Against the netting of the pitch back, I threw sidearm like the Pirates Kent Tekulve, bottom of the ninth, a World Series that had not yet happened for the Pirates. A horn startled me. Nicky Green in my driveway behind the wheel of her father’s red Oldsmobile Cutlass convertible.

“What’s with your face?” She handed me a cigarette.

Hives. At school, they’d lied about the pool chemicals to get me swimming. Chlorine, really, not bromine as promised. Mr. Z snapped me with a towel, said, “Minus five for being a puss.” Mr. Z dropped the towel and made a triangle with his hands, his version of a vagina.

That car, burning burgundy like my skin and I knew we were both dead; this car was her father’s baby. A trucker who might return at any time to find that empty hole in the garage.

“That was hours ago,” she said, about the pool and the hives and Mr. Z’s air-drawn vagina. I didn’t know why the hives stuck. Did you ever try to swim and sneeze? Mr. Z followed me along the pool deck, waiting for me to stop.

“At least it made your hair blonder,” she said, about it all.

What had been woods where my father once hunted deer and pheasant from our back porch had been turned into a housing development that wound its way in intersecting circles, so that’s where we drove. I wanted to stop and make out, but I was too fat to get any girl to want to do that.

“I think I’ll be a biker when I grow up,” she said. It seemed like the right kind of dream for kids like us. She ended up joining the Army, fighting no wars, coming back in all shape and beautiful, not recognizing me when I ran into her at the local bar, Paradise Alley, on her way to some job, I overheard her say, in California.

I told her, if she became a biker, I’d ride in the sidecar, like Robin, but she said that would be so uncool. We drove around the neighborhood. And I finally asked her why she picked me up at all, what I was doing there.

Dusk had begun to settle upon us. House after house and we all knew their trash, the pills Mrs. Hoffman took, the shit in Johnny Jenkin’s pants, the cat Mr. McKenna shot out of a tree for meowing.

I don’t like you that way.


We were thirteen. Going in circles.

As soon as she finished backing the car into the garage, her father burst out of the door to the house. He didn’t hesitate. She was getting out of her side, and he punched her in the jaw. She crumpled. A tooth flew across like a bullet and hit me in the chest. He flicked the switch for the garage door, and now I was the one who didn’t hesitate. I ran, rolling under the narrowing space between door and ground. He couldn’t catch me, didn’t even try, the big fat fuck.


Randall Brown

About Randall Brown

Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction. He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and has been published widely, both online and in print. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He received his MFA from Vermont College and teaches at the MFA in Creative Program at Rosemont College.

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