is my favorite spot. One day, I’ll return as I ended up in Key West this time around. Four square miles is too small for such a great number to live and visit. I never partied on Duval Street as I don’t drink and once spent New Year’s Even down there when I was a teenager. I don’t expect it could get any better. I miss the saltwater taffy, but now trade relations could open up with Cuba a mere 90 miles offshore.

San Diego brings temperate weather and personalities. A coastal cousin, in the least, full of Navy ships.

Now I’m at the University of Tampa campus, a pristine oasis with prime channel-side real estate. Silver, spun minarets reflect the shining sun. I now feel the word “nestled” when thinking about the buzzing city of Tampa one block over. I hope to be well-written one day and that my works can be used as examples for Spartans to come. The Spartans in Tampa, not in Greece.

I haven’t made it by there yet, but fancy the cuisine.

Home again, domestic. I had to move away to appreciate it. Now I’m back, but not for good.  Anywhere I go in the world I can look back and Florida is home. I wish I had a stone globe in my study, containing a hollowed-out space for a spirits compartment. Haphazardly, I’d slowly spin the cold stone and just wonder where this story of mine is going to end up next. I wonder about the screen porches, humidity, the exchange rate, the bug population, the cultural heritage, is it landlocked? I wonder.

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