Oct 292014

Bennie knocked on Pattie’s door.

No answer.

“Hey, Pattie, you there?”

No answer.

“Come on, I know you’re in there. Your mom said so.”

Silence. He knocked again, louder, three bangs, a little brave and brazen, he knew, but he was a boy on a mission. The door rattled on its hinges.

“Pattie! Talk to me!”

“Yeah, what?”

“I want in. Can I come in? I’ve got the study notes,” he said, patting two folded-up pages stuck in his pocket.

No answer.

“Pattie come on. You know I’ll be nice.”

“No I don’t,” came the reply, but the door opened a crack. He paused a second, then stepped in. Pattie was on her bed, one leg folded under the other, head down, bent over her phone. Next to her, folded up like a baseball glove and wedged against some throw pillows, was Pig, her lumpy brown mutt, who sometimes came with Pattie to Band practice.

“Hey,” he said sweetly. He was aiming for a nice, honeyed tone, well-modulated.

“Hey yourself,” she said, in a flat voice, busy staring at the screen, texting, her fingers moving with a graceful, fluid intelligence that belied her placid, blank, death-mask expression.

“Whatcha doin? ¿Que pasa?”


“Looks like you’re doin’ something. Algo.” (They were in Spanish III Honors together.)

“Looks deceive, looks can kill, nunca olvidare, William Tell,” she said in the same dull tone.

“Right,” Bennie said. He found her nonsense rhymes annoying and intriguing, like the characters in the Jane Austen book he was reading in English class. Was she making shit out of him? Teasing him? Inviting him to play along? Figuring her out had become the paramount quest of his junior year. That, and getting into her pants, which amounted to the same thing, the way he saw it. Pants, head.

Still, he had no reply for her. Who could answer a line like that?

Having never penetrated this far into her inner sanctum – he fought down a nervous shudder, as if his body were about to seize up – seemingly ignored and taken with curiosity, he looked around.

Dominating the room were two large posters, on facing walls. One was of Prince, in mid-air, scissor-kicking, with his guitar aimed straight up, eyes closed, blissed out. Behind him was the vast armamentarium of a modern rock concert hall: huge lights and screens hung on cross beams and giant amps stacked like pallets on a container ship. Thousands of people were on their feet holding up lighted cell phones that made it all look like a convention of fireflies. He didn’t get it, her fascination with Prince; he played acoustic guitar and clarinet and liked James Taylor and Benny Goodman.

The other poster, looking back at Prince from the facing wall with what seemed like regret or disapproval, was an ink sketch of a young man with long dark hair, in a black jacket, white shirt, collar open, quill in hand, poised to write. Underneath it read: “I silently laugh at my own cenotaph / And out of the caverns of rain / Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb / I arise and unbuild it again.”

“Cool,” Bennie said, wondering just what it meant.

“What’s cool?”

“Oh, nothing,” Bennie said, trying to emulate her affectlessness. He thought maybe studied coolness could induce her out of her text-induced coma. But no, she just kept her head down, fingers floating across the screen like the anemone he saw on his nephew’s fish video.

Which reminded him. Was it too soon to play his ace? Probably, but he was impetuous and what the hell.

“Hey, you like Phish, don’t you? I have two tickets to see ’em next month, at the Coliseum. Wanna go?”

She looked up. “Really? Sounds like a find, keep it in mind,” she said, and went back to her phone.

Fuck, he thought. Played it too soon. Not only didn’t she say yes, she was giving him some more shit too.

“Well, don’t wait too long to make up your mind, OK?”


Defeated, he went back to looking around. On the desk was a pile of notebooks, her Spanish III text, with which he was familiar, and another labeled “AP History.” The cover was a maze of her doodles: endless figures and faces encircled by elaborate calligraphies that reminded him of the photos of the Alhambra they had seen in class. Next spring, Señora Baez promised, the top ten students would be going to Spain. All-expenses paid and no parental chaperones. Pattie would go for sure. He was studying hard.

Next to the schoolbooks, below the Prince poster, in plain sight, was a glass container half-filled with what looked like weed and two small wooden pipes.

“Hey, whadda we have here?” he asked and bent over to give the stash a half-sniff, like a waiter might do in some fancy restaurant before serving up the ’87 Bordeaux. His father ran such a restaurant, in the city, where Bennie worked summers and holidays, and he knew about such things.

“Stay away from my shit,” Pattie said without lifting an eyebrow.

He backed off. “So…” Bennie said, pretending to be bored.

“Yeah. Yup. Uh huh.” Still texting. She might be a statue with moveable fingers.

“You may recall? I stopped by? Your mom let me in? Said I’d find you in your room? Too bad she was wrong.”

“Ha,” Pattie hooted. “Good one.” Still texting.

Enough. Bennie leaned over and plucked the phone from Pattie’s grip in a delicate maneuver, like picking fuzz off a stranger’s coat. Pattie stiffened and, for the first time, looked at him straight on.

“Hey, asshole, give me back my phone! I’ll give you to three.”

“Not till you tell me what you’re doing.”

“I’m texting, whaddya think. Now let me have the phone or I’ll stomp on your little dick…”

“That’d be nice,” he smirked. Good one!

Pattie glowered, her face going red, he could see it coloring, which gave her cheeks a soft, sexy glow. He liked looking at her face, looked at her in Spanish so often some of the other kids, girls, would giggle and whisper to him, “¿Su Novia?”

“Texting who?” Bennie kept the phone behind his back, like a basketball player looking to pass.

“Whom. Texting whom.”

“OK, whom, whomever, whatever.”

“Paulie. Now enough, let me have the phone.”

Hmm, troubling development. Bennie didn’t know a Paulie.

“Lemme see.” He held the phone up, as if reading. “I love you, Paulie. I love everything about you, even that humongous zit on your ass, like a third cheek.”

Pattie sprang out of the bed and tried to grab the phone back.

“OK, OK, settle down. I was just teasing.” He handed her the phone.

“What a dick head,” she said, and resettled on the bed to resume texting. Pig repositioned himself, yawned, then went back to sleep. “Really, that was so unfunny.”

But she didn’t kick him out, didn’t really even seem to mind.

“OK, I’m a dick head,” he said. “Can you like talk for a minute like a real person before you resume texting – with whom.”

“OK, a minute.” She flashed him an expression that hinted, he thought, of the Mona Lisa he had seen in pictures: round cheeks, perfect brows, long dark hair, slender fingers and that ever-so-slight, mysterious little smile. Or maybe it was boredom. At least she was looking at him.

“Uhm, yeah,” he shifted from leg to leg, straining to engage. “So who’s Paulie? Whom’s Paulie?”

She laughed, but didn’t answer, just held his gaze in that hypnotic way of hers, when she was teasing him.

“Wait, I know,” he said. “He’s that geeky kid in science, right, the one with funny teeth who wears the Goth shades and the weird hats. Or no, wait, he’s the tall kid on the football team, the one who broke his nose at last month’s practice. Is that him?”

“No and definitely no,” she said, resuming her texting.

Bennie sighed, and turned around, regrouping, pretending to resume his circumnavigation of her room. “So don’t mind me, I’ll just go all invisible like.”

“Go ahead, knock yourself out.”

He spun back around. “Or maybe he’s that serial murderer guy they arrested a while ago over in Sycamore. That’s him, isn’t it?”

She laughed. Sweet. But she still didn’t look up. “Nothing so dramatic. Paulie’s my brother.”

“Really? You have a brother? I didn’t know.”

“Why should you?” she said, looking up at him.

“I dunno,” he said, a little hurt. “I thought I knew a few things. About you.”

“Like what?” There was that M.L. smile again, ever so slight. And the M.L. gaze, direct and penetrating. She had that dirty brown hair and those hazel green eyes he liked – was imprisoned by – and she was tall and slim and angular in a way that reminded him of some models and actresses he had seen, maybe Audrey Hepburn or Gwyneth Paltrow.

“Oh, you know, good things: smart, funny, cute.” She didn’t take the bait, so he went on. “What’s he like, your brother? Is he sweet, kinda like you?” He said this with a knowing lilt in his voice, it was so clearly outrageous: she was a lot of things, but sweet wasn’t one of them. But he thought she might play along.

She rewarded him with another laugh. “Way sweeter.” Score one, at least.

“Where’s he live?” Bennie asked, executing a slight forward maneuver that took him to the edge of the bed, which he turned into, deftly, to seat himself on the edge of. Still distant and decorous, he hoped. She didn’t seem to notice, or if she did, to mind, though Pig, with his large snout (hence the name) and preternatural sense of smell, perked up at once, opened one eye, fixed him with a skeptical look, and went back to sleep.

“He’s in the Navy, Sixth Fleet,” she said, gazing again at the phone, as if he might be in it. “We don’t know where, he can’t tell us. He might be off the coast of Italy or he might be in the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea, near Afghanistan. From the sublime to the wickedness.”

“Wow, yeah. Arabian Sea? I saw this movie with Tom Hanks, a true story about this boat he captained that was captured by pirates in the Arabian Sea. He was almost killed.”

Pattie shot him a death-ray stare. Oops, bad move, he thought, suddenly aware he’d sailed into hostile waters.

But she settled on a mild rejoinder. “His ship would blow those little pigs right out of the water.”

Pig’s ears twitched.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Bennie said relieved. And he still had her attention.

“Hey, so…what else is new?”

Pattie cocked her head slightly to one side, looking at him as if from a different perspective, the way a dog does trying to size up its owner.

“So,” she asked pleasantly, “are you like trying to hit on me?”

“Whoa,” Bennie said, ratcheting his head back as if he’d been struck. “Moi? Ha! Why would you say that?”

“Oh, I’m thinking maybe it was those photos I sent you a while back? Just a little guess, you’d wanna see some more of that stuff, in the raw, in the buff.”

“Ah hahahaha,” Bennie laughed. “Yeah, that was great! But I wouldn’t want to, you know, uh, push myself on you.”

Pattie barked a short laugh like a seal and even clapped her hands. “Ha, good one. I bet you would though.”

She looked at him with – what? Interest? Disgust? Combativeness? She was so damn hard to read.

They looked at each other, playing who-would-blink-first. It was Bennie, of course. He always did, he was no match for her, he knew.

“Say, let me ask you a question, can I?” she asked. “May I?” she corrected herself. He looked back up, encouraged.

“Sure,” he said, though sorry she was changing the subject.

“What do you think of my mom? Like, at the door, when you came in.” Odd: a serious question.

“Your mom?” He screwed up his face to think. “She’s nice, I guess. I mean I really didn’t notice anything.”

He was now an inch or two closer to her, leaning in a little on the bed, maybe two feet away, so close he could smell, not a perfume so much as a sweet fragrance, like baby shampoo maybe, and the odor of her skin, fresh and outdoorsy, and which he noticed for the first time was tanned and ruddy and lightly freckled. Almost giddy, he had to hold himself back from toppling over into her lap.

“Nice? Nothing else? Come on, you can do better than that.”

“Uhm, let’s see.” He thought about Mrs. Gunderson. Short, kinda frumpy, heavy makeup, messy lipstick, hair tangled and falling down her back. Slow talker. Dressed in a robe and slippers in the middle of day. But so what? His mother dressed like that too, sometimes, when she wasn’t working at the restaurant.

“I dunno. She wasn’t dressed up, if that’s what you mean.”

“You didn’t spot anything, maybe?”

He thought about it some more. He wanted to get this right. “Well, uhm, she wears a lot of makeup. And she has some strange tic with her neck. Ya know, just a little thing, like when someone tickles you. She jerks it down, like she’s trying to squash a bug that’s landed there. Maybe she’s, I dunno, allergic?”

Pattie sounded a tiny, exasperated laugh. “Never mind.” She went back to texting.

Fuh-uhck. He had failed the test. He got off the bed and went back to the poster of the dude in the sketch. Beneath it, he noticed, was her trumpet. They also played in band together, which is how he first met her, last year.

“Well, whaddya think of my mom?” he asked, turning around to try this new tack.

“Your mom? Dolores? She’s a schiz.”

“My mom?” Mock indignant. “She is not! She’s perfectly nice. You’re a schiz.”

“Hey, you finally caught on,” Pattie said, but with the same bored monotone as before.

“I got it. About your mom, I mean.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Well, she’s five-foot-two, eyes of blue…” he danced around the floor a little, snapping his fingers. He thought this was good.

“Right,” Pattie said, rolling her eyes. She went back to her phone.

“No, really, what was I supposed to see?” He tried to sound caring and interested, but he had no idea where she was going with it and thus was bumping along in the dark.

She kept texting. He began to suspect that she’d hit “send” five minutes ago and was just playing with her phone out of boredom or teasing him to see how long he took to get the joke. Or to leave. Hey, he could take a hint.

“Maybe I should go,” he said. “I’ve got a lotta homework. Spanish, Jane Austen, organic chemistry.” He was hoping she’d be impressed.

At which moment Pig sat up, stretched, yawned, and let out a loud fart.

“Good one, Pig!” Pattie said, leaning forward to pet him under the chin. Bennie chortled. “Yeah, good one, big guy.” The smell wafted across the bed and they both went “ewww,” then laughed at the synchronicity. Pig wagged his tail, happy to be the center of attention.

“Hey, Bennie, don’t go,” Pattie said, with what seemed for the first time like a normal sentiment. “I’m done texting. I’ve got a lot of homework too, but what the fuck.”

She bounced off the bed and grabbed him by the waist. “Hey, wanna dance?”

“Dance?” Bennie said. Was she giving him more shit?

“Yeah, listen to this.” She fiddled with her phone and a song came up.

Yo baby, twerkin’, it ain’t my thing,

Glory be, I ain’t your airplane’s ping…

There was a heavy bass beat, the kind that made cars bounce up and down like strippers at a club, which he detested. She came up to him and started thrusting her pelvis into his, meanwhile rubbing his crotch with both hands.

Whoa! Surprised, he edged back, but not enough to stop grinding along with her.

I gotta get over the border, where my law meets your order,

And impress you with the things only God can reconnoiter.

Christian crack music?

She took his hand and twirled him around like an Olympic skater until, dizzy, he started to fall, grabbing at her, and then, crumpling like a boxer, onto the floor. He heaved for breath while Pattie stood over him, doubled in laughter, the two almost in synch.

Don’t tell me you’re done texting, with the message still unsent,

Whisper dirty sex pearls and I’ll let myself go spent.

Christian crack porn music, he decided, still out of breath.

There were three loud knocks at the door, slow and steady. They rang through the room like shots.

“What?” Pattie yelled so loud his ears constricted. Pig got up and barked.

“Pattie, what are you doing in there?” a voice on the other side of the door shouted.

“Whaddya think, Mom? We’re being rude and doing the nasty.”

“Pattie, stop. Stop. Just stop it,” her mother said, in her slow, thick voice, more pleading than commanding.

Pattie opened the door a crack, the same width she had opened it for Bennie.

“It’s OK, Mom, see?” She opened it a bit more, so Mrs. Gunderson could peek in, but kept herself wedged in the opening like a doorstop.

By this time Bennie had gotten up and straightened himself out. He was standing in the corner, by the Prince poster. Pig, satisfied the ruckus had played itself out, curled himself back up against the pillows and closed his eyes.

“See, everything’s OK,” Pattie said to her mother in a patient, almost patronizing voice. “Nothing to see here. Nothing to be here. All on board. No reward.”

Her mom looked at Pattie, then at Bennie. He shrunk slightly from her gaze, like a spider shriveling under a magnifying glass. With his peripheral vision, not wanting to make direct eye contact, he could see her rumpled hair and the pancake makeup that made her otherwise pleasant face seem like a mask, almost. Her robe was belted tightly at the waist. He saw what looked like brown stains of oatmeal or maybe coffee trailing down the front. She looked, he thought, homeless, as well as sad and lonely.

“Yes, Mrs. Gunderson,” he said pleasantly, trying to emulate Pattie’s bland response and to bring a touch of normalcy to the situation. “I’m fine. We’re…fine.” So lame.

“Pattie,” Mrs. Gunderson said. “Please?”

“Yes, Mrs. Gunderson,” Pattie said and pushed the door closed. It clicked and they waited a few seconds for her mom’s slippered footfalls to retrace their steps down the hall.

Pattie turned to Bennie. “Always good for a laugh.” She jumped onto her bed and curled up next to Pig, looking…pensive, he thought. Or maybe pissed.

“Don’t be that way. Your mom’s so nice. She’s sweet.”

“Oh yeah. Mom’s nice. She’s sweet. What a mom.” She closed her eyes, and without opening them, said, so softly he couldn’t really make it out: “Mom’s a tard.”

“A what?”

“She’s a tard, a tard. Tard tard tard. Is that so hard?”

Pattie absent-mindedly stroked Pig under his chin. With her other hand she picked up the phone, which in the melee had landed on the floor next to her bed, and lightly flitted her fingers across the screen.

“Excuse me? A tard?”

“Yup. That’s what I said. Tard.” She didn’t look up.

“Ohhhhh-kayyyy,” he exhaled. He was failing another test. “I’ll bite. What’s a tard?”

“Tard? As in re-tard? Mom’s cognitively im-paired. Needs re-pair. Nothing’s there. Get it? ¿Comprende?”

“Hey, that’s mean,” Bennie said, feeling strangely compelled to defend Mrs. Gunderson. “I think you’re mean to say that.”

“Fuck you,” Pattie spat. “Ever live with a tard?”

Bennie scrambled for a response. “No. But my mom can act dumb sometimes. And what about your dad? He lives with her, doesn’t he?”

“He’s a tard too. But he works. He has a job at the bottling plant. Sweeps dust balls off the floor, yeah. Dust balls, fuzz crawl, must fall.”

“What’s your dad like?” Bennie asked.

“Oh, he’s OK, he’s nice enough. ‘Tall Paul,’ they call him at the plant.”

“Wow. Two tards,” Bennie said in some wonderment. “And your brother’s in the Navy and you’re like all-AP.”

“Yeah. Go figure. Genes are funny.”

“Uh huh.” He was struggling to say the right thing, for a change. “No one’s perfect, hey.”

“Hey, tell me,” she looked up at him. “Jesus and Siddhartha abandoned their families and Gandhi slept naked with his nieces.”

“Whoa? Really? Where’d you hear that?”

“Oh, I read stuff,” she said, with what he swore was a wink.

“That Gandhi – what a perv!” Bennie laughed.

They both laughed.

“But they turned out pretty good, didn’t they,” Bennie said helpfully.

“Yeah, I guess,” Pattie said softly. “Hey.” She gave him a serious look he wasn’t sure how to interpret.

“You wanna do it,” she whispered. It was somehow not a question.

His heart lurched. “What, here? Now? With your mom just down the hall?”

“Not a problem,” Pattie said. “She’s got the TV blasting.”

“She does? I don’t hear anything. How do you know?”

“Because that’s what she does, watches TV all the time. Cartoons and soaps and documentaries. That’s what the tards like to look at.”

She laughed, and then got serious. “Listen, do you want to do it or not? Because if you don’t, I’ll just go back to my phone and you can go home and play with your bone.”

”I…I don’ have a rubber,” he said, and pulled at his pockets as if that would produce one.

“Hey, aren’t you sweet. But it’s OK, I’m like good with that.”

“Really? Well, yeah. I mean, I dunno. Sure, I guess. Are you sure?”

“Enough talk,” Patty said. She bounced off the bed and pulled him to her. He didn’t have a chance to think, other than: this is why I came over here. Isn’t it?

They kissed, heavily, and she pulled him backwards, toppling onto the bed with him on top of her like a coverlet. She grabbed a blanket to pull over them and they groped at each other, under the blanket, without any preliminaries or finesse. Pig, disturbed from his sleep, rose with some dignity and jumped down.

“Oh oh oh,” she began to moan and Bennie, though he was not yet feeling or actually fully aroused, did the same. Her voice mounted steadily in pitch and volume, filling the room. “Ohhhhh, oh shit oh shit, OH SHIT.”

There was another bang on the door.

“Oh shit,” Pattie said, stopped cold but breathing heavily. “What now? What do you want?” This last word shouted so loud Bennie’s ears rang again.

“Pattie, Pattie. What’s going on?” asked Mrs. Gunderson in her slow, thick monotone, through the door.

“I can’t believe it,” Pattie whispered, only partly emerged from under the blanket. Bennie held his breath and ducked further underneath, as if he could burrow his way outside.

“What? What do you want now?” Pattie yelled.

“Pattie, what’s going on?” Mrs. Gunderson repeated.

Pattie sat up on the bed and smoothed her T-shirt. “Mom, it’s OK. Nothing’s going on. Go away.”

“You’re making so much noise and the bed was banging,” Mrs. Gunderson said in a plaintive voice, and opened the door a crack to look in. She jerked her head a little in agitation. “I don’t like it.”

“Mom, mom. Nothing’s going on. We were just playing around a little, OK? Nothing serious. Right Bennie?” She poked at the blanket where he hid, until he lifted his head out, turtle style, and said with a shy and (hopefully) ingratiating smile, “Uh, huh, that’s right, Mrs. Gunderson. Nothing serious.”

