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The Girlfriend Game, stories by Nick Antosca



Word Riot Inc.: Kicking Small Press Into High Gear
Short Stories

plans to be loved by Melissa Ann Chadburn

Listen to a reading of “plans to be loved” by Melissa Ann Chadburn.

My mom and I lived alone with her swirling brain for ten years. Ten years of late night chats and long bouts of silence. Ten years and then I got that assignment in school. My mom called.
     “Hi honey, I won’t be home tonight.”
     I heard pop music in the background.
     “Again?” I posed with a hand on my hip, the phone be-tween my cheek and shoulder.
     “Well is there any-thing-”
     “Yeah I need an egg. I need you to bring me eggs.”
     “Eggs? You hate eggs.”
     “It’s not to eat. It’s for school.”
     This was going to be complicated. Not sharing anything about myself or my schoolwork was my secret punishment for my mother. But she was going to have questions.
     “Are you cooking?”
     “No, they don’t do that anymore. I have to have a baby.”
     “Is this a joke?”
     “No, not for real, for class.”
     “Oh, well why don’t you just use something else? A potato.”
     I flopped my arms at my sides.
     “You don’t have to use an egg. Did they say it had to be an egg?”
     “Fine. I’ll use a potato.”
     I was in one of those life lessons classes where you’re paired off with a mate to simulate married life. Sometimes the play cou-plings became real couples so I was relieved to find my partner was Marcel Chatman. He had a cute teddy bear face and despite his extra weight he was equally if not more popu-lar than me because his big cousin was tight with Snoop Doggy Dogg. More importantly, I didn’t have to worry about him complicating the project by actually participating. Whenever called on in class, he would stand up, smack a desk and exclaim, “Fuck this shit!” and stomp out. These outbursts were often dedicated to someone, earmarked by one of Marcel’s winks.
     Marcel and I were to care for a child for 6 weeks. We discovered this on drawing a scrap of paper from a worn pillow-case. In the game Marcel was a used car salesman and I was a secretary. In real life Mar-cel was a drug dealer and I worked at the Penguins Frozen Yogurt shop. The fortune cookie slip of paper I pulled read, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!”
     The Life Sciences teacher glared at us, “Well it looks like you two have your work cut out for you.”
     Marcel jumped up and yelled, “Maaaan, FUCK this shit!”, and threw me a wink that fluttered my heart, then left. Looked like I was going to be a single mother, raising my child on a sec-retary’s salary. In that brief moment I had in fact become my mother.
     Marcel was sitting across from me when I pulled the po-tato out of my backpack. It was small, brown, round; I tried to pick one that didn’t look old or make me look poor. A classless potato.
     “What’s that?”
     “Ummm, it’s a potato.”
     “Aren’t we supposed to have an egg?”
     “Yeah but all I had were potatoes. Whatever, it’s not like you’re gonna do the assignment anyway.”
     Marcel bent in closer, “Yeah. Hey, you ever been pregnant?”
     “Nah.”
     “My girl got pregnant once.” Wag wag went his finger.
     Aside from the time Marcel asked me if I’d ever made out with a girl this was the most we had ever spoken.
     “Well what happened?”
     “It died. She had a miscarry.”
     “I guess it’s better that way.”
     He looked confused and angry.
     “I just meant maybe her body made a decision for her that she couldn’t make. Maybe she wasn’t ready.”
     His face softened. “Yeah, I guess, but I was gonna hook him up though. I would’a bought him all the new fly Air Jordans and lil baby Dockers and all that. I would’a…” He broke off, misty eyed. I would have liked for him to have his dream, but truth was pre-vailing all around us. Truth was we couldn’t even show up to class six weeks straight with the proper produce. Truth was I had already had sex and knew it wasn’t beautiful. Truth was even if Marcel’s big cousin was good homies with Snoop Dogg, he was over-weight, smoked too much of his own stash, and laid around playing video games and eat-ing flaming hot Cheetos all day. Truth was my mom was out with some nasty V-05-wearing guy every night, while I worked at Penguins and snuck cigarettes on our bal-cony. Truth was, dreams were happening to other people.
     “Yeah, sorry.”
     I was caressing the potato’s head.
     “So what are we gonna name this little fellow?” he held his arms out in bewilderment.
     “I dunno.”
     “Idaho?” He looked up in contemplation. I could picture the name rolling around in his mind.
     I smiled. “You da ho?”
     “No Idaho.”
     “Yeah you da ho.”
     That went on a while.
     We grew more fond of each other and Idaho. I guess we were like one of those play couples that became real couples. Except we never acknowl-edged it. The day we did it, I was wearing one of my grandmother’s floral dresses, black fishnet stockings, monkey boots, and heavy black eyeliner. I drank a 40 oz. bottle of Old English 800, which my friends and I referred to as “Old E 8 ball. I went to the bathroom to throw up. When I got out Marcel was sitting on the floor opposite the door, to make sure I was okay. He looked sweet and vulnerable, escorted me to his bedroom where he gently lifted up the skirt of my dress and pulled my fishnets down to my calves. His hands were soft and awkward. I did not wonder how attractive my body or my vagina presented. I did not wonder if I looked fat or under-shaven. Instead I just wondered what would happen next and how long this would take. He then left the room to place a con-dom under the running faucet to ensure there were no holes in it. I sat exactly where he left me, looking at the room. The walls were painted blue and decorated with photo-graphs. Baby pictures of him. I sat in the silence that was only pierced by our friends’ drinking and laughing in the other room. When he came back we kissed and at some point he replaced his fingers with his penis. He laid on top of me like this, naked from the waist down and then a short while later said, “How long should we do this for?”
     I’d been wondering exactly the same thing. I felt his pe-nis shrink and the condom sticking to the walls of my vagina. I thought there might have been more movement than this.
     “I don’t know.”
     We laid still a little longer, me looking at the ceiling, his face buried beside my neck.
     “Let’s stop.”
     “Okay.”
     He rolled off of me.
     “Let’s not do that anymore.”
     “Yeah, that was stupid.”
     We got dressed and went outside and smoked a cigarette. He stroked my hair and asked me questions: how it is to be so light skinned, to have “good hair.” What it is to have a mom that’s crazy and sexy and swears. I asked him about Snoop.

