“That’s bad luck, you know.”
Jesus, I hated Bobby Whitaker sometimes. I even fucking hated his name. Whitaker. His real name was Robert and most of us called him Bobby, but ever since someone asked him if he was that kid actor Johnny Whitaker, he wanted to be called Whitaker.
“Look, Bobby Boy, what makes you an expert on luck?” Thank goodness Crystal was here. She could whittle old Robert down to a nub with nothing more than half a glare. When she deigned to address him, she could demolish him by riffing on his real name.
“I just meant that you shouldn't touch that broken mirror. Besides, you might get cut on it.”
“But I didn’t break the mirror,” I could skate on the coattails of Crystal’s sass now. “So fuck off, Bobby.” I might not have the same ability to deliver a verbal punch, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to call him Whitaker. I had no intention of making him happy.
“Just leave it, Amy. Bobby's right about cutting yourself. You know what happened that time you bashed your nose on the ground when you slipped off the twirl bars.”
So she was going to put me in my place too.
"Are you guys ready to go? I need some gum.” I stood up, and nudged the broken mirror over the edge of the sidewalk with my toe. I could feel my face getting red at the memory of fainting in front of everybody that day on the playground.
Crystal jumped down off the ledge where she’d been sitting with her long, tanned legs dangling. I’d been watching her ankle bracelet with the little ankh catch the sunlight. Now her canvas sneakers, with the words inked all over, made a thud as she landed. “Mini Mart?”
“Okay.” Whitaker bent over and picked up a stick. “Hey, did you hear that Dennis Radcliff’s older brother got killed in a car accident?”
Crystal stopped and turned to him. “He what?”
“Which brother?” Crystal looked a little ashen now under her mid- July tan.
I knew why, but I wouldn’t say. Not in front of Bobby Whitaker. Crystal and Tom Radcliff had made out at the 4th of July fireworks. I was with my cousins and my little sister walking up to the concession stand to get snow cones when I saw Crystal and Tom making out behind the old metal scoreboard. She didn’t know I’d seen. Crystal and I weren’t that kind of friends. She only hung out with us younger kids when her real friends weren’t around.
“I just. Wondered. Wow. Really? Dead?” The only other time I’d seen her even come close to losing her composure was when her kitten had been chased up an electric pole by some idiot boys. She stood in our neighbor’s yard and watched as the city worker went up in the cherry picker to try to rescue the gray and white striped furball that cowered and mewed at the top of the pole.
One of the workers was on the ground with the rest of us who’d come out in the summer heat to gawk.
“Listen, girlie,” the rough-faced man grunted at Crystal. “You might want to go inside and not watch. If that kitten gets scared and touches the live wire.” He stopped.
Crystal looked up at her kitten. His back arched and he hissed and spit at the man in the cherry picker who was trying to coax it to come to him. A single tear formed and she swiped away at it with the hem of her red Adidas tee shirt. I watched her chest heave as she tried to remain calm. She swallowed hard. I could see her Adam’s Apple play up and down on her lean neck.
Three minutes later, the city worker leaned over the edge of the cherry picker as it was still coming down and handed the struggling kitten to Crystal. As soon as she had that cat in her arms, he calmed down.
“Did you know Tom Radcliff?” Whitaker threw the stick into some bushes as we walked by the old gingerbread house we all used to think was haunted. That was when we were a bunch of little kids with more imagination than sense, as my dad liked to say.
“Sort of. Wow. How sad. He was only like sixteen or something.” Her voice had returned to its normal, I’m kind of bored tenor.
“Hey, Bobby, do you suppose it’s bad luck to make out with someone who’s about to die?” I don’t know where that came from. To this day, I still don’t know. The words just popped out.
Crystal stopped and looked at me with her mouth open, but she just closed it, turned around, and went on walking.
Whitaker fell back alongside me. “I bet you’re about to learn more about bad luck than you ever wanted to know.”
I cast my eyes down and watched the cracks in the sidewalk, careful not to step on any all the way to the store.
|Photo credit: Craig Bender|