Upheavals

Airplanes

by Emma Wunsch

 
  Upheavals Home  |  Contents  |  Authors  Wordrunner eChapbooks  | April 2019  |  echapbook.com      

Matty is thinking about pot. He’s staring at his math homework, a set of differentiation formulas, and imagining pounds of weed, Ziploc bags stuffed with it like on TV, all crammed in his backpack so at lunch when Jacob and Tyler are all like hey man got that weed, he could be like yeah and then dump it, pound after pound of it, right on the table. Of course, this is impossible: f(x) does not equal one dumping marijuana in a high school cafeteria. What he’d really do is casually say let’s take a walk, guys and then somewhere between the soccer field and the senior’s parking lot he’d hand it over. Of course, they’d be totally impressed, but Matty would just be like, whatever dude, it’s just weed.

But Matty doesn’t have any pot, it’s mid-October, and Jacob and Tyler are getting pissed. Probably the only reason they’ve been sort of cool about letting him sit at their table is because of his brother. But Toby just smoked pot. He wasn’t a dealer or anything. And now he’s in college up in Buffalo and never responds to texts.

He could ask Anna. She’s his brother’s girlfriend. At least she was last year. She was supposed to go away to college too, but then her mom got sick so Anna stayed in town and just goes to the community college. Even though Toby has been gone for almost two months, it seems like Anna is always at his house.

Matty’s mom says he has to be especially nice to Anna. Her mother is dying, she’s an only child, and her step-father is emotionally distant.

But Anna would know about buying pot. And doesn’t she owe him? This morning, Matty was late because Anna was in the shower. His shower now that Toby’s not here. When he knocked on the door, she was like just a sec like she lives here or something.

Matty shuts his math book. He can’t concentrate. He calls Toby. Make Toby feel great again. Leave a message. Peace.

“Toby. Call me. Back. Please.” Matty doesn’t want to sound desperate but what can he do? Then again even if his brother tells him where to buy pot, how will he get it?

He walks into the living room where Anna is watching TV. She could take him to get weed. She has a car. It was her mom’s but her mom can’t drive anymore.

“Hey, Matty.” Anna smiles.

Since starting high school, Matty has realized how different, how much better his life could be if he was Matt. Or Matthew. Matthew Hewitt is also a freshman, but nobody would ever mess with him. It might be because Matthew Hewitt is six feet tall, is already on the football team, and it might be because he’s black.

“I can change the channel,” Anna says. “What do you wanna watch?”

“Nothing,” Matty says. “I don’t care.”

Anna has a reality show on. Upstairs, Matty’s mom is watching the third and final presidential debate, which is taking place in Las Vegas.

Anna flies through the channels, lingers on the debate, the camera hovering on Trump’s large, smug face, but then she moves on, whizzing past cooking shows and crime scenes only to come to an abrupt stop on a show about treehouses. A blonde woman shows off the views from an enormous treehouse in Alaska. Matty opens his notebook.

“Homework?”

“Math.”

“Ugh. I hate math. How’s high school going, anyway?”

He shrugs, annoyed that she’s acting like she just happens to be here, like they haven’t seen each other in a long time when she’s eaten dinner here for the past three nights. “You know. It’s high school.”

“My college feels like high school.” She puts quotes around college.

Matty checks his phone, but there’s nothing from Toby. There’s nothing from anyone. A man on the TV talks passionately about glulam. Matty finishes the assignment which, when he’s not freaking about getting Jacob and Tyler pot, is easy. Anna gets up, goes into the kitchen, and comes back with ice cream, which is nice, but also weird. Matty thinks that ice cream might give him diarrhea, but he eats it anyway.

“I’m going to get fat if I keep eating this much.” Anna scrapes the bowl with her spoon. “People keep bringing food. There’s like six lasagnas in the freezer.” She laughs, dark and heavy.

“You’re not fat,” Matty says. Anna, with her long brown hair and blue eyes is pretty in a nice way, unlike some of the popular girls at school who are pretty in a mean way. She often wears red Converse and his brother’s ancient Mets hoodie. She’s not skinny or fat.

“I hope Toby puts on the freshman fifteen.”

“Huh?”

“They say when you go away you come home fifteen pounds heavier from eating tons of carbs and drinking beer.”

