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Part 1

Twenty Guitars

Part 2

Deleted Scenes

And the sky was made of amethyst…

-Hole, Violet

Part 1

Twenty Guitars


Summer of 1995, Lightning Pond, North Carolina

My fingers slipped between the leather cushions of Dad’s 1976 mustard-colored Thunderbird to dig out the seatbelt. My fingertips collected dust along the way and also found the hard candy shell of a Chupa Chups never to be sucked, just melted by the relentless July sun and Dad’s leather seats. I finally retrieved the belt’s silver clasp. It was scorching hot and burned my fingers. But I grabbed it hastily, always forgetting.

“Sons of bitches,” I said of the sting.

Dad just laughed. “You okay?” he checked after a minute, transferring his pale blue eyes down to my hand. Okay, I was kind of dramatic.

“Yeah,” I said, almost like I was mad that I wasn’t injured. If you were injured around here, you got attention.

I stared at my sticky, burned fingertips for a second before licking away the old starchy taste of the grape sucker. It was like the taste of summer – dirty, leathery and sweet. A minute later, I found the Chupa Chups wrapper in the door pocket. The slogan stop smoking, start sucking, was written all over the wrapper.

“Can I cruise, dude?” I asked. Dad knew what I meant. Now my restless sticky fingers were on the silver knob of the radio dial.

“Yeah, yeah.” My dad had a stutter. He didn’t talk much, except with me. Sometimes it took him ten tries to get one word out. Sometimes it took him only one. I didn’t care. I was patient.

Dad’s Thunderbird was by far the most fascinating thing on Walnut Street. We headed to the end of the street. From there, we’d go up the steep hill and turn right and be downtown within minutes.

“Look, it’s The Boringfucks,” I pointed at our neighbors, who were actually The Goldenbecks. They were gathered in their backyard staring at tulips – Mr. and Mrs. Boringfuck and their two daughters. None of them ever talked to us in the entire two years they lived right next door. Their mean dog that constantly barked and growled at me when I played on the swing was out too. I kept telling my Aunt Marie I wished they’d move out.

Dad laughed at my name calling. He didn’t mind me cursing, he didn’t mind violent films and he loved fast cars. It was no wonder I was a tomboy.

“I’m so tired of Boyz to Men,” I sighed, resting my feet on the dashboard. I was wearing navy-blue chucks, no socks, can’t be bothered, no training bra, vintage red Coca-Cola t-shirt faded and turned inside out. I found Black Hole Sun and blasted it. The song was crammed with brilliant guitar riffs and angst.

“Yeah!” I cried out, rolling my eyes at The Boringfucks as we proceeded to Main Street, where things got as interesting as they could for Lightning Pond, North Carolina.

Music always put me in a good mood again, even if the song was created from depression. Runaway Train and Black Hole Sun were my two favorite songs currently. They were on the new mix tape I was making. Since I couldn’t afford many CDs, I waited for my favorite songs to come on the radio and recorded them. I’d fly across my bedroom the instant a good song came on and push Record and Play at the same time. Some days I got it just right – missing the last few seconds of a commercial and getting the very first couple notes of the song, almost mastering the perfect mix tape.

“Th-this v-v-video is weird,” Dad said of Black Hole Sun, pointing at the radio. It was a popular video on MTV right now.

“Yeah, I know. I like it though.”

The awkwardness set in – the silence because Dad was too embarrassed to speak again because of his stutter and me wishing he didn’t care and struggling to think of a way to get him to talk again. He looked good today – his hair was slicked to one side and he had on his favorite pinstriped shirt and brown trousers. His Goody comb stuck up out of his front pocket. The comb always seemed like some sort of extra effort to look good, like an accessory that made the whole thing pop. He loved those combs and ordered them in the mail. He received a box every month. The box was white with a sticker on it that read Goody Combs from Tennessee in the smallest print. It tickled me to no end that he’d gotten kind of dressed up for our afternoon at Meroney Theatre.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t be bothered much. My long blonde hair was pulled up in a ponytail. I kept it simple. I didn’t even bother with makeup yet. Every other thirteen year-old girl I knew was piling it on already, but all I needed was my cherry-flavored lip balm.

When it was just Dad and I on a Saturday, things were good. Mellow and fun in the Thunderbird. I had my lip balm in my pocket. He had his Goody comb in his pocket. Everything was in place.

