Arielle Part 6

Laura got dirt roads. She wished there were more around, that this were one. She’d love to tear down a dirt road: field of shadows to the left, a veil of moonlight. But the best would be that humble crackle when a car slows on loose land. She turned down the music anyway.

“You don’t like that song?” said Delia.

“What? Oh, no. I wasn’t sure if it was too loud.”

Delia smiled and turned it back up. She needed her music loud, especially at night. Even this song. Arielle loves this song, and it’s so dumb. The words aren’t even trying. They probably wrote it in high school. Like, “what kind of movie would have this soundtrack?”

“What?” shouted Arielle.

Laura turned down the music and said, “What movie would have this soundtrack?”

“Ohh,” Arielle hummed. She loved these questions. She taught Delia this game; well, her dad taught them. He would ask them to title different parts of their life. She would have told him twelfth grade was “The Year of Blankets.” Tonight would be “A Very Special Episode.”

“That’s not a movie,” said Laura. “You’re supposed to pick a movie.”

“Shit, you’re right. Delia you go, and I’ll think.”

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Arielle Part 5

Delia leaned back to pinch the hem of Arielle’s dress. “Where’d you get this?”

“It’s nice, right?” said Arielle, turning back to Delia and brightening. “My mom got it for me.”

“Raquel picked this out? Damn. Since when can she shop?”

“I know,” beamed Arielle. “She didn’t even ask for help, she said.”

“She said,” said Delia.

“That’s what I said,” Arielle breathed. “Yeah, I got home, and it was just laying on my bed.”

“Ew, like how she’d lay out your clothes when you were little?”

“She did it for you too.”

Delia grabbed Arielle’s knee. “She got me a dress?”

Arielle laughed. “No, I mean she used to lay out your clothes too.”

“Oh. Only when I’d stay over long enough that she washed my clothes.”

“Which was a lot.”

Laura glanced back at Arielle through the rearview mirror. She had rolled down the window and was leaning her face into the wind. It was too dark for Laura to tell if her eyes were open. In side mirror, she saw Arielle had her hands out the window, holding her palms flat forward like she could slow them.

“It looks like space,” Laura said.

“Huh?” said Arielle. Delia had turned to Laura too, like she had missed something.

“Your dress. When we pass under the streetlights, the sequins flash like space. Like those pictures they show of what space looks like to an astronaut,” said Laura, lifting her chin as if to bounce the words back to Arielle.

“That stuff scares her,” Delia told Laura.

“What are you talking about?” asked Arielle, pulling her arms in.

“You don’t remember that Sandra Bullock movie and how scared you got?”

“At getting stuck in space. Not about being there in the first place.”

Delia wasn’t sure if Arielle’s lip had curled or the shadows were being weird or the tequila. “Yeah, but if you go to space, you have a chance of being lost out there,” she said.

“That’s not the same. Who do you know’s gotten stuck in space?”

“No one knows. The government won’t tell us,” said Laura and laughed and Arielle and Delia laughed too.

Arielle Part 4

Going wasn’t where she wanted to be right now. She had decided, once she had learned she could bottle life for later, to figure out why this place would become where she was from.

She had seen people talk about the place where someone was from. How it made them who they were. How unlikely it was, but how fortunate they were. When the someone was the one talking about it, it was as if they had just woken up to find themselves made, like they were a bag of ingredients that only needed time to cook and didn’t realize they were already in the oven. How they wished at the time they had known. She wished to know, too, and she would make the time.

She knew she should tell Delia. She didn’t like it, but she didn’t have to like it. She just had to do it. The less sober, the better, she thought.

With her older sister Maribel’s ID — backer by her student ID from North South City College — she bought some mini bottles of tequila and the big bottle of Coke.

After Laura picked her up to meet at Delia’s, they stopped by the bush down the street where Arielle hid her bags.

Delia was playing a video game when they got there. “We’ve got the house to ourselves. They all went to a movie,” she said.

“Cool,” said Arielle, looking from Delia to the TV screen.

“What time are we going to Trey’s party?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know. Taco Bell at like 9 then go?” said Delia, looking to Arielle.

“Taco Belllll,” ringed Arielle, falling dreamily onto the couch beside Delia. Eyes closed, clutching at her heart, “my love.”

“Mexican Pizza?” Delia asked a bit quieter.

“Mm, to share yeah. But I’m getting my own Crunchwrap,” Arielle said and turned to Laura. “Want to split nachos if I get them with jalapeños?”

Laura nodded and murmured while drinking from her water bottle. “Definitely,” she exhaled. “Are we going to the KFC-Taco Bell?”