“Probably get the munchies from pot too,” he says hopefully. Speaking of pot, do you know where I can get a pound or two?

Anna nods. “Not that fifteen pounds would make a difference on you skinny boys.”

Matty feels a gnawing wave of anger in his gut. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was tall like Toby, but he hasn’t grown in over a year. His mom says if he’s not taller in January, they’ll go back to the hormone doctor. His mom is opposed to drugs but Matty is opposed to being the shortest boy in 9th grade. The only people shorter than him this year are twin girls, Lex and Liv, who are pretty and popular and mean.

“Maybe he’ll have gained like fifty pounds.” Anna sounds like she knows Matty is annoyed.

“Maybe five hundred.” Matty doesn’t want to sound too bitter. It’s not her fault and he does feel sorry for her.

Anna giggles. “Well, we’ll see on Friday.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” She sounds happy. “He’s coming home for the weekend.”

“I didn’t think he was coming home till Thanksgiving. Like my dad.” Matty’s dad just left on another month-long book tour. He’s been traveling so much lately that Matty can’t remember where he is now.

“He said he needs a break from the dorm. Plus, he probably has tons of laundry.”

A weird thing about Anna is that she washes Toby’s clothes. A few years ago, Matty’s mom showed them how to do their laundry and that was that. Once Matty saw Anna folding Toby’s underwear, which, for reasons he couldn’t explain, he found vaguely intrusive. He can’t imagine a girl ever willing touching his underwear. He likes girls, but he knows they don’t like him. But it’s not like he’s diseased or anything. Jacob and Tyler have girlfriends, Kate Dollar and Emily Van Ness, and they sit with them at lunch sometimes and sometimes their friend Hannah Park sits with them too.

Anna yawns. “I should go home.”

Matty looks at his phone. It’s later than he thought and of course he hasn’t heard from his brother. “I should go up.” He turns off the TV.

“I’m surprised you’re not up in your room making planes.” She laughs, then sighs. “Wow, I’m so tired all of a sudden.”

He imagines telling her to stay. Since Toby went to college, she’s fallen asleep on the couch a lot. His mom doesn’t say anything about it, but Matty doesn’t want her here. Who does she think she is calling him skinny and talking about his planes? His stomach cramps. Why did he eat that ice cream?

He watches her gather all her stuff. She always has a lot of stuff here. “Later, Matty,” she says.

Fuck you, he thinks, looking at the bowls and spoons on the coffee table. “Later,” he says. “See ya.”

divider

The truth is Matty does make airplanes. He started making them when he was little and never stopped. Even if he could explain he never would because they’d probably think he was on the spectrum, but when he looks at a table or a picture on a wall, he’ll imagine a kind of corresponding plane. Some people, but not all, are planes, too. His father is a plane. His mother is not. Anna is not a plane. Esther Yoon, his biology lab partner is not a plane either. But last week Esther looked at his moth glider and then made a curious face at him. Esther Yoon was valedictorian of their elementary school because her parents, super-religious immigrants, make their four daughters study and pray all day. At least that’s the rumor. But Esther said she’d never made a paper plane so, as Mr. Fusco droned on about Punnett squares, Matty showed her how to make the most traditional kinds. Mr. Fusco was so old and done with teaching that sometimes he would repeat the same lecture two classes in a row. After class ended, Matty gave Esther the planes, which she tucked into her biology folder.

“You should fly them sometime,” he told her.

Esther didn’t say anything but Matty did notice that the planes weren’t in her folder the next time they had lab.

divider

He sleeps through his phone alarm the next morning and by the time he gets up all he can do is get dressed and barrel out of the house so he can make the bus since his mom left early to phone bank or something. His stomach hurts the whole way.

Miraculously, his stomach recovers and he’s actually starving by lunch. Without thinking too much about it, he gets two slices of oily pizza and three semi-disgusting, semi-delicious, too-soft chocolate chip cookies. He breathes deeply before walking across the cafeteria and plunking down his tray.

“Ya talk to your brother?” Jacob asks without looking up.

Matty swallows. “Yeah. He’s coming home Friday.”

“Awesome.” Tyler punches the air with his fist. “Shit’s so fucking dry here. He’s hooking you up, right?”