I suddenly smiled as excitement flooded my bones.

“YEAH – DAD WE’RE SEEING ROBOTS FROM HELL!” I exclaimed. Dad laughed at my silliness and hopefully got over his last round of stuttering.

I could no longer hold it in. I’d been waiting for weeks to see this film, for it to finally meander its way down to our small North Carolina town after all the fancy premieres in all the fancy big cities. It was a huge blockbuster film about robots. Every single media nugget on the planet was capturing all the red carpet events. Johnny Chavarria, the film’s bright young star, was already dating a much older woman (he was fourteen, she was nearly thirty) and they were rumored to be engaged.

It was always a miracle whenever our small town of Lightning Pond, North Carolina got any good films. There was never anything to do here unless apple picking rocked your socks. The KKK still marched here on the weekends. It was a small, small minded town. I refused to wither away here – I couldn’t help I was born here. But I didn’t have to stay. In the meantime, I had this film which took place in a huge, violent city. I spent the last few nights begging my mom to let me stay up late and watch Late Show with David Letterman because they showed the trailer for Robots from Hell on commercial breaks, usually right after Letterman’s monologue. I’d sit in my rocking chair, waiting for the first few seconds of the dark, moody trailer to begin. A foggy night – a helicopter and skyscrapers – and then Don LaFontaine’s ominous voice took over:

“In the future, there is no compromising. In the future, all humans will be destroyed…”

Then Johnny Chavarria would appear (aka the cutest boy on the planet) and turn his head to stare at one of the killer robots he conjured up with his mind, his brilliant cool hair flopping down over his face. There was something quite feral about Johnny – the wild animal that was cute but dangerous. Don’t chase it unless you want to be bitten.

Johnny, who played Alex Bolt, watched as another killer robot from hell appeared then another and another until an army developed. Together, the robots and Alex on his Harley Davidson would rescue his mom and go on to save the rest of the human race.

LaFontaine continued, “Unless Alex Bolt can save them all…” and a brief dramatic pause before he concluded, “Alex…and his Robots from Hell!” Then Guns ‘N Roses kicked in with a song they did just for the film, and it was total mayhem from there - buildings exploding, Alex driving his Harley straight through a huge window and shooting creepy looking doctors with his Uzi and I felt like my heart was going to burst from all the excitement. Johnny did all of his own stunts in the film too, as he proclaimed in Rolling Stone, “Why would I let a stuntman do it? That’s pussy.” He was already gaining controversy for his choice of words and bad boy persona. In another interview, the interviewer asked Johnny what he would do if someone said his acting sucked. “I’d kill ‘em dude, because they’re a liar.”

Robots from Hell was rated R, so I couldn’t see it without a parent. Or as the trailer expressed, ‘Rated R for Robots!’

“That’s not why it’s rated R,” Mom would fuss at the TV. She didn’t like Johnny. She said he was already trouble – she could tell just by looking at him.

“Eew,” she’d comment on his ratty clothes and longish hair. Like in the snippet on Entertainment Tonight called Who is Johnny Chavarria? where they cut to pre-teens chewing gum in their front lawns and twirling their hair around their fingers and exclaiming, “Oh my god Johnny Chav…arria?” they didn’t know how to pronounce his last name. They just knew he was new and bad. Too young to smoke but already on the cover of Rolling Stone. They squealed, “We want to meet him!” Then the clip switched to Johnny at the arcade in ripped jeans, seemingly unaware of his growing fame and effect on the young hearts of girls everywhere. He was just a boy who wanted to do boy things and now he could do more of them because he was famous. He was dating models. He was a model. He already had ads out for Guess jeans and Calvin Klein. He was a star in the sky, already unreachable by us regular folk, and he was barely fourteen.

“How are they gonna let a homeless kid be an actor?” Mom wanted to know. Dad on the other hand didn’t seem to care. He liked action-packed films so I didn’t have to twist his arm to take me. And Dad used any excuse to leave the house and show off his 76 ‘Bird, which he’d recently bought to Mom’s dismay. Besides, he always said yes to whatever I wanted so long as it was in his means.


Meroney Theatre’s marquee stuck out from all the flat buildings surrounding it as we drove downtown. Oh my god, we were almost there. I thought about what I wanted at the concession stand. Warm buttery popcorn and maybe some chocolate to go with it. I liked to dump my chocolate into the bag of popcorn and mix it all up. I thought about Johnny’s hair. Massive skyscrapers exploding into fireballs. Harley Davidsons and Guns N’ Roses. All the other girls my age were probably at the mall right now.

