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Authors: David Zimmerman

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BOOK: Caring Is Creepy
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“Dani let me borrow it,” I said. “For the first day of school.” I waited for my chance to sneak some breakfast out for Logan. Mom had gotten out of bed early and was already working on the boat when I woke up. I made sure and brushed my teeth before I went back and saw him. I gave him my copy of
Harriet the Spy
and kissed him good morning. His stomach growled twice. Mom turned my attempt to get Logan breakfast into an obstacle course.

“Are you going over to see her today? To pick out your first-day-of-school outfits?” my mom asked.

“Who? Dani?” I said, as if we could be talking about anyone else. My mind was still back behind the closet. “No, she’s grounded.”

“What for?” she asked in her fake casual way, picking up a strip of balsa wood with a long, thin pair of tweezers. She dabbed the tiniest bit of glue on it and slipped it in through the neck of the bottle. She wore special magnifying glasses she’d bought at Wal-Mart, so she could see the details better. They made her look like a properly medicated mad scientist. But I noticed her hands weren’t all too steady. She kept reaching in to place the little stick of wood and then stopping and pulling it out again.

“She got in an argument with her mother about something.”

“That girl does have a mouth on her.”

The house phone rang and we both stopped talking and stared at it like it might jump off the hook and bite us. I looked over and raised my eyebrows at her, but she shook her head and mouthed the word,
Wait
, as if the person calling could hear us even without the phone being picked up. The answering machine clicked on and my mom’s voice informed whoever it was that we weren’t home. It was Dr. Drose. Mom asked me to pick it up and went back to work on the Cutty Sark. She must of made a mistake with the piece she was placing because she cursed softly and pounded her thigh with a fist. I’d never seen her do that before. Then she took her tweezers and poked herself on the palm three times.

“Hi, sweetie,” Dr. Drose said when I answered. “Is your mother home?”

Mom came out of the kitchen after she tried gluing the piece of balsa wood for a third or fourth time and still couldn’t get it right. She snatched the phone out of my hand like I’d stolen it from her. “Of course,” she said and nodded with a lot of energy. “I don’t mind at all.” And then after a moment or so, “Believe me, I could use it. Alright then, I’ll see you.” She smiled after she hung up. “That’s a nice surprise.”

“What?” I said. I smiled too. The secret of my closet boy hummed sweetly in my chest.

“Someone made a scheduling mistake and they don’t need me for the next couple of days. I get a little vacation.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Why do you look so glum? Am I interfering with some plan of yours?”

“No,” I said.

“Yeah, right,” she said, examining my face like it was a restaurant check from a careless waitress. “What new scheme are you up to today, Lynn Marie?”

The phone rang again and my mother picked it up without thinking. She must of been distracted. Her voice changed completely when the person on the other end of the line said hello. “When? Are you sure it’s not a clerical mistake?” she said, after listening for a little while. It was a man’s voice. That much I could hear. I knew without her saying it wasn’t a call from Dr. Drose. “Have you ever noticed it’s always Carla who makes these little discoveries?”

I went into the living room and sat down, so my mother wouldn’t think I was trying to listen in. The only thing separating the kitchen from the living room was a Formica-topped breakfast bar and three padded barstools. My mom turned and faced the window over the sink, but I could still hear what she said.

“How do you know this?” She shook a cigarette out of her pack and lit it. “That’s ridiculous. He’s a complete idiot anyway. That’s why his own kid checks the med inventory after he does it.” After three or four drags, she stubbed it out. “
Goddamnit
,” she said, still grinding the cigarette into her coffee saucer even though it was completely out. I hated when she put out cigarettes on dishes. It seemed trashy and I was the one who always had to clean it up. “Just call me when you know for sure, okay? Right. And tell her not to butt into other people’s wards. In fact, tell her not to touch anything until I get there. Good-bye.” She put the phone back in its cradle and lit another cigarette. Smoke curled out of her nose.
She glared at the ship for a long moment and then walked back and sat down at the table.

“Was that Dr. Drose again?” I knew it wasn’t. She’d never say Goddamnit to Dr. Drose.

“No,” she said.

“Who was it?”