“Yeah,” Matty says. “He should. He will.” Please Toby, he thinks, bring pot home.

“He better,” Jacob says with just a touch of nastiness. “Or else.”

“He will. Anyone want a cookie? I can’t eat all these.”

“I will,” Emily leans over Jacob and takes it. “I’m like totally p-m-s-ing.”

“Me too,” Hannah says cheerfully.

“I just got mine,” Kate squeals.

Jacob and Tyler look at Matty and roll their eyes. It’s going to be okay, he thinks. Everything will be fine.

divider

He calls Toby when he gets home and, incredibly, someone picks up.

“Toby’s phone,” a girl says, laughing.

“Uh…this is Matty.”

“Matty! How’s it going?”

“Um. Fine.”

“You’re probably wondering who this is?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m Liz. I’m. A. Friend. Of. Your. Brother’s.”

“Is he there?” He hears laughter in the background.

“Totally.”

He hears more laughter before his brother finally gets on the phone. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. Who was that?”

“Liz.”

“You’re coming home?”

“Yeah.”

“When?”

“Why are you so interested, Shorty?”

“Don’t call me Shorty, Asshole.”

“Hold on, Sweetheart. I’ll get ya some info.”

While he’s waiting, Matty walks into his brother’s room and opens his desk drawers. He’s looked through them before so it’s not that exciting. But when he slides over some index cards in the center drawer he sees rolling papers. And a glass pipe! How did this get here? Matty looks for a secret stash, but finds nothing but crumpled candy wrappers and chewed pens.

“Yo,” Toby says. “Liz says we’re leaving before noon on Friday.”

Matty closes the drawer. “We?” He puts the rolling papers in his pocket.

“Yeah. Me, Liz, and Bill George.”

“Bill George?”

“Yup. Bill George James. My roommate’s got three first names.”

“They’re all coming?”

“What do you care?”

Why does he care, Matty wonders? What does it matter?

“We might go to a party in the city. And we might not.”

“Oh.”

“Listen, I gotta go to class.”

“Now?”

“Yup. One class and it’s not till five o’clock shadow, little man.”

“Don’t call me little man,” Matty says. “I need you to bring——,” he adds but Toby has already hung up and when he calls back no one answers.

 

Anna comes over with insurance forms she says she doesn’t understand and of course his mom helps her fill them out and by the time they’re done it’s after six and of course his mom tells her to stay for dinner and of course Anna sets the table and then goes on about Toby coming home and how maybe they’ll go out to dinner or maybe just order in and stream something on Netflix.

“What about the party?” Matty asks.

“What party?” Anna looks right at him.

“In the city. With Liz and his roommate….”

“That’s right,” Matty’s mom says. “He’s getting a ride with his roommate…Jim George something.”

“No, he’s getting a ride with Liz. Bill George is his roommate.” Matty likes having information for a change.

“Oh. I thought he decided to take the bus.” Anna looks worried.

“I talked to him today,” Matty says.

“Liz on his floor?” Anna asks.

Has something happened between Liz and his brother? Why would Toby bring Liz home when Anna is always here? “And Bill George,” Matty says. “His roommate has three first names. Bill George James. Everyone calls him Bill George though.”

“That’s nice,” his mom says. “’I’m going to write some more postcards. Do you have homework, sweets?”

“No.”

“Do you want to write postcards? You can do your part too even if you’re not eighteen.”

“No.”

His mom makes a face and then says, “Well, why don’t you go make a plane then.”

Jesus Christ. Is there anything more infuriating than your mother telling you to make a paper airplane. There’s no way he’s clearing the table now.

Anna picks up his plate. “I’ll do the dishes,” she says.

 

“Stupid airplanes,” Matty tells the nameless cat on his bed.

Nameless opens one eye, then closes it.

He looks at the print out for the DC-3 on his bulletin board. He picks up a piece of paper, but realizes he’s in too shitty a mood. The DC-3 needs commitment. He made two last weekend but they bombed because he kept messing up the right wing, which has to be not exactly parallel to the trough. Making sure his door is fully shut, he takes out the rolling papers from the hiding place under his bio book. He lays a single paper out on his desk, being careful not to rip it—it’s much thinner than airplane paper. Matty rolls the paper onto itself. If there were anything in there, it’d be perfect, but now it’s just empty nothing and he still has nothing for Jacob and Tyler so he crumples it into his palm till it’s basically gone.

divider

Anna is there in the morning. “My car wouldn’t start last night,” she tells him “Your mom went to yoga. She said you should eat breakfast.” She smiles.

