Green Hills Literary Lantern

 

 

 

Stop Tickling Me

 

“George! Stop tickling me!” Sarah screamed, mid-giggle. The grass froze, the wind froze, the bees that clustered around the small white clovers froze. Dogs froze suspended in midair from the pure screech of sexual innocence that carried from Sarah’s soft mouth on a blanket at a dog park in Lake Hollywood, all the way across the Pacific to Catalina Island, where a ladybug froze mid-flight. Sarah and her friends sat together like they were playing hooky, even though it was hours after school, and most of their parents knew where they were.

George, who had learned as early as 8th grade how to sniff out the empaths, looked Sarah in the eye and held his charged hand hovering over her ribcage, teasing contact.

“Happy?” he said.

“You wish,” she said, swatting his hand away. Sarah bit down on her molars to stop the smile that tugged up on the corners of her belly. Sarah and George and Mayella and Shannon and Tom and Cooper all sat in the late-afternoon sun, breathing in the rarified air of high school seniors in their second semester. The freedom of a future planned and a past survived. If you stood in the center of their coven, they would all be backlit. 

“Hey,” said Cooper, his brown hair lush like pudding. He tried to inhale his electronic pipe like James Dean from that old movie he caught a minute of on HBO, but he knew deep down that a cigarette without a flame was just a flashlight.

“You guys wanna come to my house and get some grub?” He asked on the exhale, the pineapple smoke distracting more than one of the dogs nearby. Cooper’s house had been their clubhouse, lots of supplies with little supervision.  

“Can’t,” said Mayella. “My stupid mom said I had to come home tonight. She’s got total abandonment issues. It’s like ever since I got into college, she got more strict.” Mayella rolled over on to her back and looked up, wondering if her dad was looking down on her.

Shannon and Tom sat back to back, the reigning king and queen. Shannon’s long blond hair was highlighted and curled to look fresh from the salt thick waves of the ocean, miles and miles and miles and miles and miles away from her home in Encino. Tom was team captain for water polo and lacrosse and cut himself with so much discipline, not even Shannon knew.

“We can come.” Shannon’s words came from the center of twelve unpacked Russian dolls, small and cavernous. She had been high since noon. 

Sarah was waiting for George to answer. She should go home but couldn’t miss the opportunity to keep her body in the vicinity of George. 

Shannon stretched out her Hawaiian Tropic leg and pushed her toe into Sarah’s thigh. 

“You coming, Sarah? Sarah Sahara. Sarah don’t-care-a?”

Sarah placed a bet. “Yeah, totally.”

“What about you, George? Lordy George? George-y-pordgey?” The rhymes tickled Shannon’s tongue like popcorn-flavored jellybeans melted together in a glove compartment.

“Can’t,” lied George.

It was too late for Sarah to change her mind. Now she was stuck with everyone but the one she wanted. Stuck for hours pretending that these friendships would last as many years into the future as they had existed in the past. Stuck away from her family whom she already missed since she got into college. She would look back on this day, after her first divorce, and wonder how her life would have unfolded if she'd just gone home.

George reached over and grazed his fingers under Mayella’s ribcage.

“George! Stop tickling me!” She screamed, mid-giggle.

Sarah froze.

 

 

 

 

Tom

 

All the books he couldn’t be seen reading, Tom downloaded. The books that called to his inner child and screamed, “you’ve got some work to do, asshole!”  He brushed aside a bucket of KFC to give himself more room on his coffee table, aka his kitchen table.  He didn’t know if that was yesterday’s bucket or today’s.  Tom scrolled down through pages of self-help books with man-friendly titles that tried to make self-improvement sound more like home improvement.

The Divorce Survival Box

And of course, The Men’s Divorce Play Book

“Eeny meenie miney moe, pick a title by its toe.”  A sharp pain.  His son loved that rhyme.  Other bedtime stories and fables had been worming their way into Tom’s everyday life.  He would “Goodnight Moon” his entire apartment to try to fall asleep.  Goodnight boxes.  Goodnight empty refrigerator.  Goodnight suitcase. He scrolled on, each book more depressing than the last, the choices, endless.  Soon his Kindle would be a virtual armory of suggestions.  A digital silo of answers for all the questions he hadn’t asked.  He paused at the book called Winning Your Wife Back, Before It’s Too Late.

His thumb touched the underside of the cool metal of his wedding ring.  Silver and scratched.  He thought of last Valentine’s Day when he’d slid his fingers deep inside his wife and she had opened for him. He thought of the tickle of rose champagne on her tongue and the crumbs of the pizza they shared falling around them like snow as they messed up their bed-picnic, sliding against each other with no inkling of this broken future.  After they crawled all over and under and into and around, they lay naked and quiet.  Then they both laughed at her little nipple, as it peeked out from her long brown hair that hung heavy across her chest, like it was trying to catch its breath. She had the tiniest of nipples. He tried to inhale the memory of herbal essence and sweat but all he could smell was fresh paint and cardboard, the loneliest of scents.   

Then a wicked thought flashed across his mind. The thought that she’d known then.  That what for him had been a coming together was for her, a coming apart. That the beginning of the end was hers, and not theirs.

 

 

 

 

 

Gillian Shure wrote, directed, and shot the short film Touched, for which she won Best Director at the Beverly Hills Shorts Film Festival. Currently she works in film, television, and theater and does stand-up around Los Angeles. Shure has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California School of Theatre and is currently studying writing with Jack Grapes. More work is forthcoming in Carbon Culture Review.