I was so excited I felt a little sick. I smiled up at Dad, my hero for taking me on this excursion. He nodded at the marquee of the old theatre, which was built in the early 1900s.

“They called…th-they called the marquee a…electric t-t-tiara back in the day,” Dad informed me. It took him work to get that little fact to me and I appreciated it.

“That’s so cool!” I said. I did my best to let him know his stutter didn’t bother me. I didn’t want it to get in the way of us talking – having a relationship. My mom rarely spoke to me. All she did was read, read, read. She was obsessed with these books called Monsoon Mysteries. They came in bulk in the mail every Saturday, ruining any chance I had to have some kind of relationship with her. The author wrote those and only those, they followed a family in Louisiana, and slowly each member was killed off. It all started off with the grandmother suddenly dying in the kitchen. The grandfather dropped like a fly on the front porch after being poisoned. One of the granddaughters was murdered on her walk home from school. Mrs. Saphire, the girl’s mother, wondered if her lover was actually the man killing off her entire family, but was too wooed by his dashing good looks to care. His name was Buddy, he was cute and mysterious and charming. Mom talked about him at the dinner table like he was a real person!

I looked at the movie titles displayed on the Meroney Theatre marquee. ROBOTS FROM HELL, one side read in giant black letters. SE7EN, a movie about a serial killer, was on the other. The old theatre was huddled between a Woolworth and a shoeshine place called Black Moon.

Dad was much more understanding when it came to my crush on Johnny. If I wanted to see one of his movies, Dad took me. If I wanted a magazine because Johnny was in it, Dad bought it for me. There was just something about Johnny. Something dark and troubling. He was thirteen when he started filming Robots from Hell. By now, he was fourteen. I knew he was from a sketchy part of California called Vallejo. I didn’t know much about the place, except its crime rate was high and everyone who lived there was dirt poor. He was of Mexican and Russian descent. His father was in prison when Johnny was born and his mother had a drug problem. Johnny spent most of his time at a Boys Club where he went after school because his mom would lock him out of the house. He described it in a magazine as “like prison with a pool.” Eventually, he started living on the streets when a casting agent discovered him. She brought him in for an audition and discovered a raw, hidden talent. He could act better than any method actor that had strolled in to audition. He didn’t even care about acting at the time, but he could act. Now Johnny Chavarria was about to star in what would become one of the biggest blockbuster action films of all time. Alex Bolt – the young punk teen with the Uzi slung over his shoulder – would inspire comic book heroes everywhere. Some fans would even end up with the iconic image of Alex on his motorcycle tattooed on them.

By now, Johnny Chavarria’s dad was out of prison and trying to gain custody of him since he was about to make some real money. All the while, Johnny was attending red carpets and dating models and actresses. He was even spotted at the Perfect Ten Club in Hollywood, where dozens of strippers surrounded the underage actor. The high-octane film Robots from Hell had just come out and it had already catapulted him to major stardom.

“Dad!” I slapped my knee excitedly. Johnny Chavarria on the big screen. It was a dream come true. Dad laughed again. When he laughed, his whole body shook. His eyes became squinty little slivers of blue.

“I’m having heart palpitations,” I said. “I need a Chupa Chups!” He laughed some more. “Can we stop at the gas station?” Of course sugar wasn’t the cure for heart palpitations but we didn’t care. Dad never said no to me. Besides he needed his weekend edition of Lightning Pond’s newspaper and a Pepsi. Sometimes he got one of those old hot dogs from the roller grill.

He pulled into a Sunoco across the street. It was next to Bangin’ Burgers, the burger joint where all the bad boys hung out and smoked cigarettes. Aunt Marie went there sometimes too. Mom said it was Marie’s “final stop on her downward spiral.” Marie had been in bad shape since her husband died in a motorcycle accident last year. The shock was still in her eyes sometimes. She drank a lot. One night she overdosed on Vicodin. A few months ago she sold the house she shared with her late husband and was now living in a hotel across from the Shoney’s restaurant “to avoid memories.”

Dad combed his hair for a few seconds after he parked and studied his reflection in the mirror. He slipped the comb back in his pocket, smiled at me and got out of the car. The scent of pomade he used made its way over to me.