He ignores her, opens the fridge, finds nothing appealing, closes it.

“The car is bad timing. I have class today and I’ve missed a lot. Early classes suck.”

“Toby’s class doesn’t start till five.”

“Yeah. I’ll definitely take later classes next semester. If I even go back.”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

“It’s lame. I’m sick of this town. Anyway, I’ll probably go live with Toby in the spring.”

“You’re going to go to college there?”

“I don’t know. Probably not. I’d need to be able to come home if my mom got really sick.”

Isn’t she really sick now? Matty wonders. “What about your step-dad?” He knows basically nothing about Anna’s step-dad except that his name is Jerry and he works for the government.

“He wouldn’t care. He literally doesn’t care about anything.”

“So, you’d just like live there? With Toby?” He sits down and takes a banana from the fruit basket for something to do.

She sits across from him. “Toby and Bill George are in a triple but the third guy never came.” She sounds excited. “He’s got a lot of meal swipes. I could use the library….”

Immediately Matty knows this is a bizarre and terrible idea.

“Hey, Matty? Has Toby said anything to you?”

“About what?”

“Um. I don’t know…me? Him? Us?”

“No.” Matty shakes his head, tries not to think about Liz answering Toby’s phone, and stands up. “We haven’t talked much. I’ve got to go. I’ll miss the bus.”

“Want a ride?”

“Your car works?”

He sees it—the momentary oh shit moment, but he has to give her credit for a gold star recovery. “It never hurts to try it again,” she says.

Once in Anna’s car he realizes it’s the perfect opportunity. “Hey, do you have any weed?” He tries to sound casual.

“Pot?”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

“Do you know where I could like get some?” Sweat streams down his back.

“You want to go buy weed?” She takes her eyes off the road and looks at him.

“Yeah. I have money.” Please God let Anna know where to go. They could go right now. It would be so easy: she’d pull right up, tell him just hang out for a sec while she ran up to one of those shabby houses on the other side of town with too much plastic furniture out front.

“I don’t think anyone has any,” she says, finally looking back at the road. “A guy in my lit class sells Molly, but that’s it.”

“Where did Toby get it?”

“There used to be a guy at Mobil Mart, but he moved. Leo got it for him sometimes. I don’t know. Pot’s not really my thing. I’m more of a vodka girl.” She fake laughs. “JK.”

What about your mom, Matty thinks. Don’t you get lots of drugs when you’re about to die. He could tell Jacob and Tyler that instead of pot they should take this bottle of Oxycodone. But of course Matty says nothing, ashamed to even think about asking his brother’s girlfriend, if she is his girlfriend, to steal her dying mother’s painkillers.

The rest of the drive is silent.

The high school, a gigantic, monolithic rectangle the color of ash, looms especially large and portentous against the gray sky. For a second Matty imagines telling Anna to keep driving. Fuck it. There’s nothing for him inside and she’s probably going to flunk out of community college anyway. The two of them should just drive until they run out of gas. They could probably make it down to the city or up to this cabin in the mountains his family used to go to. But then what? Break into the cabin? Fuck? Fall in love?

“Sorry I can’t help you, Matty.” Anna sounds so genuinely sorry that for a second he wonders if she knows how precarious his social life is before he remembers she’s only talking about not having access to weed.

“It’s not your fault,” he says. “You don’t have anything to be sorry about.”

divider

“Where’s my dope?” Jacob asks at lunch.

“My brother’s coming home later.”

“You better get it, Lippmann. I got plans.”