“You kids,” Mrs. Gunderson said. “Pattie, you can’t do that with Benjamin. He’s a good boy. And you’re a good girl. You’re both too young for these things.”

“I know Mom,” Pattie said. “We’re too young.”

“Besides,” Mrs. Gunderson added, “you haven’t done your homework.”

“Mom, really, we’re fine. You can go.”

“It’s not fine, it’s naughty. Not nice – to me and to Benjamin.” She tic-ed a little more sharply, giving the impression of someone trying to get water out of her ear.

“Oh, I’m OK, Mrs. Gunderson. Really,” Bennie said, somewhat fascinated and at the same time disconcerted by her movements.

“You kids should put your clothes on – both of you – and come into the family room. I was watching a nice program about snakes and lizards and things. You can watch with me.”

“Mom, I’m not interested in snakes and lizards,” Pattie said. “Bennie and I were making out is all. We’ll stop. We’ve already stopped. Now leave, so Benny can get dressed. Just go away.” She climbed out from the bed, as if demonstrating her sincerity.

There was an awkward silence while Mrs. Gunderson looked at them.

“Pattie, I hate it when you treat me that way,” she said with some emotion. “Like I’m stupid, like I’m dumb. I’m not stupid and I’m not dumb. I know I love you and you’re a wonderful girl. I know we are lucky to be together. We’re lucky to have a good family, lucky Paulie’s away in the Navy where they’re taking good care of him and he’s learning a job. I’m lucky to have your father…”

“Yeah Mom, we’re lucky. I know that.”

Bennie pulled the blanket closer to him, as if he could ward off the painful dialogue – Mrs. Gunderson’s pain and Pattie’s contempt.

“You think I’m stupid. But I’m not,” she repeated. “All daughters think their mother is stupid. I thought so too. But mothers are smart. They know a lot. They know right from wrong. You listen to me, do you hear?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“You think you’re stuck with dumb parents. I know that’s how you feel. But you should know how we feel. We feel we’re the luckiest people in town. We have two regular kids, smart kids, even. Can you imagine how that feels, to your father and me? That we can have regular children? Our parents didn’t even want us to have a family. They tried to stop us. But we wanted one. And now we have one – a good family.”

“Mom, it’s OK,” Pattie said. “I’m sorry.”

“That we can be regular ourselves, with nice kids and a nice little place to live and a job where your father can work. Why shouldn’t we have these things? Other people do. Why shouldn’t we?”

Bennie thought he saw the first glistening of tears on her face. It was embarrassing and sad to hear these plaintive questions. And yet, wasn’t she saying she was proud and happy? What was wrong with that?

“You should have those things, Mom,” Pattie said, with what sounded to Bennie like genuine sincerity. “You should. And you do. It’s nice here. It’s OK. We may not be your usual family, like the Johnsons next door. But we’re nice. It’s good. It’s OK.”

“Thank you Pattie. Thank you,” Mrs. Gunderson said. Her tics had stopped, mostly.

“OK, I gotta practice and do some homework” Pattie said, suddenly re-energized. “Can everyone like clear out?”

“OK Pattie,” her mom said. “Come into the kitchen, you too, Benjamin, and have a snack. I’ll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And put out a glass of milk. For the two of you.”

“OK Mom, we’ll be right there.”

But instead of leaving Mrs. Gunderson stepped up to Pattie and, being much shorter, stretched up to give her a kiss on her cheek. Pattie bristled, ever so slightly, then gave Bennie a resigned rolling-eyes look and a soft smile – that ML smile again! – and bent down and kissed her mother on the top of her head.

Mrs. Gunderson brightened and pattered back out into the hall. They watched her disappear.

“OK, Bennie,” Pattie said finally. “Show’s over. Get dressed.”

“Does that happen very often?” Bennie asked, pulling himself out from under the covers and tucking his shirt into his pants.

“What, my mom erupting and all?”


“No, I think she’s going through some shit, maybe menopause.”

“Or maybe she’s worried about you,” Bennie said.

Pattie eyed Bennie carefully. “Yeah, maybe. Maybe she is. OK, hot stuff, get your shirt on and let’s go have our PB&J.”

“So who are the Johnsons?” Bennie asked as they left the room. “Is he that weird kid in band?”


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