I two-step just once with this boy who looks handsome until he removes his jacket, revealing a body even thinner than my fatless girl form—scary-thin, the way only ancient, almost dead things should be. The dance hall’s crowded and sweaty and strobe-lit and throbs with 80’s country. Mom says she knows the boy’s family; that he’s a ninth-grader, one year ahead of me, but probably won’t last the summer because he’s real sick. She says, “You did a nice thing, hon.” I don’t tell her I wouldn’t have agreed to dance with the boy if I’d known how it would feel—like holding bones wrapped in a tattered flag. Even so, the boy’s smile clings the way the August heat clings to the metal pickup bed joggling my hips as Dad drives us home. I want the boy to look at me again the way he did right before asking: like I was the last beautiful thing he’d see. That night, the frogs chirp too loud for me to sleep, so I pad my way outside, past my parents’ sleeping murmurs, barefoot, moving by touch and memory, cautious on the splintery porch steps, stopping when I sense the soft-damp grass give way to the damp-hard gravel. The crick-croak-crick-croak of night-bathing frogs in puddled driveway potholes layers over sky black and aspen tree black, draping my head in a blanket of sound and darkness. I’ve played games with boys under the covers before—breathing shallow, groping the edges of pleasure or death. The boy from the dance hall’s the one I picture cloaked in with me now. The one whose hot, dry hands shear through my nightgown, latch on, and draw me in like amphibious skin soaking up water after hours in the sun, with a crackling sigh.
Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, Barren, CutBank, JMWW, the Mom Egg Review, Stanchion, Streetcake, Bullshit Lit, Sho Poetry Journal, Nixe's Mate, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at inabucketthemoon.wordpress.com, or connect with her on Twitter at @mooninabucket, or on IG at @moon.in.a.bucket.
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