“I’ll get it,” Matty says. “Swear.”

divider

A blue Prius with an enormous #FEELTHEBERN bumper sticker is in the driveway when he gets home. Toby and his friends are in the living room and the first thing Matty notices is that Liz is beautiful and that Bill George, who is even taller than Toby, is wearing shockingly orange overalls. Liz is smaller than Anna, but model pretty with pin straight black hair, high cheekbones and beautiful, small dark eyes. She’s wearing fishnet tights, a short skirt, and tight pink t-shirt under a jean jacket. Liz is a plane, Matty thinks. A beautiful origami plane that can fly very fast. Anna, in her jeans and Mets hoodie, is still not a plane. Anna looks normal. Normal and maybe kind of plain. Liz is so pretty that it’s hard not to look at her, but he forces himself to watch Bill George who is animatedly talking about someone named Kristoff, which is making Liz and Toby, who are on the couch, laugh. Bill George is on the fancy recliner. Anna is on the floor. For the first time, Matty wonders what kind of person his brother is. Plane versus plain, he thinks.

He corners his brother when he comes out of the bathroom. “Jesus,” Toby says. “Can’t a man piss in peace?”

“Do you have pot? I need pot.”

Toby raises his eyebrows.

“I have money.”

“I don’t have any. Since when do you smoke, Matty McFly?”

“I don’t know. It’s not really for me. It’s for my, uh, friends.”

“Alex and Ben?” Toby looks confused.

“No. Jacob and Tyler. They’re sophomores.”

“Oh. New friends.”

Matty kicks the stair. “Tell me where to buy it.”

Toby shrugs. “I can’t help ya. The random guy at the Stop and Go got busted and Seth-o isn’t home till Christmas. I’ll help you, maybe, at Christmas.”

Christmas? Christmas stretches so far into the future that it seems like a different country. “What about the apartments on Stanton?”

Toby shakes his head.

“Text someone. Put it on Snapchat.” It’s ridiculous, but he might be serious.

“Sorry, man.” Toby runs his hands through his hair. “Don’t worry. If you grow it, it will come.” He laughs and runs back downstairs.

Matty kicks the stair again.

“Mercy,” he hears Liz yelp as his phone rings. This is surprising because no one calls him. It’s not a number he knows, but he says hello anyway.

“Yo.”

“Uh . . . .”

“It’s Jacob, Fuckhead.”

Shit, shit, shit. Why the fuck did he just answer? “Oh. Yeah. Hey. What’s up, man?”

“Not me.”

“Yeah.”

“No, I mean I’m not up. Because I don’t have weed. And it’s like killing me, dude. So. Did your brother hook you up? You told me not to worry.”

Matty leans his forehead against the window that looks out onto the lower section of the roof and the driveway. If he doesn’t give Jacob weed, then on Monday he’ll have to sit with Alex and Ben, who might be less than cool about his ditching them for the last seven weeks. Eventually they’ll forgive him and from here on out, his weekends will be spent in the Shertinsky’s cold, half-finished basement eating Doritos and uploading dorky videos onto YouTube. Matty doesn’t want to sit with the people he’s supposed to sit with at lunch. He doesn’t want to just hear about parties for the next four years.

But.

But.

If he gets pot, he’ll sit with Jacob and Tyler on Monday and maybe give Hannah his extra cookie. Maybe next Friday he’ll have plans. Things happen. People change.

“It’s cool,” he tells Jacob. “I got it.”

“Awesome. Let’s meet at school.”

“School?”

“Yeah. It’s between us. More or less. I just googled your address.”

“Oh.” It’s seems crazy to Matty that Jacob Meyer took the time to map out a route that involves him.

“I’ll meet you there. 8:00? Near the benches?”

Matty looks at his phone. It’s only 5:30. “Sure. See you then.”

divider

During dinner Bill George, Liz, and Toby talk about the girl on their floor who only wears unicorn onesies and answer his mom’s predictable questions.

“I like aerodynamics,” Bill George tells his mother. “I thought I was going to be a pilot. I dig astronomy and physics and stuff, but it’s like super mathy. I only made it through like half a class before I had to drop out.” He laughs and bites off half of his pizza in a single gulp.

“Matty makes airplanes,” his mom says. “He’s really good at it.”

“Mom.” Matty feels his cheek flush.

“Model planes?” Bill George asks.

“Paper,” Toby says. “He’s got like five hundred of them in his room.”

“Wow,” Liz says. “That’s a lot planes.”

“I don’t have that many,” Matty mumbles.

“It’s weird but it’s cool,” Toby says. “The planes are like really complicated. One plane had like thirty-five different steps, right dude? I couldn’t do that shit.”