“I mean, we could,” said Arielle looking to Delia, who paused the game.

“Yeah, we could. It’s not really on the way, though,” Delia said back to Arielle.

“Yeah, but it’s not like Trey’s party is going anywhere. His parents don’t get back until Sunday,” Arielle said.

“It could get broken up like Arthur’s,” said Laura.

“Oh shit, that’s right,” said Delia. “Yo, what was I doing with Joey Sampson that night?”

“Not much after he came his pants,” said Arielle.

“Oh my God, yeah. Because then you had to drop him off after me.”

“I wouldn’t have had to if you still lived down the street from me,” Arielle said.

“I wish I hadn’t traded my turn for Joey Sampson,” said Delia.

“No trading back because I plan on cashing in my turn for graduation tomorrow,” said Arielle.

“Oh fuck,” said Delia and then opened a bottle from Arielle’s bag.

By Tom Hanks

A made-up story

“I would like to write a book,” Tom Hanks said.

With a casual finality, he flicked an arm, the hand of which made a pleasant splat when it landed atop his crossed knees. He gave a closed-mouth grin and tilted his head. It jittered, like he had once again stumped Meg Ryan and was watching for her to smile sideways then stare at him in admiring bewilderment. He lifted his eyebrows and glanced to the side and then back in response.

“Well, I was thinking short stories…. Of course people read short stories outside of The New Yorker. There is….”

He leaned forward, one hand on his knee, the other in the air as if holding Yorick’s skull. Beholding it, “There is The Kenyon Review,” Tom Hanks said, italicizing the words aloud. “There is The Paris Review. The Susquehanna Review.” Sloping forward in his seat to face full attention, “Have you not reviewed the reviews?”

Pleased, Tom Hanks leaned back, knees again crossed. His socks matched his slacks just so. Still, that grin.

“No no, these would be my stories, but these wouldn’t be my stories,” he said and this time underlined the words, folding his fingers into his chest. “They would be stories I make up. Now they may be, uh, inspired by events in my life. But they may also be pure imagination. I don’t know yet, I haven’t written them.”

He looked down as he smoothed the front of his shirt in preparation. When he looked up, his lips parted into a smile.

“Well, you know, I thought Steve Martin did it,” he said. “And whatever reasons he would have had not to do it, he did it anyway. And whatever reasons people would have had not to read it, they did. So I thought, why can’t I do that too?”

Tom Hanks stilled himself in the mirror.

Boiled over

She forgot about the boiling noodles. But it wasn’t even that she had forgotten about them. She hadn’t. But she hadn’t forgotten about the sausages either, which needed turning, or the cookie tray that needed to be lined with aluminum for the bread that needed to be put in the oven that needed to be set. The bread. The bread needed a light buttering and some seasoning that she needed to take out from the cabinet above. Oh above, where the fan needed turning on so the oil from the skillet didn’t smoke out the apartment and set off the fire alarms and make her get out the fan instead of, shit, the noodles.

Traffic patterns

It can’t wait, though. It’s work, she wanted to yell to the billboard. Work doesn’t wait. It doesn’t fucking work like that, she found herself now shouting.

Her hands choking the steering wheel, her eyes staring at the red light like the asshole that it is, “you smug bastard,” she exhaled. “You don’t know. Or do you?

“What do you do when you turn off? Do you know when you’ll turn back on? If you do“ — a car honks — “I have a follow-up question about sitting alone at red lights, but we can come back to it.”

Almost al dente

The third noodle stuck, high above two lying limp on the tile. She threw a fourth. It also stuck. A fifth fell. The sixth stuck.

So she kept throwing them. Some stuck, some fell. She didn’t yet know what to do with the fallen ones or the ones that stuck. She still had a whole pot to go.

She began to aim, adjusting her throw and her grip. Some she grabbed near the middle and flicked at the wall like she was trying to ring a milk bottle to win an overstuffed penguin. Others she flung for the fuck of it. For some, she wound up, stepping to set her weight to one leg, her arm twisted behind her, and then she whipped forward to frisbee the noodle, which often splatted against the fridge.

She thought about cleaning. Then about cheating. She could move them, she told herself. Who would know? Who would care? Who the hell would she tell? Maybe later, she decided.

But now she struggled. She saw where she wanted the noodles to land. She even had an idea of how. But she lost sight before she let go. They knocked against other noodles and fell, more collecting on the floor.

That became the game. With the few noodles she had left, her last lives. She flung, some fell, some swung into new places and opened new spaces. She finished and took it in. It looked like nothing except spaghetti. She framed it anyhow.