Comparing Notes





 Comparing Notes

 

“She’s not that good a lay,” Buck said over the background noise of the school bus.

            “Who?” Jimmy asked, even though already knew the answer.

            “Jessica.”

            Jimmy felt a strange mix of anger and profound loneliness, and he strained to keep his feelings off of his face. Buck knew what he was feeling, though. Jimmy could tell.

            “And you know this how?” Jimmy asked, taking a studiously nonchalant drag off his cigarette. The driver was cool, but not that cool. He let them smoke tobacco but had told them they couldn’t smoke “le herb” on the bus.

            “Ted told me.” Ted was Jessica’s boyfriend. “He says she just lies there.”

            “Thanks for telling me. I feel so much better now. Really dodged a bullet there.”

            The smug look on Buck’s face showed that he was really enjoying himself.

            Some best friend, Jimmy thought wryly. He flipped the cigarette butt through the open window as an alternative to putting it out on Buck’s face. It was spring and finally warm, and the air felt good as it tousled his hair.

            Jimmy had been in love with Jessica since seventh grade – from a long way away. He was fat, pimply, short, ill-proportioned, and not really into his personal appearance, so he didn’t expect he’d be hooking up with her anytime soon. His love for her was a fantasy he couldn’t stop having, like a pleasant, recurring dream that morphs into a nightmare every time. He was also desperately lonely, and he supposed Buck knew that, too. Soon they would all graduate. Jimmy looked forward to not having his feelings rubbed in his face every school day, intentionally or circumstantially.

            Buck was Jimmy’s polar opposite. He was handsome to the point of being pretty, tall, thin, and had perfect skin. Rumors had circulated through school that Buck and Jimmy were queer for each other, but most people believed that Jimmy was too dumpy to be gay. Besides, it was pretty much common knowledge that Jimmy had a mega-crush on Jessica that was probably never going to go away.

            Buck had had girlfriends, but only for small stretches of time, and Jimmy had found them generally unappealing. Jessica, on the other hand, was a cheerleader and a beauty queen, so it sort of evened things out in a reality versus aspiration kind of way.

            Jimmy had never had a girlfriend. Not even once. Not even in Canada for a week during summer vacation. He hadn’t really tried, certain he was thoroughly unappetizing and had nothing to offer. When he wanted consolation, he read Star Trek novels, losing himself in a world where every good guy was handsome, enlightened, occasionally loved, and bonded together by Starfleet’s sense of purpose and vision. He had every book, even the ones that were out of print, and he’d read each more than once, even the books that sucked. He liked the ones about Mr. Spock the best. He got Spock.

            The bus pulled to the stop where Jimmy got off. He grunted at Buck, shoved his way by, and made his way down the narrow aisle to the door. Disembarking, he walked toward his house quickly with strides as long as he could make them with his stumpy troll legs.

            “Wait up,” Buck called from behind. Jimmy turned to see his friend jogging up to meet him.

            “Why’d you get off here?” Jimmy asked.

            “Going to your house. Remember? To play Donkey Kong?”

            Jimmy hadn’t. All he wanted to do was to lie down on his bed and crack open a Star Trek novel until he forgot that Jessica was reputedly lousy in bed.

            “Oh,” Jimmy said reluctantly. Buck fell into stride next to him. They were silent as they walked.

            They went into Jimmy’s house and dumped their stuff in the foyer. While Jimmy set up the video game, Buck wandered into the kitchen. Jimmy heard his sister’s voice as well as Buck’s.

Linda was always home before him because boys with cars tripped all over themselves to give her rides. She never let them take any detours, but they drove her home all the same. Jimmy wondered what it was like to be one of the beautiful people. Linda knew, but she wouldn’t tell him.

“Game’s up!” Jimmy shouted toward the kitchen. There was no response. He went ahead and played single player while he waited. Lost in the game, Jimmy failed to notice how much time had passed, and it wasn’t until it was over that he realized Buck hadn’t emerged from the kitchen. He got up and crossed through the dining room to see why Buck hadn’t come out. Entering the kitchen, Jimmy saw that Buck had his sister up against the wall, deep kissing her, with a hand up her shirt and the other down her pants.

Jimmy crossed the room, grabbed Buck by the hair, pulled him off of his sister and bounced his head off of the refrigerator. It left an impression and a smudge of blood, and Jimmy knew he’d be in trouble for the dent. Buck fell to the floor. Linda screamed. Buck had a cut on his scalp, and he was bleeding freely.

“Dude, what the fuck?” Buck said, looking at his own blood on his hands.

“That’s my sister,” Jimmy said quietly. He was white hot with anger. Buck felt it. Jimmy could see him flinching. It felt good.

“He didn’t do anything!” Linda said in a pleading voice.

“Get out, Sis.” Linda left. Jimmy heard her pound up the stairs and slam the door to her room shut. She was no doubt calling their father to rat him out in a preemptive strike. He watched Buck bleed for a while and then threw a dishrag in his friend’s face.

“You’re gonna need stitches,” Jimmy said after a while.

“You think?”

“So, is my sister a good lay? Maybe you and Ted can compare notes. Maybe you could go on a double date and swap, find out for yourself. Make sure you let me know. Every fucking detail.”

“Man, it’s not like that.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s it like?” Jimmy let half a moment go by. “Don’t tell me. Just get the fuck out.”

“Jimmy…”

“I said get out.”

Buck got up off the floor and left the kitchen. After a few moments, Jimmy heard the front door open and close. He grabbed some paper towels and mopped Buck’s blood off the floor and the refrigerator. He threw the paper towels out and sat down at the table.

He knew there’d be hell to pay later, but for the present, he was content to sit and let the anger work its way out of him. As he calmed down, it occurred to him that maybe Ted was the reason that Jessica just laid there. Maybe he was the one who sucked in bed.

Yes, he liked that much better. It made much more sense.

 
 
Jason A. Feingold

 

After ending a fifteen-year career in teaching, Jason A. Feingold turned to writing, with works published in Infernal Ink Magazine, 99 Pine Street, Amarillo Bay, Allegory, Bewildering Stories, and the Bewildering Stories Second Quarterly and Annual Reviews. Under the pen name Simon Easton, he has published in Five on the Fifth (inaugural edition), Corvus Review, cc&d Magazine, and Five 2 One Magazine. He has also published in several anthologies, including the cc&d magazine “Lost in the Past” December 2016 edition and in its Scars Publications collection books entitled The Chamber and After the Blues. He has edited and contributed to an anthology of stories centered around a ruined home called The Seven Story House. He is currently contributing to and editing another anthology of stories that begin with something strange about a window. When he’s not writing, he’s reading, keeping house, being a husband, raising a son, chasing dogs, and volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem in the North Carolina county where he lives.

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