by Wanda Cunningham
I dreamed that Danny and I adopted oodles of puppies and we had to name every one of them.
"Max. Princess. Luke. Belle. Jay. Delaney. Porky. Sugar. Popsicle. Goldie. Pancho. Vicky. Fred. Molly. Digger. Tiffy. Tuffy. Trillian. Sam." I couldn't think of a name for one of the puppies and she made an awful racket scratching on the window.
I sat up and saw Jolie looking in the back window, the only one not covered with a curtain. The sun behind her head made her blonde hair look like a halo, an angel wrapped in a tattered bathrobe. She tapped on the window again.
I could barely hear her out there, she seemed to be asking a lot of questions. "Bobby is that you? What are you doing sleeping in this car? Whose car is it? I can't open any of the doors, are they locked?"
The doors were locked, she couldn't get in. I lay back down and wrapped the pillow around my head to block my ears. After awhile she went away and I fell back asleep. I knew I would be late for class but I didn't care.
When I woke up the second time, somebody was unlocking a door. I sat up, knowing it must be Danny.
He opened the passenger side front door and said, "Morning, chiquita." He grinned at me, his big face all freshly shaved and his hair neatly combed.
I felt grubby and out of sorts and I knew I would have some explanations to make. "Morning," I said. "My throat hurts." I hadn't noticed till I opened my mouth to say something.
"That's good," said Danny. "I mean, I'm sorry your throat hurts but it gives you two excuses, one for being late and one for not going to P.E. today. 'Ey?" He tossed a Wal-Mart bag at me. "I bought something for you."
"What is it?" I asked. I caught the bag and started to open it.
"Don't open it here, go inside, get changed for school, wear what's in the bag, don't let anybody else see it."
That was a lot of orders to absorb before breakfast. "I really slept in your car all night." I said. I yawned and tried to stretch but there wasn't enough room to do a good job of it. Danny hit the switch on the door locks so I could climb out the back door.
"You so cute when you sleepy, querida," said Danny as I stood up and finally stretched.
"I don't feel cute," I complained. "I feel nasty and tired." I liked being called cute, though. It made me want to squirm but I liked it.
"Ho, ho," he said. "And we didn't do nothing last night, I just kissed you on the forehead." He grinned.
I know I must have blushed. For the first time, I noticed someone else standing beside the car. Almost as tall as Danny but skinny, he had red-blonde hair, a bony face, bright blue eyes and a sour expression like his stomach hadn't decided whether to hurt or not.
"This is Estéban, mi compadre," said Danny.
"Steve," said the skinny boy. "Je suis un Américain que je ne parle pas espagnol."
"What?" I said.
"He said he's an asshole so he's not going to talk Spanish."
"Mais oui," agreed Steve. "Les porcs peuvent péter mais un chien savent écorcer."
"He's a poet and don't know it," said Danny.
"What did he say?" I asked, fascinated by Steve's use of his hands and face; he hardly moved either but conveyed a sort of bored insolence. And he spoke French? I didn't know how good his French was but he sounded like he knew what he was saying.
"Something about pigs, I don't think either of us wants to know," said Danny. "Steve, knock off the frog impression."
"I said knock it off," warned Danny.
"But of course," said Steve, this time in a bored-sounding British accent.
They sure lightened my mood, I started laughing even though it made my head and throat hurt worse.
"Go inside and change you clothes, chica," said Danny. He sort of made shooing motions at my butt. "Spaghetti and I will go get a bag of breakfast burgers at the drive-thru."
"Spaghetti?" I said. "Why doesn't he speak Italian?"
Steve looked superior. "Posso fare quello ma questo pagliacce puá² capirmi un piccolo."
"A piccolo?" I said.
"Go," said Danny. "His mother was frightened by a diplomatic pouch when she was pregnant. Get dressed. Wash you face. We'll bring you a sandwich and some juice."
I went toward my door, laughing again. Behind me, I heard Danny say, "I'll give you a pickle, a long green weenie, if you don't knock it off, Getty."
I glanced back and recognized the redhead, finally. Steve Paul Getty, a senior on the basketball and track teams and actor in the school plays, he had grown up all over the world because his dad was in the military or something.
Steve said something to Danny in a language that I can't even spell but they got in the car and drove away.
I tried the screen door, it wasn't latched and the front door wasn't locked. I didn't see my dad's pale green sedan in the driveway so he must have left for work already. Jolie might or might not be home, Tuesday, and Friday mornings she had physical therapy for her foot at the clinic and Dad usually took her but sometimes she skipped.
I crept into my own house, afraid of being yelled at but no one was home except the moth-eaten old cat named Cosmo that slept on the couch most days. Cosmo had come with Jolie and like his mistress and I, we got along. I don't think Cosmo liked anyone but as long as you didn't wake him up and his food bowl was refilled, he seemed content. The cushions for the couch were still lying on the floor and the cat had appropriated one of them as his bed; I left him alone.
I had a closet where I kept my stuff in the laundry cubby, just a half closet really with drawers under it. All but the top drawer also held my stuff. I went through the kitchen to get to the little laundry room and saw a note lying on the kitchen table.
A water glass held the note down but I could see it was addressed to me. I picked it up to read it.
Walt worred about you but I told him you would be OK. Some frends of you'rs pickd you up and you sleepd it off in their car I said. I didn't tell him it was parkd in front of the house. Maybe you'r not happy here. If you want I can show you how to be emastipatd minor so you can movd out and get you'r own place.
I read it twice to decipher the spelling and be sure I understood what she was saying. Then I wadded the note up and put it in my pocket.
I walked through the house like a sleeping person who doesn't own a bed. I got clean clothes from the little cupboard that didn't belong to me and I went to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and tried to stop crying.
The cat came in and looked at me. He walked up to my leg and I moved my foot because sometimes in his old mind legs are things to bite. But this time he rubbed himself against my ankle and purred. I put a hand down and he rubbed against that, too, purring. I laughed while I was crying because this was the friendliest this cat had ever been.
After I petted him, Cosmo went to his litterbox under the sink and made the room smell bad. He didn't have the energy to cover-up so he just took a swipe at the sand with his paw, looked at the mess and sort of shrugged before leaving.
I used the toe of my shoe to push some sand over Cosmo's business. Story of my life, I guess. I coughed some, spit into the toilet something green and disgusting, blew my nose and dried my eyes.
I ran water in the sink to get it hot and took off my shirt and shoes. I thought I would take a sink bath and change my clothes down to my skin. I knew I didn't have time to do more before Danny and Steve came back. It didn't really seem important anyway.
While the water ran, I remembered the Wal-Mart bag Danny had given me. Something he wanted me to wear. I went looking for it because I didn't remember what I had done with it. I found it on top of the dryer in the little hall we used as a laundry room.
I took it back to the bathroom and closed and latched the door before opening the bag since Danny said no one else should see. I pulled the package out to see what it might be.
Five pairs of girl's nylon panty briefs, size small in assorted colors, pink, white, yellow, powder and mint.
I closed the lid of the toilet and sat down before I fell down. Danny had bought me underwear? Girl's underwear? And he wanted me to wear it?
I heard the big engine of a heavy car stop in front of the house. It might be Danny and Steve, back with a bag of breakfast burgers from Barney's out on the highway. Stupid face of a smiling steer in neon but they made good burgers. Their idea of a breakfast burger was ham, sausage, cheese and egg with thousand island dressing and a slice of tomato. And they had a machine that made fresh squeezed orange juice, orange by orange, just enough for your cup.
My brain locked up thinking about Barney's and trying not to think about how much I wanted to wear the pink panties in the plastic bag. How much I wanted to be Danny's girl.
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