by Lindsay Wilson
“They didn’t mind being plural.” – Brenda Hillman
I’m Bonnie; you’re Clyde, she says. Something fruity with an umbrella. She says,
Beer. She says, Round of shots. Tequila without the training wheels, please, she says.
She writes our names on afterglow car windows as the radio’s song bleats
About addiction. She sparks a Camel. I need to quite these, she says.
She loves brass. Hates the blues. Believes Romeo and Juliet romantic.
She prefers oranges over apples. Prose over poetry. Provolone to Brie, she says.
She ties her hair back then picks at cold Moo Shoo pork with chopsticks.
“Luck is the fruit of hard work.” I hate their fortune cookies, she says.
Sparking a Winston-Salem, she says, Your name again? (and then) I have to go.
I’ll call you. You call me. Don’t call me. Lindsay, you have to leave, she says.
by Gregory Plemmons
The summer before tenth grade began, I found out I was missing some chromosomes. Some kids start the school year without front teeth, or fathers. Me, I was missing some genes: DNA AWOL. The puberty kind, and part of my X chromosomes were missing in action, had been so since birth. What this all mean was that I was the last in my class to blossom, my chest still as smooth as the Bonneville Salt Flats, and I stood a foot shorter than everyone else.
I had a twin brother. At the start of the school year, I found myself staring at Nate during class, wondering what could’ve happened between us inside Mom’s womb. Sometimes I pictured my missing chromosomes deep down inside him, wadded all up like a tissue. People always remarked that his looks were too pretty to waste on a boy– thick curly lashes and porcelain skin. But definitely male. Now that he was shaving, it almost seemed sacrilege; he also now stood nearly a foot-and-a-half taller. [pull this]I felt smaller and sexless in more ways than one at the start of the school year and I dreaded Sex Ed like a rash.
Sex Ed was called Life Skills at Wando, our school’s fancy name for Don’t Do Drugs, Drive Drunk, or Have Sex Before Marriage. Life Skills was taught by our P.E. instructors and Nate and I both had Miss Graybar that autumn. Class was held in the science lab and we sat six to a station. Girls clumped with girls and we gazed at our reflections in black basalt tabletops while boys sat with boys and played with gas nozzles, whizzing out Bunsen-burnerless whiffs of propane while we waited in class.
“Don’t do that,” I hissed at my brother and his friends. ”You’ll stink up the place and get us in trouble.”
“Actually, propane is odorless,” Nate said. ”They add that sulfur smell so you know if you’ve got a gas leak.”
“People!” Miss Graybar entered the room and called us to order. ”Let’s get with the program,” she yelled in a voice staunch and short as her hair. She spiked it with hair gel until it looked like something you might see from Animal Planet. The only thing droopy about Miss Graybar was a singular handgrafted hoop earring which hung from one ear like a knocker. When she wasn’t making us run laps or drills, everyone knew that her crusade in the classroom was reducing teen pregnancy, which was not really a big deal at Wando. There was only one girl in our class who’d gotten pregnant. Tiny Ledbetter was no longer tiny, already on bedrest and homebound, which meant that she didn’t have to put up with Life Skills. She had her very own teacher who came to her house every week. Tiny hadn’t returned after summer, and rumors abounded on who was the father.
Miss Graybar would have had more of a calling across town at Wadmalaw High, which had one of the highest pregnancy rates in the state. Last spring at All-City Band, everyone had marveled at Awendaw’s female trombone player, who already looked to be five months along. We’d all been worried she might start contracting, but she’d made it intact through rehearsals. I’d wondered if maybe her baby might grow up to be a musical Mozart or at least a Marsalis. She hadn’t looked in the least philharmonic. But then no one from Awendaw had.
Now that Tiny, one of our own students, was pregnant, Miss Graybar seemed more fervent than ever. We watched as she opened a grocery bag and placed several egg cartons out on the counter. Everyone already knew where this was headed– the egg project. We’d heard about eggs from the students above us. Each student in Life Skills had to take an egg home for a week and carry it with them at all times like a baby. The project usually occurred near the end of the semester, but Miss Graybar had moved it to the start of the school year, I guessed, because of Tiny.
She opened a carton and showered instructions.
“I want you to journal each day while you have these. I want you to feel what it’s like to be parents. I’ll be grading you both on your egg and your essays.” She held up an egg in the air. ”Durability counts,” she continued. ”But if an accident happens and you break your egg, as long as you write a good thoughtful essay, you can still get an A.”
“Excuse me,” Nate raised his hand. ”I don’t mean to be dense. But how will you know if we just don’t replace our eggs with another?”
Miss Graybar came to Nate’s table and sat down a carton. ”I’m putting your names on each one.” She took out an egg an began writing Nate’s name with a Sharpie. After she finished, she held up the egg for a moment, fanning it dry with her hand. ”Don’t try any tricks.” Her mouth was a slit as she handed the egg to my brother, unsmiling. ”I’m an expert at forgery.”
“Won’t these get rotten?” a boy at Nate’s table interjected. ”Last Easter we lost an egg in our house and it smelled for, like, months.”
“These shouldn’t rot in a week,” Miss Graybar said. If yours goes bad I’ll get you another.”
“They get a real bionic baby up at Awendaw,” LaQuita, a girl at my table, announced. ”Baby- Think-It-Over. It cries like 24-7. Randomly.”
“We’re not Awendaw.” Miss Graybar glared at LaQuita. ”And I intend to keep it that way.”
Our classroom became restless as everyone waited for Miss Graybar to make her way to each table. Nate spun his egg and soon everyone followed, guarding the wobble and flicker of orbs with their hands like a flame. A few eggs careened to the edge of the table but none of them fell to the floor. Finally Miss Graybar got to my table. I sat and watched as she wrote out my name on the shell. Linny G. was all that would fit, and my name was still pungent, like nail polish remover, as she carefully handed me over my charge.
After class we all went to our lockers and everyone fumbled with bookbags and zippers, figuring out the best way to transport their eggs home. I stood at my locker and stared at my egg and my brother came over and leaned in my ear.
“You shouldn’t have to do this,” Nate whispered softly. ”I’m going to say something to Graybar.”
“Don’t you dare,” I seethed back at my brother. ”I can do this like everyone else.”
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