I went to the counter where Chupa Chups were kept in a box by the cigarette lighters. The wrappers were designed by Salvador Dali. Buying one just felt so special. It beat the heck out of Dum-Dums. I selected two. One for now and one for the movie.

“Dad! They’re playing Soul Asylum!” I alerted as Dad went to fetch a paper and a Pepsi.

“Y-yeah.” He opened his wallet to pay for everything.

If any other man owned my heart besides bad boy Johnny Chavarria, it was Soul Asylum singer Dave Pirner, who recently peed in a vase at a fancy hotel lobby. He was so hot Winona Ryder dumped Johnny Depp for him. Mom equally hated them both. She told me I should go for guys like Buddy Vine, the handsome hero in her favorite mystery novels. He worked on a ranch. He could fix things up around the house. I guess it didn’t matter that he might be a serial killer. I guess some things could be overlooked. Take the good with the bad, etc.

“Dad!” I exclaimed as we went back out to the parking lot. Dad bought candy to sneak in the theatre, but he’d still splurge on popcorn. He got his hot dog with “just mustard” as always. He finished it outside the theatre. A warm breeze swept through, bringing with it the combined smell of popcorn and shoe polish as we approached the ticket booth.

Dad was suddenly caught up in some moment of reminiscing. He pointed to the brown and blue mechanical horse outside of Woolworth.

“I proposed to your mother…right over there.” His eyes were bluer today and he looked at everything a bit longer, especially the mechanical horse. I’d realize eventually what that sad glimmer in his giant blue eyes was all about – regret. The unstoppable future and the unfixable past. But right now I just thought he was tired. Things just weren’t the same at home – I could feel the slow shift. Even our regular outing to the Rosemont Steakhouse with Mom never happened anymore. The red dress she liked to wear for the occasion had been hanging in the closet untouched for months. She simply spent her whole time reading, trying to be a part of a fictional world was more interesting to her than being a part of ours.

A pigeon flew down and snatched up a stray piece of popcorn as our tickets came up through the feeder. The lady ripped them out and slipped them through the tiny window and I scooped them up like the pigeon did that popcorn.

“This is it!” I said, excitedly going to the door.

“If she had said no to m-me then you…you wud-wud-wudn’t be here, you wouldn’t be here,” Dad was still stuck on rewind in his head, going down memory lane or something. The day he proposed to Mom. She was in a white skirt. Her bushy black hair was somewhat tamed by hundreds of gold bobby-pins. Time would wear them to a terrible brown color. Her hair would start to turn grey. He’d buy a Thunderbird for no reason and spend more time driving around than at home.

“Yeah and then we wouldn’t be seeing this kickass flick!” I hollered, whipping the door open and scaring the elderly couple on their way out.

I suddenly had a strange tummy ache. I thought maybe it was the sucker I’d devoured so quickly. It wasn’t a typical stomach ache though. It was like a strange sluggish burn in my lower region, equipped with sudden tiredness. I went to the restroom, found a stall and took my pants down. A slimy string of blood was hanging between my legs. I knew it was my first period even though it had rarely been discussed with me. I’d heard girls talk about it at school. ‘It’s gross, but it means you’re finally a woman.’

I went over to the sanitary napkin machine and paid for one. It was the cheap kind but it would have to do until I got home. I tried to push aside the mortifying development and not let the uncomfortable feeling of having a big wad of cotton between my thighs destroy my fun day. I went into the big glamorous auditorium and tried to act normal. I would die if my dad found out.


Dad would say they don’t make actors like they used to. James Dean. Marlon Brando. Clint Eastwood. I knew I’d say the same thing about Johnny Chavarria one day too. He had that chutzpah; he had that flavor that wasn’t artificial. I was amazed by his acting ability, his raw emotion.

Currently in the film, Alex Bolt was being torn away from his mother’s loving arms by evil doctors wanting to experiment on her.

