Cherrie

Things haven’t been so bad since I got stuck on my shelf.

People like to move and do different things. People get bored sitting in one place all the time. But not me. Maybe the spell or curse or whatever it was also made me more complacent.

“Cherry, can you come clear these dishes?” my mother yelps from the kitchen downstairs. I can barely hear her through the door. My eyes are glued to the pages of Go Down Moses, which I was supposed to read for school two months ago. “This is so fucking brilliant,” I say as quiet as I can.

“Well?” She’s in the doorway, now, looking at me with that frenzied expression of someone who’s just run a foot race while mixing a cake and doing a tax return. I stifle a laugh and put the book down on the bed.

Georgie is parked six inches from the tv, as usual, watching cartoon heroes beat the shit out of one another. The index finger of his left hand is secured in his left nostril. I don’t speak to him as I walk behind him. And I’m sure he doesn’t know I’m there.

I purposely scratch the tines of forks on the plates I scrape into the bin. “Can you stop that?” my mother yells from the bathroom.

I look at my phone: no messages. I want to go online in the living room but I hate sitting with my back to Georgie booger boy. I never know what I’ll brush out of my hair.

Outside I go, after running back up to get the book. On the step, the concrete is cold and feels almost wet through my shorts. I’ve heard before that people get hemorrhoids from sitting on cold concrete, but I can’t believe it’s true. Whatever hemorrhoids are. I make a mental note to look them up when I get back to the computer.

“Hey, Cherrie.” It’s Maggie Risa. She’s been out jogging and has now paused her actual movement and is bouncing on the walkway in front of me. She’s lightly pumping her arms and kicking her heels so high she’s almost hitting herself in the butt. But her sports bra must be designed well because her boobs are completely stationary. She looks like a hyper animated mannequin. That’s not cruel, by the way.

“Hey.”

“How’d you do?”

“In what?”

“School,” she smiles. Her breathing is making her words sound funny.

“Oh, pretty good. Except for English,” and I hold up the book.

She makes a face. “Ugh, I hated that.” I swear I see her nostrils close together like she’s actually pinching them in response to a bad smell.

“Hmmm, me too.” I nod. “How’d you do?”

“Oh, I did good,” she nods.

The trees cast darker shadows the later it gets. They get long but what I notice is the colour. I want to slip into the outline of the tree in the yard and feel the grass without colour on my cheek. But the idea of getting dirt or (worse) bugs in my hair bothers me too much, so I stay on the step.

It’s too dark to read. I check my phone. It lights up and tells me no one is thinking about me. I poke around a bit to verify. Yup.

Georgie has gone to bed. Banished to dreamland. I flop on the couch feeling unrequited, although I have no one and nothing in mind. I wish this was one of those funny old couches, with only one arm rest, so I could be more supine and demure and melancholic as I sigh. Sigh.

“Where were you?” my mother looks more calm now and more refined. She’s traded in her sweat pants for a skirt and blouse. She has eyeliner on. She looks pretty. “I just called Angela to babysit.”

“I was on the step.”

“Why?” She doesn’t believe me. She probably thinks I was out somewhere smoking a joint. That’s her normal thought. “Anyway, I gotta go. She’s probably on her way. Send her home when she gets here and give her this.” She gives me ten dollars.

“What do I get?”

I can never find anything good on television if I’m bored.

The computer verifies what my phone told me earlier – no one is thinking of me. I take a picture of myself on the couch with my lips pouted and post it as a new default. I turn up the contrast a bit, first, to make my hair look darker.

Little Angie is in the doorway. She has a wooden box under her arm I know contains paper and pencils and markers and perhaps some tubes of paint and crayons and brushes. “Your services are no longer required,” I tell her, and immediately feel like an idiot.

“Oh?”

“But come in, anyway,” I say and glide as gracefully as I can back from the doorway, sweeping my right arm away and back. I still feel idiotic, but at least I’m more fully entrenched in dorkiness.

Angie is my age but less than four feet tall. She’s very pretty in a miniature sort of way. But what I like about her is that she’s so very neat. Every movement she makes is tidy. I think she can clean a room just by entering. And I’ve never seen her knees not touching.

“I have ten dollars for you.”

“What for?”

“Babysitting me,” I try to grin.

“Haha!”

I wish my hair was as soft as a rabbit. I wish my face was as smooth as a baby.

The book feels heavy in bed. I push pillows and try to sit higher but slide back down under the sheet, very slowly. Night eats my intentions and I know I must sleep.

I can’t think of a life. And that must be what puts me here. I know of a sequence of events. I know of being more than a plastic ornament. But I can’t think it’s real. That’s why being here is so much better. It doesn’t bother me no one wants to take me down to play.

I do wonder about love. The pillows are nice under my head. The sheet is not yet too hot.

When I get up in the morning, I’m going to go jogging.

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