Smackhouse dabbed the beaner and Benji was like, “Woah! Simmer down, Sweet Sauce.” Then he almost choked on his pimento when Simon said, “Shut up, Pimento.”
It was the most inelegant insult Benji had ever heard. He had a thing for elegance. Plus Simon didn’t make the best tough guy with his cicada cheeks and leafy hair. But everyone laughed anyway. Low standards in Penshaw.
“Ha, dabbing the beaner,” Benji said to be in on the laugh, but the crowd had turned on him. La cave had cracked.
He guessed when he pondered it that Smackhouse hadn’t necessarily done anything more than wave his hand. And Smackhouse used to be everyone’s boy. The one with the quiet eyes and bass guitar, that naked underbark girls can see and want to scratch their back against. He could talk in poetry when he wanted but he’d been gone awhile. Benji had tried to take his place he guessed, but now that Smackhouse was back there wasn’t room for two guys who toted sketchbooks and quoted Goethe.
Smackhouse sensed Benji’s leaving mind and bloodening cheeks, though, because they used to be boys. He pointed at three panels in gold on the wall above their heads. “Your mom’s?” He asked. The panels were speckled with flowers etched with vaginal flourishes, petals pinching into holes.
Benji sucked his breath back. It was easy to answer such a question wrong.
Smackhouse paused too. Their faces edged toward an invisible utter.
“Yes,” he finally said. “But the maple blooded penis plaque is your mom’s.” He pointed toward an abstract framed print he had always thought looked like a dick spurting syrup.
The other boys laughed and shook their heads. Benji squared up. A baroque hate played piano in him. He was a VHS of Shakespeare. This was around the time, they say that Benji grew his eyelashes and learned a few chords, started dating Sally Chetwick, while Smackhouse went on to pursue his namesake. He’s done a few bids now, and no one likes him anymore but we’re all, every single one of us, rooting for him.
Jessica Lee Richardson’s short story collection, It Had Been Planned and There Were Guides (FC2, 2015), won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize and was longlisted for a PEN/Robert W. Bingham award in 2016. Stories and poems have been featured online at The Short Form and Ploughshares and published recently in Adroit, the Collagist, Wigleaf, and other places. You can find some of these online at www.jessicaleerichardson.com.
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