“NO! YOU LET MY MOM GO!” Alex put up a furious fight. Anger I’d never heard from anyone swept out of his mouth. He bit and screamed and tried to throw a punch, but he was no match for the giant evil doctors, who ganged up on him, gave him a shot of something, knocking him out cold. That’s what they did in Nakronum, the fictitious city that looked like New York. Tall buildings, grimy streets. The doctors picked up Johnny, zip-tied his wrists behind his back and carried him away, hurling his little body into the back of a nondescript van. Alex was then hauled off to a Boy’s Home on the edge of Nakronum. He was stripped of his clothes and forced to wear a blue uniform and did nothing but stare out of his window all day, wondering where his mother was, if she was even alive. The weather was depressing in Nakronum. Rainy, cold and grey. The first time Alex Bolt realized his power of summoning evil robots was when one of the kids at the boy’s home bullied him. The robot slammed the boy’s face into the wall. Alex watched, amazed, as brains slithered down the wall and nothing else was left of the boy’s face but a clump of hair and blood. Alex knew what he had to do. He would summon more and more robots – not only determined to escape the evil Boy’s Home but to take over Nakronum and get his mother back. In the film, during the escape scene from the boy’s home, Johnny appeared in jeans torn at the knee and a Dead Kennedy’s shirt that read Too Drunk To Fuck (something else that would make him and the film controversial). Alex showed up the next day on his Harley Davidson at the hospital, summoning the evil robots for revenge on the evil doctors who took his mom.

“Nakronum is going down,” he said in his cackling voice before revving up his bike and blasting the glass building with his Uzi.

“Nakronum is going down!” I shouted. I looked at my dad, who was nodding off. The epic scene that was in the trailer and all the posters arrived. The scene that, decades from now, would still be the talk of many Comic Cons and Horror Cons and whatever film festivals Johnny bothered showing up at. There would be posters of him on his Harley sporting that Dead Kennedy’s shirt and cool haircut. Johnny would try and embody Alex Bolt at the festivals – same hairstyle and punk t-shirt and shredded jeans and black boots years later, because that was what he and his major following related to.

I watched the intense scene play out. Johnny, playing the iconic role of Alex Bolt, rode his motorcycle off the interchange at full speed, flew over trucks on the highway and straight through the window of the industrial complex where his mom was being held as the Guns ‘N Roses song came on.

“He does all of his own stunts,” I told my dad. He nodded, still fighting off sleep.

Glass fell like rain around Johnny’s adorable face as he sped down the hallway and ran one of the doctor’s over with his bike, his head crunching under the tires. A trail of blood smeared along the floor. They may have overdone the sound effects of the skull crunching, but I liked it.

“Oh, magnificent,” I sighed. “Dad, yo! Dad,” I nudged him in the arm with my elbow. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” He woke up for a minute, crossed his arms and frowned at the screen drowsily, trying to gain some perspective. He saw bullets flying and a fourteen year-old boy in an offensive shirt blowing holes in people’s skulls. Loud things exploding! Blood was everywhere. Mass destruction on the big screen. The devilish grin on Johnny’s young handsome face had a prim and proper vibe about it too, like a prom queen who’d just been crowned. He glanced over his shoulder at the last surviving doctor who thought he would snatch Johnny up and drug him again. Johnny toyed with the doctor’s confidence, waiting for him to get closer and closer and then he put a bullet right between the doctor’s eyes.

“Yes!” I pumped my fist in the air. His mother was saved. The credits rolled. And for a split second, the sun came out in Nakronum.


Summer of 1997, Lightning Pond, North Carolina

I sat up in bed, watching MTV. The video for Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train was on. It featured photos of missing kids, their names and the dates they went missing. It was terribly depressing, but I loved it. It was better than listening to my parents fight. It was their second epic fight of the summer. Sometimes I pretended my picture would flash across the screen in the video. I’d gone missing, and Dave Pirner knew and he cared, and maybe Mom would stop reading those stupid books and become invested in my whereabouts. She and Dad would stop fighting and pull together to play detective. Had someone kidnapped me? Maybe I’d been hiding out at Dave Pirner’s cool loft all along behind a vase full of piss.

“You’re not a real man!” Mom yelled at Dad. “Driving around in that stupid car doesn’t make you a man!”

“I’ll just go,” Dad said. “You don’t want me here – I’ll just go.” Mom breathed fire these days and Dad’s way of dealing with it was to run off.

I got up and went to the window just in time to see Dad’s Thunderbird pull out of the driveway. I experienced a rush of relief that the fighting stopped but I also didn’t know when he’d returned. The last time he left, he was gone for two weeks. We had to call Aunt Marie to take us to the grocery store since my mom didn’t have a car. Marie showed up with a hangover. She brought stuff she took from the hotel’s complimentary breakfast bar – tiny things of yogurt, half-rotten bananas, and stale biscuits. Tiny little syrup things with the label Southern Maple Morning written across them. There was a picture of the sun rising and dripping of syrup.

