Susan Quinn, “Waynesboro”

George sat on the sewer cap spinning the back wheel of his
bike. He had flipped it over, standing it on its handlebars and had
taken off the Jack of diamonds that made the wheel sing. He liked
the zing sound the card made against the spokes when he rode, but
that creep Joey had called him a baby. So, he had taken it off. It spun
mutely now and so; he heard the grind of the moving van as soon as
it turned onto his street.
The furrows between his brows deepened and he glowered
just a bit more, someone else to call him Georgie Porgy. He spun the
wheel again, watching, as the van lumbered inch by inch up the hill.
It struggled with the weight of its load; the engine screamed; the
trailer squawked. Its gonna blow, George thought in anticipation.
But it didn’t. Instead, the moving van made its troublesome way
past him. George reached up to spin the wheel of his bike again and
a face peered out through the cracked and dirty window of the cab.
She stared down at him. He stared back. The van crept along. The
wheel spun.
The truck pulled into the driveway next to George’s house.
So, someone finally bought that old thing, he thought and spun
his wheel again, faster this time. The air whizzed as the spokes tore
through it. The truck came to a stop and hissed as if in exhausted
relief. The passenger door opened with a loud painful screech but
stopped in only a few inches. Then, it slammed all the way out with
a shriek. George saw the girl’s boot sticking out after her angry kick
and then watched her pull it back just before hopping from the
truck. One corner of George’s mouth lifted just a bit. It didn’t erase
the frown on his face, but he watched now with more interest.
The girl looked at him for a long moment and then cut
across the weeds towards the sewer where George sat watching.
“Charlie! Where are you going?” a man’s voice bellowed.
She turned for just a second, said something to the man
who had appeared around the back of the truck and then continued
towards George. The slight smile on George’s face dropped back
down into a frown and he turned away ignoring her, but his palms
began to sweat, and his heart picked up a beat. He heard every
crunch of her steps through the scorched weeds as she moved
towards him. He listened to the silence when she stopped next to
him, his eyes cutting sideways towards her.
“Hey,” she said.
He turned to face the voice and squinted up into the sun.
George couldn’t see her. She was just a dark silhouette against the
glare and then she moved slightly, blocked the intense light, and
cast a cool shadow across his sunburned face. He could see her now
and the scent of something sweet floated around his head.
“Hi,” he said.
She sat down next to him, and his mouth went dry.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“George,” he said with a look that challenged her to make fun.
“Hi, Georgie.”
He cut his eyes at her, but her smile was honest, and it
didn’t sound so bad coming from her. He smiled back, much to his
surprise. “What’s yours?”
“Charleston, but people call me Charlie.”
“They named you after a city?” he asked.
“It’s where I was conceived,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
“Wow,” George said, “Good thing you weren’t conceived here.”
“Yeah.” She grinned and nodded. Her fingers toyed with the
buttons of her shirt. It was a green plaid button down with the
sleeves cut off and rolled up to make a cuff. He knew they were cut
off because one side slipped down and exposed the frayed edge. The
tails of the shirt hung loose over her shorts which were also cutoffs,
faded denim and instead of sneakers, she had on worn and dirty
cowboy boots. Her hair was long and dark and pulled back into a
thick ponytail. She reached up and spun his tire.
“I’m going into the seventh grade here,” she told him.
“Me too.” He grinned at her. “Mrs. Peebles. She’s a mean
old hag.”
“Yeah. I thought it was gonna suck.” He paused and then
grinned at her. “But maybe it will be OK now.”
She glanced up at him and smiled, then looked away, and
reached up and spun his tire. “Maybe it will.”
She had freckles on the bridge of her nose and her eyes were
green. A rosy blush filled in the gaps between those tiny brown dots,
and he realized he was staring at her.
“Charlie!” a voice yelled from behind them.
She turned towards the man and her ponytail brushed
his cheek.
“I’m coming.” She turned back to George. “I gotta go help
unload and stuff. See ya later, Georgie Porgy.”
He just waved; his mouth was glued shut. The thought of
that feathery sweep against his cheek engulfed his mind. She stood
up and brushed the dirt from her butt and then headed back the
way she had come. He dragged his tongue off the roof of his mouth
and stood also.
“Hey, Charleston.”
She turned with a grimace and stood jaunty in her shorts
and boots, the heat and little puffs of red dust shimmered around
her. “You can call me Charlie. Everyone does.”
He shrugged. “I kinda like Charleston.”
She laughed lightly. “What do you want Georgie Porgy?”
His hands searched his hips for pockets he didn’t have. So,
he spun his wheel instead.
“I got nothin’ to do. I could help.”
She smiled then, all the way to her emerald eyes. He was
wrong. She wasn’t beautiful after all. She was radiant. She dipped her
head towards the truck, an invitation, and the world changed forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *