To us, it wasn’t criminal. To us, it was gathering offerings, claiming a rightful abundance after a depleting school day. We plunderers of Rudy’s Card-and-Smoke, raiding the candy stands tiered like amphitheaters, slipping Razzles and Pop Rocks and Lik-M-Aids into our Modern Health textbooks while strung-out Rudy, Jr. juggled the lines for Pick-Its and pipe tobacco. Nothing chocolate, never chocolate. Chocolate was Ex-Lax and chalky old widows who only gave out Hershey’s Miniatures and quarters for Unicef boxes on Halloween. Chocolate could melt, disfigure, and so was a sacrilege. We jumped high for Playboy peeks and deeper-shelved Penthouse, no chance at Hustler in its dim subterrain with the Trojans. We stuffed condolence cards in with the new babies on our way out, Rudy, Jr. singing I know where you live, girlies! The sweet and wet of anticipation making everything charged. The tinny store chimes, the fogged door handle, the late-day sidewalk still throbbing with noonday heat.
We dumped the candy before her in a stream on her bed. Oona who lived up the street. Somebody’s big sister. Or cousin. Or former babysitter. Everything about her rounded and welcoming. Her shoulders, knees, ankles. The grommets on her belt, hem of her flares, big horn buttons on her henley, doodles on her pocket tabs, peace signs and poppies and bulbous crucifixes on her walls. Even her name that caught on our soft puckered mouths like a velvet fish hook.
In gratitude for our offerings, she blessed us with Necco Wafers on our tongues, hot body of Christ, and told us about sex. We made her laugh remembering a library book we’d been obsessed with as littles, a picture book about making babies, the paper cutout couple with their freaky Rankin/Bass smiles, caught in flat missionary repose under an oak tag blanket. Oona made us hate our own flatness. With her Bic 4-Color, she drew cutie pie gnomes on our inner arms we knew were genitalia. She licked Pixie Stix dander from our cheeks. She fanned herself over the Bible movies that were always on, the toga-ed Cinerama bosoms and cinched loins. During commercials, she tongue-kissed a staticky Crazy Eddie then pulled us from the TV, fierce and motherly, whispering that Eddie wanted our Blow Pops, our asses, our souls. She showed us how to bite off the tops and suck the syrup from wax bottles like Olivia Hussey downing potion. A bedful of open-necked Juliets falling limp, dying. Revivified by her breath, her tickles, the tangle of her that left us somehow hungrier, emptier.
And then she was done with us. We knew to split when she lay inert, depleted, cradling her full belly. Always a croaked warning: Junior really does know where you live. We staggered home before dark, tacky and damp, rubbing our corduroy burns, wondering if Rudy, Jr. knew us down to where we slept and dreamt. Above us the skies bulged with rain and we ran, ran for cover, just so they wouldn’t wash away, the sugary funk of Oona, our own sweet foulness.
EILEEN TOMARCHIO — Eileen works as a librarian in a small NJ town. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Passages North, Chestnut Review, The Forge, Okay Donkey, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, Longleaf Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from NYU Film. She tweets @eileentomarchio.
Art by SUSAN SOLOMON — Susan is a freelance paintress living in the beautiful Twin Cities area of Minneapolis/Saint Paul.