***


     Marcel’s words rang through my mind a month later as I sat in the gynecologist’s office stroking the potato. I kept it all those days after the assignment. It became a kind of stone in my pocket.
     I was not ready to be pregnant. I had plans. I had plans to be loved. To maybe—one day when I got older—adopt a child. Later. I would have a house with several rooms, one with a bed and a night light for my child. I can see everything so clear now. The crisp brown sack lunch perched at the edge of the kitchen counter, his/her name drawn on it in thick marker. “Justice,” it says and yet here I am and the blue paper gown is crunching against the examination table. The time between my exam and the results is growing longer and louder. I listen for the doctor to come back. I wait for the look of re-lief. I was going to do great things. I was going to go on a tour of sorts. I was going to board my dog in one of those fancy places where she would not miss me. Where dogs get lean and muscular and better behaved, and now here I am.
     It had been quick. So quick it felt more like a reverie. Turns out it was long enough. So much for the condom. I used to think one couldn’t get pregnant without an orgasm. Then I would recall my parents.
     Oh, I guess it’s important for me to explain that this is now, not in a time or place where this sort of thing was frowned upon. It was all above ground. Common. The room was bright and hard and sterile. I looked at the pictures on the walls. Stroked Idaho. There was a tan plastic model on the counter—happy pink uterus’ gleefully tucked fetus. Stroke stroke. I imagined that I was an alien coming to visit the planet earth for the first time. I wondered if this room would tell me anything useful. I concluded that it wouldn’t, unless of course I was of a more intelligent life form; one that was psychic. I could place my spongy palm on the Rorschach inspired fal-lopian tube poster and just know exactly what its function is.
     The doctor enters. She’s young and beautiful and looks exceptionally fresh, like she would never have my problem. Like she was all cotton and spring scented. As if her partner is Mr. Clean himself, turns out he is not gay, just really really buff with one earring and enjoys cleaning and things that are clean. Stroke Idaho. She asks if I had a chance to view the film. It’s the “abortion film,” it’s like the red asphalt of abortions. It’s a prerequisite–ensures you make an informed decision. I say “Yes.”
     Her cool speculum mocks me, shifts the air inside of me, the little flashlight sends a beam of reminiscent warmth inside, a clue, this is how it started the light whispers. My muscles clench at the thought —nothing was supposed to emulate pleasure in here.
     She gives me the pills and I take them with water.
     Marcel’s question runs through my mind, “You ever been pregnant?” I stroke the potato.
     I went home and waited. The pills were something called RU486 and Methotrexate. I tried to do some research online beforehand but everything I came across was propa-ganda geared towards teenagers. Pro-lifers informing teenagers of the perils of this deci-sion and crafting the message that they will inevitably regret it.
     So this is how it is done: you take the pills after the movie at the clinic; you go home and wait two days.
     I lay there with my head resting on my dog’s behind, a black pit bull, and my cat laid on the top of the couch just purring, her fat spilling over. I smell my neighbor frying ham-burgers. The drunk couple upstairs talking too loudly, sounds like a fight but they’re in total agreement, like Israelis discussing coffee. I lie there watching T.V.; the cramps start.
     I breathe little, trying to erase the pain. I stuff my hand in my waistband and massage my ovaries. I am scared. I reach for Idaho, shriveled on the coffee table. This is by far the most difficult thing I will do alone. I know nothing about this. I go to the toilet, hunched over, thinking of all the women before me that have done this. Without the RU486.
     “It died. She had a miscarry.”
     Marcel’s words in my head. I sit on the toilet and run a tub of hot water. My strength surprises me. I am calm, performing well under pressure. I hum. The clenching pain. I know what’s coming. My stomach and back in a garbled war. Spears in my spine. I sit doubled over.
     The toilet is perched between the bathtub and the sink. Above the sink, a small medicine cabinet. There’s a faint scent of the litter box that creeps in through the space between the bathroom and the laundry room. I blow it away and look at the ceiling.