Matty can’t tell if Toby is impressed or mocking him. “I didn’t make that one,” he says. “The DC-37 is impossible.”

“You need to fly those fuckers,” Toby says.

“Toby!” Their mom says half-heartedly. “Language.”

“I do fly them,” Matty says.

“In your room. You need to let them go outside. Spread their wings and fly.”

“Like an eagle,” Bill George says.

Anna excuses herself.

“I can’t make anything,” Liz says. “I’m like the worst at arts and crafty stuff…one time my sister . . . “

It’s not arts and crafts, Matty thinks. But he’s grateful that the conversation has gone back to Liz. What’s he’s going to do? Jacob knows where he lives.

Matty takes his plate into the kitchen where Anna is standing by the sink. Water is running but she isn’t washing anything. Out of utter desperation, he opens the cabinet and slips a bottle of oregano into his pocket. Upstairs, he uses the remaining papers in Toby’s pack to roll three joints. One two three just like that. Neat, perfect, easy. They’ll know though, he thinks. Jacob and Tyler aren’t stupid. With one puff they’ll know he’s a lying ass liar. But what else can he do? He puts Toby’s black, fleece-lined hooded sweatshirt over his green one, and puts the oregano joints in his messenger bag. He looks around. What else should he take? A flashlight? An airplane? He looks at the stacks of planes around his room. Maybe Toby’s right. He should fucking fly them.

“I’m going out,” he tells his mom thirty minutes later. She has more postcards she’s sending to women in North Carolina. Liz, Toby, and Bill George are on their phones trying to figure out where they’re going; Anna, squeezing lemon into a Diet Coke, isn’t looking at anything.

“Oh.” His mom looks up. “With who?” She does a terrible job of hiding her surprise.

“Jacob. We’re going to play video games,” he says loudly so everyone will know that he’s a very normal fourteen-year old. “Doom.”

“I hate violent video games,” his mom says feebly. “Do you want a ride, sweets?”

He shakes his head.

“Be home by eleven then.”

“Eleven!” Toby looks up. “Seriously? Nine thirty was my curfew when I was a freshman.”

“He doesn’t go out that often,” his mother says. Her tone isn’t mean, but it’s true and he wants to die.

He walks slowly to the school. His stomach hurts. No more pizza. He has to tell his mom so she’ll take him to the doctor and while they’re there he’ll get his growing shots. What’s going to happen on Monday? Ben and Alex? Maybe he should fuck it all and go sit with Matthew Hewitt. Matthew Hewitt sits with three other black kids, some junior girls, and a few other football players. Monday morning, Matty could put his tray down at that table and say, hey Matthew Hewitt you don’t know me since I’m a short skinny dork whose been trying to pass as popular for the last few weeks, but I know you because, well, you’re one of like eight black kids in this rich white school and you’re gigantic and popular and we have the same name. Matty kicks a partially crushed beer can that’s lying on the sidewalk. It sails halfway down the street, but isn’t satisfying.

His stomach clenches into itself when he gets to school. He prays the inevitable diarrhea will wait. He walks over to the swing set. Two swings are missing and the one remaining one is swathed in duct tape but Matty sits on it and swings to keep warm. Maybe he won’t show, he thinks. So he doesn’t think about his stomach, he closes his eyes, imagines what Liz would say if he made her an origami plane. Fold the first corner diagonally. Cut off bottom to make a square. Rotate.

Jacob appears in an extremely puffy coat. At first Matty thinks the coat is preposterous, but then he realizes that his hands are numb, that’s it’s gotten seriously cold.

“Hey, Lippmann,” Jacob says. “You got it? You got the stuff?”

Matty stops the swing, which feels like slow motion. Fold in outer corners to the center line. “Yup.” His voice sounds strangely gravelly. “I got it, Meyer.” A freakish wave of calm has washed over him. His stomach doesn’t hurt anymore. Fold down peak. He gets off the swing, opens his messenger bag, and hands the joints to Jacob.

“It’s really good.” Matty tries to imagine Matthew Hewitt’s expression if he were to sit next to him. Matthew Hewitt must eat a ton at lunch. Maybe Matthew Hewitt would like Matty’s extra cookies.

