Listen to a podcast of Joe Stracci's 'My Bike Shorts Are Not Yours, Or My Bulge.'
"Georgie's in O.R.," Nurse said.
"No," Nurse said. "Still."
"Still? Doing what?"
"Cleaning the floor."
No," Nurse said again. "Still."
Excerpted from Whitney, a novel
I've been whistling the march from The Nutcracker for an hour. I can't stop. If I miss the high note at the end, I curse myself. The glass of iced tea I'm drinking was made from a powdered mix. The grains didn't dissolve completely. I'm chewing my drink. My lips are dry from whistling so much.
Whitney says, "The trick is to dissolve the mix in hot water. Sugar dissolves at a high temperature. I bet you used cold tap water."
Whitney thinks she knows everything because she watches the Food Network all day. I think I know everything because I know everything.
"We fit each other like a pair of bike shorts," I tell her. She stops reading Destination I Do. I keep whistling.
"Stop," she says, "and repeat what you just said."
"We fit each other like a pair of bike shorts. Mine, not yours. Because my shorts have a bulge. It's the lump on our love. A tumor that we just live with. It draws attention to the fact that my privates are about a thirty-second of an inch away from rubbing on furniture. But to survive so close to the skin—there's a resiliency there that can't be ignored. Can't be good for your junk, though."
Whitney makes a swan out of a subscription card from Modern Bride. She pours some tea onto the coffee table, places the swan in the gritty lake, and pushes it in my direction.
I pick up my drink, sip some, and say, "Well that was a waste."
She says, "You're pretty fucking oblivious, aren't you?"
I say, "Are you telling me, or are you asking me?" I turn up the volume on the TV, because the show about people who can't dance is on. They're judging who the worst is, and apparently, that's the person who wins. I say, "I can never tell anymore if the world is coming together or falling apart."
"Life imitating art, I suppose," Whitney says.
The next morning, I'm walking to the train, holding my coffee mug. I put the mug to my lips and sip and some pennies and a couple of dimes fall into my mouth. To no one, I say, "I grabbed my change mug by mistake." I take another hesitant sip. But then, the pennies and dimes and nickels and quarters don't taste so bad, so I keep sipping as I walk, up until I get to the Crosby Avenue station.
When the train comes, I sit down in my seat with the still half-full change mug in my lap. As we're swaying through Pelham Bay, a woman walks by and drops two quarters into my cup. I look up at her and she smiles, so I raise my mug to her and tell her, "Thanks for the refill."
About the author:
Born and raised in The Bronx, Joe Stracci now lives in Purchase, New York where he is currently at work on his first novel, "Whitney," a section of which will be published in the Fall '09 issue of Alaska Quarterly Review. Joe is a recent graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the author of two poetry chapbooks: "A Living Wake or I Wanted To Write A Poem About Death" and "The Barking, The Crying, The Screaming, The Championing: NYC Stories." Read Joe's blog @ http://joestracci.com and follow him on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/jstracci.
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