American Innovations: Stories

American Innovations: Stories by Rivka Galchen

Book: American Innovations: Stories by Rivka Galchen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rivka Galchen
out of the chair.
    *   *   *
    Roy. Taking a wild berry candy from my pocket, I resolve again to focus on a candy under my tongue instead of on him. I head first toward the back wall, darting betwixt and between the tables with their attached swiveling chairs. This is the shiniest, cleanest place in town; that’s what McDonald’s was like back then. Even the corners and crevices are clean. Our house: even after my mom cleans, it’s all still in disarray. I’ll unfold a blanket and find a stray sock inside. Behind the toilet there’s blue lint. Maybe that’s what makes a home, I think, its special type of mess.
    And then I’m at the front counter. I don’t look up.
    I stand off to the side since I’m not really ordering anything, just asking for a favor, not paying for milk but asking for creamers. Waiting to be noticed, I stare down at the brushed steel counter with its flattering hazy reflection, and then it appears, he appears. I see first his palm, reflected in the steel. Then I see his knuckles, the hairs on the back of his hand, the lattice tattoo, the starched shirt cuff that is the beginning of hiding all the rest of the tattoo that I can’t see.
    Beautiful.
    A part of me decides I am taking him back into my heart. Even if no room will be left for anything else.
    Roy notices me. He leans down, eyes level with my sweaty curls stuck against my forehead, at the place where I know I have my birthmark, a dark brown mole there above my left eyebrow, and he says, his teeth showing, his strange glowing white canine showing: “Need something, sweets?’ He taps my nose with his finger.
    That candy, I had forgotten about it, and I move my tongue and the flavor—it all comes rushing out, overwhelming, and I drool a little bit as I blurt out, “I’m going to the Medieval Fair next weekend.” I wipe my wet lips with the back of my hand and see the wild berry blue saliva staining.
    “Cool,” he says, straightening up. He interlaces his fingers and pushes them outward, and they crack deliciously, and I think about macadamias. I think I see him noticing the blue smeared on my right hand. He says then: “I love those puppets they sell there—those real plain wood ones.”
    I just stare at Roy’s blue eyes. I love blue eyes. Still to this day I am always telling myself that I don’t like them, that I find them lifeless and dull and that I prefer brown eyes, like mine, like my parents’, but it’s a lie. It’s a whole other wilder type of love that I feel for these blue-eyed people of the world. So I look up at him, at those blue eyes, and I’m thinking about those plain wooden puppets—this is all half a second—then the doors open behind me and that invasive heat enters and the world sinks down, mud and mush and the paste left behind by cookies.
    “Oh,” I say. “Half-and-half.”
    He reaches into a tray of much melted ice and bobbing creamers and he hands three to me. My palm burns where he touched me and my vision is blurry; only the grooves on the half-and-half container keep me from vanishing.
    “Are you going to the fair?” I brave. Heat in my face again, the feeling just before a terrible rash. I’m already leaving the counter so as not to see those awful blue eyes, and I hear, “Ah, I’m working,” and I don’t even turn around.
    I read the back of my dad’s newspaper. They have found more fossils at the Spiro Mounds. There’s no explanation for how I feel.
    *   *   *
    How can I describe the days of the next week? I’d hope to see Roy when I ran out to check the mail. I’d go drink from the hose in our front yard thinking he might walk or drive by, even though I had no reason to believe he might ever come to our neighborhood. I got detention for not turning in my book report of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I found myself rummaging around in my father’s briefcase, as if Roy’s files—I imagined the yellow “Confidential” envelope from Clue—might somehow be there. Maybe I

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