“It sure as hell wasn’t Ed McMahon.” This was an old joke of hers and it always irritated me when she said it. It was so stupid it was aggravating. This time she didn’t even try to use her jokey voice. It came out flat and mean.

I slipped in and grabbed a Coke and a half-eaten bag of Wise potato chips before she could start working on her boat again, making sure to walk across the linoleum very softly. This was not a good time for a big blowup.

“I’m going to go read,” I said.

“Fine.” Mom picked up one of her tools and bent it against her chin a second before letting it pop back into shape. Then she shut her eyes and did it again. She was still doing this when I went back to my room. But before I even opened the closet, the kitchen door creaked and slammed.

The First Real Lie

“D
o you think I can slip out and go to the bathroom? I’m about to pop.” Logan leaned up against the wall with a pillow behind his head and
Harriet the Spy
folded on his chest. It was late afternoon and my mom had been missing now for several hours on some work errand. Logan had jammed the flashlight into the rafters above him, so it shone down on his head like a spotlight. All he had on were boxer shorts, but sweat dripped from his chin and darkened his side burns. The flap in the front of his boxers was open and I could almost but not quite see in. A dark, fluffy shadow of hair. I tried not to stare, but my eyes kept landing there like flies on something stinky.

“There’s no way,” I said. “My mom’s in the kitchen. She’ll see you for sure.”

“When’s she leaving? I mean, I’ve seriously got to pee. I thought you said she’d be at work by now.”

“She usually is, but her work called up and said she had the day off. Tomorrow too.”

“Shit,” Logan said, “I’m beginning to think this wasn’t such a great idea. There’s no way I could slip out without her seeing me?”

“No way, Jose,” I said.

“Could I maybe climb out your bedroom window? This is near about emergency mode. In a little while, nothing’s done about it, I’ll explode and you’ll have quite a mess on your hands.”

“Wounded in the line of duty.”

“I’m serious.” He pulled a pout.

“You can’t. The window’s nailed shut.” These were the first lies I told Logan Loy, and even now I’m not entirely sure why I told them. Of course I wanted him to stay for a little while longer, but there was more to it than that. The scary part was I didn’t even think about it. Not till afterward. I just lied and he believed me. “If she sees you, she’ll call the police. The station’s right down the street. You wouldn’t even make it to your car.”

“Shit,” he said. His sweat smelled strangely spicy in that small, hot room, but I didn’t mind. I kind of liked it. Since he was in my room and I was taking care of him, I thought of it as kind of like my sweat. And your own sweat never smells as bad as other people’s.

“Look,” I said, “I’ll go get you a can and you can use that. It’s all we can do for now.”

You’d think it’d make me feel like a servant or something, fetching him stuff and taking away his piss in Coke cans, but I felt the opposite. He really needed me. And this felt as good as, maybe even better than, it did when he touched me.

Officially AWOL

“L
east you can do is come in here and talk with me some,” he said, giving me his best sweetie-pie look as I set up the screechy old box fan for him. I’d borrowed it out of my mom’s room after she left to see about whatever was going on at work, but I didn’t tell him that. He thought she was lying out in a lawn chair in the side yard. Again, I’m not sure why I kept lying. I was still waiting for something to happen. Just
something
. I thought I’d know it when it came. Something that’d make all this feel permanent and real after it ended and he had to leave. Right then it still felt like a daydream, some story I’d cooked up to amuse me and Dani one bored Tuesday afternoon in August.

“Alright,” I said, and crawled over beside him.

“Do you like me?” he said. “I mean, do you really like me?”

“I do,” I said. “That’s why I’m keeping you prisoner in my closet. The evil princess keeping the brave knight in her tower.”

“This is serious, right?” he said. “I mean what we got here. Us.” He didn’t act as confident as he did the day I met him. Today it seemed more like he was my age, maybe even younger, like he needed me to tell him everything was going to be okay. But I liked knowing he’d been thinking about this.

“Yeah, it feels bigger than anything I’ve ever—” I wasn’t sure how to say it. I wasn’t sure what
it
was. “More than anyone else I’ve ever met.” I tilted my head away and stared at the wall. “What about you?”

“Seems like I left the base a million years ago. Here, I made you something.” In his palm was a little orange animal made of paper. “It’s a fox, on account of your being so foxy.”

