Rollerskating, Barking

by Meg Pokrass

On Saturday, my best friend, Lila, invites me to spend the night. I’m trying not to fall asleep on the couch watching The Late Late Show, which unfortunately turns out to be some gray and predictable western, when she finally lets me know the whole story. She’d been walking home alone from school on Thursday, as usual, right along Via Esperanza where we often walk together, when she hears a horn, turns, and this hot guy is staring at her, asking her where is Las Palmas Drive? She points the other way, but he just keeps on smiling a dirty, happy smile.

He probably smiled because, although Lila is only thirteen-and-a-half, she’s got lips as blubbery as Angelina Jolie’s. She’s around five-four, and always wears platform shoes. Her hair is the color of dirty lemons, thick and long, slightly wavy. Her eyes are piggy, but nobody seems to care. They are green, like certain marbles that are hard to part with.

“Jesus, so what happens then?” I ask, lighting a cigarette from her mother’s pack, fallen onto the smelly carpet. The whole living room reeks of cat pee and the smell of smoke helps block it out. Lately, I’ve been getting used to Merit Ultra Lights, Lila’s mother brand. I like the way they make my breath taste. Just this year I’ve decided that I don’t like smelling clean.

“Well,” Lila continues, with a thirty-second pause for dramatic effect. “Then he says he’d give me a ride home.” This she reports like a celebrity. Her lips seem swollen with victory. She has more to tell, and it’s waking me up, begging me to pull the rest out.

“So what’s his name?” I ask. Whatever it is, I’m going to hate it. “Perfecto,” she giggles. She obviously doesn’t remember. All she remembers is that he just turned sixteen and he’s given her part of his birthday present. She runs to get her suede purse, which I love, from her bedroom.

As she flies down the hall, her hair bounces off her butt rhythmically. She’s graceful. There’s something about the way she doesn’t make much noise when she runs, or skates, or even when she cries. In fact, I’ve only seen her cry once, and that was when her little brother fell off an eight-foot wall and she thought he was dead. She knew she would be blamed. But it turned out he was just knocked unconscious.

She’s back from the bedroom and is holding something out to me in a toilet paper wad. She opens it carefully, tweezers a tiny hand-rolled joint. Lila and I squeal. I think it made her horny when we smoke, because we ended up running around the front yard, barking at the neighborhood dogs, her idea. We try to get them to bark back, and it works. One of them my golden retriever, barking madly from my back yard down the block. I can tell it’s him by his hoarse, pitiful bark. Occasionally, he’ll actually howl, and that sounds great, like it is finally coming from the right part of his body.

We race around the kitchen, ready-made brownie mix open. Her mother is at her boyfriend’s house, so there’s no problem. As usual, we eat half of it raw. By the time we’re in bed and ready to settle down, I have heartburn. I can’t help thinking about the boy, Peter Doyle. White blond hair, a surfer’s grin. I imagine them lying together, digging down inside each other like sand crabs. Lila’s breath becomes regular, and I turn away from her. Sometimes I love her and hate her so much, I can’t wait for tomorrow.

MEG POKRASS is the author of Damn Sure Right, a collection of flash fiction from Press 53. Her short novel, Card Houses, has recently been selected for a screenplay adaptation. Her work has appeared in over 150 literary journals. She serves as Senior Editor for Frederick Barthelme’s BLIP (formerly Mississippi Review), and lives near the ocean in San Francisco with her husband, daughter, and seven animals.