     I start to push and I start to hum. My fat cat makes her way into the bathroom. I tell her to leave, knowing she does not respond to commands. She sits, looks, watches.
     And there it is. I feel the weight of it creeping forward. My muscles contracted, like throwing up a tampon.
     A splash. I sit longer than I need to. I do not want to see it. I do not want it to look like that stupid picture. I do not want to know. I do not know what to do next. It should be sad. I should be sadder than this, I think. I try to cry. I look around for something sad. I plunk Idaho into the toilet. All blood and guts and fake babies and real baby parts all mixed together. The hardest flush.

Melissa Ann Chadburn

About the author:

After studying law Melissa Chadburn obtained an MFA from Antioch University. She is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, a lesbian, of color, smart, edgy and fun. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Guernica, PANK Magazine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Splinter Generation, Northville Review and elsewhere. She is of African, Asian, Hispanic, Filipina, and Irish descent, and was raised by Dutch/Indonesian and British foster parents. Her mixed background has made her aware of racial and cultural differences and similarities which influence her writing. She loves pit bulls and cheese. Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at) gmail.com or follow her on twitter http://twitter.com/melissachadburn or get ripped open at http://betteranever.blogspot.com/ xoxo She loves you very very much.

    10 comments to plans to be loved by Melissa Ann Chadburn

    • Tony Press

      Gritty and beautiful, all at once.

    • I second that emotion. Fantastic.

    • Janine Lewis

      Another great read, Melissa. I love how the story grabs me from the beginning.

    • jaimie sarra

      This is an ORIGINAL!!!, I am dazzled!

    • Wow. this is totally blowing my away you guys are neat for making such nice comments and reading. Today was my favorite day so far.

    • thank god the V-05-wearing guy survived revision. love love love. this version is dead on.

      eggs! i had to bring an egg baby in once for health. my husband was adam reeger, who played sax in marching band, and you’d think that would’ve made him a solid, if dorky, dad…but no, he was deadbeat and kept the thing in his locker instead of day care. oh, and then the library–aka “day care”–got broken into by seniors and our baby got eggnapped. FUCK! well, i still graduated.

      hey look, it’s steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeve!

    • Tisha

      I love how melissa can paint a picture with her words — then make readers question their belief in actual reality. Keep writing girl! You are amazing!

    • It’s the layers that get me. Not an egg– but a potato– and all that this means in biological terms, in symbolic terms. Marcel– not quite living up to his rep (or the rep thrust upon him?). Nicely done.

    • What a vivid and touching story, Melissa! It captured all of the naivete and fear of being a teenager who is sexually active, thrust into adulthood, and in search of parental/familial love. It actually took me back to that very confusing time in my life. Beautiful story, chica. Brava!

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