I turned the music up loud, angry at it all. Runaway train never coming back…runaway on a one way track…

If only I was a train. A train speeding down the tracks and out of this boring town. The sadness in Dave’s voice reflected everything I felt inside. Things seemed dire. My parents were probably on the verge of divorce. I was lonely. Johnny Chavarria was missing. Missing. No one was really trying to find out where he was. He’d become so cocky after Robots, causing a stir with every interview he did, that everyone turned their back on him.

“I did all my own stunts, man,” he raved in one. “And the scene where I crushed that dude’s skull – that was real.” He was joking of course, but no one found it funny. Headlines on the young actor began to change from “Hollywood’s Bright New Star” to “What is Johnny’s Deal?” and “Johnny Be Bad.” He was arrested at an arcade for pulling his pocketknife out in the restroom and sneering at another boy. That was the last anyone heard from him since the fall of 1996.

“Something’s wrong with Johnny – incredibly wrong,” a director admitted. “Perhaps there was a mental issue there when he was homeless…but he’s great on film – he’s charismatic and all his troubles seem to go away or he uses them to make his character that much more intense. Hollywood needs him. It’s either him or Leo now for the major roles.” He was referring to Leonardo DiCaprio, who just snagged the role in Titanic that would go on to become a major hit. “Leo scores Titanic role,” one magazine wrote, “While Johnny Chavarria’s career sinks.”

I heard Mom coming up the stairs. She paused before knocking on my door.

“Clara, turn that down,” she told me of the loud MTV. Oh, they could yell and scream all day but I couldn’t play my music loud? I was livid. I turned it up even more, nearly ripping the knob off the stereo.

“Clara?” she knocked again. Just because I was in my room did not mean I had to answer the door. I longed to be an adult, left to my own devices. I could come and go as I pleased without needing a ride somewhere or having to ask permission.

“Clara? Do you want to see Titanic?” Mom actually asked that. I stared my door down until I felt my eyes burn. It may have been the only time in recent months she put an effort in to spend time with me. But my rage was boiling.

“NO!” I screamed. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Leo, but it seemed he was Johnny’s arch enemy, taking all the roles Johnny should get. And he was copying Johnny’s hairstyle. People just stood by and let it happen. The monstrosity.

“Do not scream at me,” Mom said. I guess they were the only ones who had the right to scream. “And turn that music down.”

I said nothing and did nothing. It was my only way of rebelling at the moment.

“Clara?” Mom tried one more time. “We could take the bus downtown…or walk, even.”

I said nothing. I stared at the door, waiting for her to go away.

“Well your dad’s gone and we have nothing for supper,” she ended up saying before going back downstairs.

I didn’t care. That wasn’t surprising – the no dinner thing. I’d have a Chupa Chup for dinner. I took it out of my back pocket, stared at the words stop smoking, start sucking for a minute before I flung it on the bed. The house was owned by a new kind of quiet – the quiet of a broken home.


I looked out at The Boringfucks. They were carrying boxes out of the house and putting them in their truck. Mr. Boringfuck stood out on the steps at the side entrance, lighting a cigar while the daughters did all the work. He seemed so stiff and uncompromising, like an old piece of wood.

Soon came the furniture – a chair, a desk, a few lamps. The Boringfucks were moving out. I ran downstairs to deliver the amazing news and found Mom at the kitchen table, enamored with another Monsoon Mystery novel. I’d turned my music down but she didn’t seem to notice. She held the book up so it hid her face. The cover of the books all featured an old plantation house with willow trees in front of it and a young man standing off in the distance of the shady front yard. Buddy. Was he a criminal? Who knew, but he sure was handsome. He wore jeans, a nice shirt and a cowboy hat. I rolled my eyes. The little inscription on each cover read, ‘Dark, tall and handsome…but how dark?’

“The Boringfucks are moving out,” I announced.

Mom didn’t even glance up from her book when she replied, “Clara, that’s not nice.”

“They’re not nice,” I said, terribly combative.