I took it. The closer I looked at it, the more intricate it seemed to get. The little beasty even seemed to be smiling. It occurred to me then that under different circumstances Logan and my mom would probably get on famously, them having a shared interest in making normal objects very small.

He sat up suddenly, his face serious. “What time is it?”

“It’s almost three, I think.”

As of eight this morning, he was officially AWOL. They’d probably put him behind bars if he went back. If they discovered I’d helped him, I wondered, would they put me in an Army jail or send me to juvie over in Bulloch County? Thinking this and holding his hand gave me a shiver of happiness.

He put his arms around my waist then and kissed me. I lost my balance and we fell back onto the blankets, a muddle of sweat-sticky arms and legs. His hands crept up under my shirt. This time I didn’t need to tell him where I wanted them to go because they wanted to go there too. I wasn’t wearing a bra because it was so hot and, to be honest, my breasts weren’t really big enough for anyone to notice if I went without. We rolled over again and I could feel his excitement pressing through his boxer shorts. He took off my shirt and kissed my breasts. An electric tingle wriggled in from the tips of my nipples, through my belly, and down between my legs. When he tried to take off my shorts, I made him stop.

“Not yet.”

“Why not?”

“Wait till later, when my mom goes to sleep,” I said. I wanted to draw this out. I wanted his needing me to last.

“You’re getting me all riled up,” he said. “Being stuck in this little closet is hard enough without—”

“You’re a soldier during wartime. The town has been invaded by your enemies. I have to hide you until it’s safe. You ever see that old movie,
Summer of My German Soldier
?

“What movie?”

“It’s old. From the seventies, I think. See, during World War Two this American farm girl finds a German soldier wandering around lost after he’s escaped from soldier prison and she hides him. He’s not really a bad guy. He got drafted and had to fight or they’d kill him or something, but he actually hates Hitler. While he’s hiding, they fall in love.”

“Yeah,” Logan said, “I can dig that. How’s it end? Does he get away?”

“Sure,” I lied.

Nervous

I
looked at the TV with my mom while we ate a Monday dinner of fish sticks and Tater Tots I’d cooked in the toaster oven. She’d come home with a strained face about an hour before, but hadn’t said a word about where she’d been. The six o’clock sun peered through the blinds.

“Why’s it you keep picking at the sofa cushion and kicking the coffee table like that?” she asked. “Are you worried about school tomorrow? I used to get so worked up before the first day of school I’d get these awful nervous farts. The worst you’ve ever smelled. They just slipped on out. Nothing I could do about it.”

“Mom,” I said, “when’s all this trouble with Hayes going to be over?”

She was quiet for a while. “If he’s done what I told him to do, it’s already over.”

“What’d you tell him this time?”

She blinked her eyes for half a second and then stared hard at the coffee table. “That stupid man.”

Finally

I
didn’t notice more than a few speckles. A lot more blood came out when I got my period. Even spotting makes a worse mess. The hard part was getting it in. He almost put it in the wrong hole. It did sting at first, pretty bad, but it wasn’t half as awful as Dani made it out to be. Or as good. Part of the reason I felt scared was because Dani told me the man would have to tear through the fleshy part of the hymen with one hard jab of the penis before things could get started in earnest. She used those exact words—
tear through the fleshy part of the hymen
. Whenever someone said, I’m going to tear you a new one, that’s what I thought about—losing my virginity. But it wasn’t like that at all.

It was only in the shower after that I started to shake. As I washed his smell off my skin, I thought about how you were supposed to feel different afterwards, like a woman, and how I felt exactly the same as I did that morning, except maybe a little tender down there. I figured maybe it took a few days for the change to sink in. I studied myself in the mirror to see if I looked any different.

Logan went on and on so much about the bathroom when I got back that I told him Mom was in the front yard, so he could go, but only if he went quick. I emphasized quick.

He said, “Alright, farm girl.”

My mom actually left off someplace while I was in the shower, but I had no idea where she went or when she would be back. That was fine with me. I’d heard stories about how a mother could tell
her daughter wasn’t a virgin anymore just by looking at her, but I doubted my mom would notice anything. I looked the same as ever, just wet from the shower and a little tired. I’d lost my virginity, but I kept the box it came in.

BOOK: Caring Is Creepy
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