HPlover's picture

I blink, turn my head to the front of the classroom and see my teacher staring down at me. Half the class is staring at me too, actually. My classmate behind me, I don’t know his name, nudges me slightly, and I gulp and repeat, "It's – er – forty-seven."
"Correct. And no more dawdling, Mr. Baxter."
I nod obediently and look down at my desk, feeling the heat in my face turning something red. But after awhile, I just can't help it. I glance casually (longingly) at the girl seated near the window, her attention so detached from the classroom I wonder what world she is in this time. 


I do this every Monday.
I know I’m being annoying. I’ve known it since the moment I started, in the winter of our sophomore year of high school. I would have started freshman year, truly I would have, but it took me a little while to get over the fear of her. Get over the fear of girls in general, their mystique, their bouncy curls and pink lips and dainty wrists and the way their bodies fold and curve under their pastel blouses in ways I just…
Oh, I’m a teenager, all right?
She’s at her locker, almost posted there as if waiting to take flight. I figure she just waits for me now, eager to get it over with.
"It's Monday."
"I'm aware."
"Would you like to go steady with me?"
She slams her locker with such force that her ponytail bounces like a spring on a board. She turns to me, a tight smile on her lips, and says, "Not this week, Kenny."
"Next Monday, then?" I call to her retreating figure and her circle skirt that sways, sways, sways against the back of her calves.


It's ironic, really, when you contrast Michelle’s attraction to me and to nearly every other girl at school. I’m not being narcissistic (okay, maybe only a little bit), it’s just true.
I pump gas down at the service station on the same street as the local diner. The owner doesn't make me wear those stuffy button ups and sports coats like the other stations do, so when I slip into my worn jeans and white tee, hair slicked back with some of my brother's pomade, the girls come flocking like a moth to a flame.
"Wow, Kenny," they chant together like muses in the chorus, "You look so cool."
"Really far out."
I smile bashfully, usually take one of them out for a milkshake later. That's my version of romance. Though it’s hard to be romantic when all I’m thinking of is how Michelle’s lips would look curved around the straw sucking vanilla ice cream out of a cup. I figure her version of romance is like striking matches against skin.


My family gets our first television set, a late Christmas gift for all of us. We eat split pea soup and tuna casserole for dinner and watch The Goldbergs together.
"They say another one of these shows is going on air soon. About a woman named Lucy."
My mother scoffs. "Women do not need to be on television."


I adjust the collar of my tartan shirt. "Any chance you'd wanna be my girlfriend?"
"Happy Monday, Kenny."
"Odds just aren't in my favor, huh?"


In between school and work and track practice and homework and parties and friends and family, my attention is caught between my real life and this imaginary life, one with an audience and a laugh track and I’m in black and white and so is she and I sing through my mouth, "Michelle, I'm homeee!"
But no – no – I think she's a three-dimensional girl born in a two dimensional world. Where we would all be in black and white, she would be the sole source of color on the screen (imagine that, colored television).


We lose the big track meet, and half of the school goes under the bleachers to get drunk, and the other half head to the diner, and my mouth almost drops when I see her, trotting alongside her tall older brother, Nathan, as they leave a finished vanilla milkshake at a red vinyl booth.
I’m walking, then I’m running, skipping, flying towards her: "Can I walk you home?"
She doesn't even get a say in because all three of us are already out the door, my letterman jacket wrapped around her against the night's cold. I give Nathan a couple of quarters to go to the arcade near the diner, and Michelle mutters a "thank you."
"Aw, don't sound so excited." I tease, and she makes a face. Silence.
"Sorry about your meet."
"You watched?"
"No. But I heard people talking."
"Yeah. Well. Better you weren't there then."
"Oh. Well..." I scrunch up my face, not knowing how to explain it. "Didn't want you to see me embarrass myself, I guess?"
"And you don't think asking me to go steady every Monday doesn't?"


"Heard you walked Bates home last night."
A round of kissing noises fill the locker room. I rub a towel on the back of my head, throw it at one of my teammates, and mumble, "Cool it."
But I wonder if under all their laughter, they can hear it. Hear the beat of my heart, how I can even feel the sickly sweet love in my bloodstream.


It's petty of me really, when I get jealous when I see her talking with other guys.
But then the laugh track that’s ever present bubbles out of me when she just blinks at them because the only real threat is Michelle herself.


"Beautiful Monday."
"Wanna go steady?"
"Oh, Kenny. Maybe next week."
That's not a no.


I doodle in math. While girls are in econ class and boys are in shop, I think I could be an artist (hah – hardly, maybe in another life), so I take pictures and put them into words instead and write poems on the side of my notes, tucked away where no one else can see, like how a kiss can be hidden in the corner of a mouth.