Jacob takes out his wallet. “I only bought like edibles like one time so I don’t know about joints….”

“Twenty is cool.” Lift up peak and accordion the sides to make a diamond.

Jacob hands him the money. “See ya Monday. Have a good weekend.”

Matty walks home not feeling cold. Not feeling at all.

He’s freezing by the time he steps onto the porch though. The Prius is gone and most of the house is dark. Just as he puts his key in the lock, Anna opens the door.

“Matty! Holy shit you scared me! What are you doing out here?”

He shrugs. Fold the bottom half of the diamond up.

“Wow. It got so cold. It feels like it might freaking snow.” She blows on her hands then sits on the top step next to an enormous uncarved pumpkin. She lights a cigarette. “Don’t tell your mom.”

He nods. Weird. Anna practically lives here but he never knew she smoked. And doesn’t her mom have lung cancer?

“Where’s Toby and them?”

“The city. They’re crashing there. Your mom didn’t want them driving back at three in the morning.”

“How come you didn’t go?”

“Yeah. I should have. I don’t know. My mom. . . “

But you’re not with your mom, he thinks. You’re with your boyfriend’s dumb-as-shit-younger brother.

“Liz is pretty. Don’t you think?”

Yeah, he thinks, she’s really pretty. He sits next to her even though he really needs to use the bathroom. He feels like it would be wrong to leave right now. It feels almost like her mom just died. Like her step-father or a nurse just called to tell her, but she can’t get home because maybe her car really isn’t working this time and his mom is out knocking on doors and his dad is still wherever he is and Toby is back at college not answering his phone. The only one is Matty. What would he do? Say sorry? Buy flowers? He could give her his planes. They could walk to the hill above the high school, on the other side from where he and Jacob met. He doesn’t have 500, but he has enough for a whole afternoon. They could just sit and be sad and launch airplanes. One after another after another.

But that’s ridiculous, he thinks. And not how it will happen. More likely he’ll come home after school and his mom’s eyes will be puffy and she’ll say quietly, Anna’s mom died today, honey. And Matty will say okay and they’ll be quiet and then he’ll set the table because Anna won’t be there. And neither will his dad or his brother. It’ll just be him and his mom and she won’t write any postcards or make any calls until the next day when Toby comes home without Bill George or Liz and puts on a suit that’s gotten too small and who knows what will happen to everyone after that.

“I just sold fake weed to a popular sophomore,” Matty says. “I just ruined my life. For like the next four years.”

Anna nods. The light in his mother’s room goes off and then on and then off again.

What the fuck has he done, he wonders in pulsing waves of disbelief. Oregano joints. Who does he think he is?

“Sometimes I hate my mother,” Anna says. “I mean it, Matty. I really hate her.”

Matty looks at his feet.

“I remember one time when I was little and it snowed in October. It was this freak snow storm right before Halloween and my mom made me wear my costume outside my snowsuit and I was so angry.” Anna takes a drag, then exhales. “I was so mad about wearing my tutu over my snowsuit.”

Matty watches his breath cloud evaporate into the cold air.

“And now, I’m angry about waiting. And I’m angry that I’m angry and I’m just waiting for something to happen and I’m so afraid of being here,” Anna says. “And then I get afraid of not being here.” She waves her hand in front of her face, then looks at him like she expects him to do something, say something profound.

He wonders if she’s going to cry. But he has nothing to say, nothing he can tell her. Should he kiss her, he wonders. Fuck her? He could fuck her, fuck Toby. He looks at her, then stands up.

“Toby is a moron,” he announces. Anna is his brother’s girlfriend, not his. “He really is,” he tells her, opening the door and walking in. “He’s really fucking stupid.” He closes it gently so as not to wake his mother. Then he stands there, waiting to see what Anna will do. Will she come back inside? Spend the night in his brother’s bed? His bed? Maybe she’ll leave and never come back. Maybe he’ll never see her again.

Matty waits but nothing happens. No sound is made. It seems no one in the space they all momentarily occupy, neither him, nor Anna outside, nor his mother upstairs, or even his brother watching a pretty girl at a party far away, in this moment, even dares to breathe.

end of story

© 2019, Emma Wunsch Go to top