The Nova was rusted out from winter salt, and Dale was beautiful like no boy. He’d pull into the parking lot of my father’s chicken stand at closing time and idle there until I came out. He liked me that way, all smoke and grease and salt.
We drove most of the night, chasing any light we could find in the sky, swirling fries in barbecue sauce, singing bad harmony to WDVE. The light was a ghost whose robe you have to touch in order to be transported. The light took us to midnight special car dealerships, hootenanny carnivals, wastewater treatment plants, Route 30 crashes.
I had thought boys wanted dark places.
No one knew what to make of us. So they called him a faggot and me a slut, which might have been all true or half true, but not in a way that was entirely true. Hey bitches, I would say to those tennis skirt girls from third period study hall. He’s my fucking boyfriend. You got a problem with that?
On the fourth of July we sat on top of the Nova in the American Legion parking lot. On some distant stage, band geeks played Sousa as we waited for the day to darken. I wanted to clutch Dale’s hand but instead I fingered the rust. It flaked like dead skin.
Here was the story he told: July 4th of his eighth year shooting his younger brother with a BB gun, blinding him in one eye that was still shattered and lazy. Before that, Dale said, he hadn’t any memory. No first day of school. No sparklers. There was only this and what came next.
Above us, the colors burst and rained, alien universes exploding with psychedelic abandon.
My story hadn’t happened yet. It wouldn’t exist until October when my brother was feared dead in Beirut, surviving and returning only to hang himself in our back woods from the witch-armed branch of our favorite tree, his and mine, sassafrass. So instead I gave Dale this one: July 4th between 7th and 8th giving it up to a nameless older guy from the next town over who managed Skee Ball at the Joyland arcade. I hadn’t known how to undo something I had begun, and snuck off during the school picnic to meet him in the supply room; all the animal prizes looking on—plush porpoises in unnatural hues, giant bananas with stupid smiles. And a bed of flattened cardboard below us. I told it laughing, and Dale let me, and we laughed together for a time until he said, I hate that story.
Well I hate yours, asshole.
The grand finale, he said, as all the stars in the heavens climaxed, catching the whole world on fire, burning it to a crisp except for us.
Where to, he said, jumping to the gravel then reaching up to catch me.
About the author:
Ann Lightcap Bruno lives in Cranston, Rhode Island and teaches English at the Wheeler School in Providence. Her stories and essays have appeared in such publications as Sweet, Alimentum, Painted Bride Quarterly, Talking Writing and Barrelhouse. She occasionally Tweets @annlbruno.