"We can't keep meeting like this."
"At my locker?"
"Eh, logistics," I wave it off.
"Is there something you want to ask me?"
"As a matter of fact, there is!"
"I'm baffled, truly."
"Would you go to the dance with me?"
"...That's a new one."
"So would you?"
She hesitates, her breath catching, and I cross my fingers behind my back, hoping this time she’ll say something different than her usual ‘I don’t think so’.
"You didn't say no.."
"I don't go to dances."
"Then we'll go for the food then leave."
"I don't think that's how it works."
"Then how does this work, Michelle? Please, enlighten me. I'd love to know."
We’re not talking about dances anymore, and it's in these spaces between the words that deserve the sappy music behind the soaps my sister watches. It’s in the way the beloved syllable ‘yes’ passes her lips that I lose myself, and I think maybe, just maybe, I might find her.


She fights over letting me pick her up in my tailfin car. Something about her house being too small, but I just shake my head, insisting, "nonsense, I'm only one guy. Can't take up that much room."
But she wins, of course she wins, because saying no to her is like jumping off a building and trying to fight gravity.
I wait for her in front of school, hands stuffed in my suit pockets and hair combed back slick and stylish, and it's only by chance that I see her at the most perfect moment; walking towards me, standing under the champagne moonlight, stars like silver peppers against the dark sky, and it's like she was born to be there with a full orchestra playing behind her. Her with her velvet curls and rosy lips, pinching her cotton dress between her fingers. She’s biting her lip, and I hope, by the end of the night, I might just be able to do that for her. I think, in my wildest imagination, I can be the Gable to her Lombard. Tracy to her Hepburn. Bogart to her Bacall.
She looks uncomfortable, approaches me with her brow furrowed and her arms crossed. "I look silly."
But I think she must be absolutely crazy and I grab her wrist, so small and fragile in my fingers, and pull it down so it rests by her side and I can get a proper look at her.
"I didn't know someone could be so pretty."


"You're having an awful time, aren't you?"
She sighs, forcing a smile. "I'm all right."
"Come on, let's get outta here."
"No, really."
"You really are a lousy liar."
"When have I ever lied to you?"
"Only every Monday."


I fidget with the poem in my left hand and drive with my right. I haven’t come all this way, haven’t loved her for this long to just drive her home. I don’t know where I’m going, just moving aimlessly to kill time and work up the courage to pass a simple note, to hand it to her, like one current passing through another.
And when I hand it to her, I can feel my heart leap to my throat, and I want to fold her up in my note and in her answer and breathe it in until she relaxes in the absoluteness of it. I start to recite the words in my head, words I’ve uttered every Monday for a year and a half, but this time it feels different..
Michelle Bates...would you go steady with me?
And then my mind goes fuzzy and dark and eventually blank, like the television set in my home, with it's black and white pictures, quiet then no sound.


The next morning, Mrs. Baxter turns on the television, expecting to see Lucille Ball on the black and white screen. She waits all morning by the door for her son to get home, he’s just never come home this late after a party before. The notes of the 12 o’clock headlines comes on, and habit pulls her to look at the screen. The news anchor reveals his somber headline, and Mrs. Baxter goes absolutely still.
"Two teens killed by a drunk driver in a car accident after their prom night."

jacketbundock's picture

Gah. Oh my dear Lord. This is

Gah. Oh my dear Lord. This is so... so... well there's really not a word to describe it... none will do it justice. It's just not fair how quickly my feelings were pulled out and ripped and enlightened, and oh my, just the emotion... This is fantastic. Brilliant. You are a magnificent writer. This is something very special. 

 People say if you look down, you will fall, but if you look up, will you fly?

HPlover's picture

Although I'm sorry your

Although I'm sorry your emotions were torn to shreds, that was the idea! Thank you so much!

I hope you see the world for how it really is. 

gg's picture


I find this to be a refreshing, imaginative piece -- even though it is wrapped around a familiar theme/idea. Nicely done. I like the style of it, the snatches of scenes and the progression of the characters. The spareness of it adds to the sensation of an almost obsession the main character has in trying to win over Michelle. You have a strong, direct writing style that adds to this. And you have a really good handle on dialogue -- one of the hardest things to do, I think. So thank you.

A couple of thoughts: I found the opening scene a bit hard to understand. Wasn't sure the significance of 47 or what, exactly was going on. For instance, who says the opening line? ... If the intention is to show that the character is daydreaming, is there a way to do that so the reader (old guy like me) doesn't start with a bit of confusion. I would say that this was the only spot where I got a bit confused.

The ending is, well,  unexpected and credible, interesting and arresting, but ... it also hovers so closely to a cliche. And why do you want them to die? 

And just a little detail issue... While we never had a TV growing up (a lot of folks didn't; it was after all, the '50s) when I did travel to visit my aunt in NYC, programming stopped at 11 and was usually followed by the national anthem (flag waving in breeze) and then the test pattern which was displayed until 6 a.m. for a farm show. There weren't news bulletins and news was at 6. ... So your details on this score didn't quite ring true. ... Perhaps a phone call could achieve the same thing? Cops at the door? A teacher/principal at the door? 

An ambitious and highly readable piece. Thanks so much for sharing this.


geoff gevalt

ywp farmhand & general instigator

God, this is so well written

God, this is so well written and sad and beautiful and....just wow. Really something to be proud of! 

once in a lifetime, all the stars align. 


It's possible to write something that good? I mean I would buy a book of short stories if that was in it.