She said nothing else, she just turned the page. I opened the fridge. There was never anything good to eat. I opened the freezer and icy smoke swept over my face. It was stocked with old TV dinners. They’d been in there so long that the boxes had sheets of ice caked on the corners like they’d been buried in snow.

I shut it. I wanted to scream but I never did. I let the rage simmer.

Mom glanced up at me, picked up her afternoon tea. Another ritual – make a pot of tea before getting lost in her books. I knew the minute she pulled the chipped teacup down and started slicing a lemon that I’d lost her for that day.

“You want a chicken pot pie for dinner?” she was referring to one of the TV dinners.

“I’m okay.” I stared angrily off into space. In the south, what mattered was food. It was the answer for everything. If you were sad, you ate. If you were happy, you celebrated with food. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any. I stared at the little bowl on the table stocked with those things of syrup Marie left.

“Why did you want me to stop watching MTV?” I asked, heated. “For what? What was the fucking point?”

Yeah, I cursed. I was certain a curse word would get her pumped. Get her to look up at me from the stupid book. And it felt really good – such a great release involved in that two-syllable word. It felt so good that I said it again, in a tiny mutter as I stared at the floor.

Mom responded entirely calm. “I just wanted you to turn it down. I could hear it from down here. They could hear it in space.”

“Good, they need it; they don’t have music up there.” I wanted to argue.

“Okay Clara.”


My backyard was pretty big, but Dad’s old Ford Galaxie took up most of the space. He parked it in front of my swing set the day he bought the Thunderbird. One afternoon he just pulled into the driveway in the snazzy gold vintage car blasting Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale. A brand new Goody comb stuck out of his front pocket. I swear people had a few days in their life when they shined, and that day was one of Dad’s. Like he was in HD. Like he sweated diamonds. I could tell he was uniquely happy. I also knew Mom would not be happy about this and there would be a terrible fight.

“HOW MUCH MONEY DID YOU SPEND?!” she yelled as soon as he went in the house.

“N-not much. Not much,” he lied.


“I don’t know, I just wanted it,” he argued. “I th-thought you’d like it too.” Dad’s tone was a mix of disappointment and defensiveness.

Mom gave a little laugh that was more hurtful than any word could have been. Apparently a snazzy car wasn’t what was missing in her life. I knew what was missing. I’d heard her talking to Aunt Marie late one night. ‘Well I could never do what you do, Marie, just sleep with…random men…oh, but I miss feeling desired.’

Mr. Boringfuck came out on the porch the afternoon Dad came home with the new car. He looked over at me on the swing, shook his head and went back into the house. My parents continued to fight. I looked up at the rejected Galaxie. It had been replaced. We used to go to the steakhouse in that army-green car, but once Dad got the Thunderbird that stopped. It was like Mom went on strike.

I tried to swing as fear took over and the stupid Boringfucks dog barked. The fight escalated into physical injury. Mom had to go to the hospital. I sat in the emergency room with my headphones on, Runaway Train blaring so loud the little brunette girl with the 105 fever could hear.

Hours later, they talked it over. Dad could keep the car, Mom said, and went back into the bedroom with one of her novels. It was hard for her to turn the pages that night because she had stitches across the palm of her hand. She kept mumbling to herself as she tried to read.

In one of Johnny’s films, he had a quote: To understand violence, you have to understand pain.

The green Galaxie was still in the backyard, collecting months of pollen. The interior of the Galaxie was coated with dust. The windshield was so covered with pollen you couldn’t see through it. There was a dent in the driver’s side door where Dad was hit one day when he sped through a red light. What did my dad think that day? Was he scared that he could have gotten killed? Where was he going in such a hurry?

A bumblebee was stuck in the wedge between the door and the rearview mirror. I think it got stuck there one summer day and died. Out of pure, massive boredom, I went over and flicked it off. It was plump and had a fuzzy belly. But none of that mattered. It was totally dead. Since it couldn’t sting me, I played around with it with my big toe. Then it made me sad – the wasted stinger.

I trudged back to my swing, which had a crack in the plastic seat. I knew what it was. I think I’d figured it out. The Thunderbird gave Dad newfound confidence that his stutter had chipped away. He was Mr. Cool in that old ‘Bird.

It was Thursday. Tomorrow, Johnny Chavarria’s new film American Boy opened. It turned out that a little after Robots from Hell came out, he took off to New York and got married. Married. But just last week, they separated. He and his thirty-year old wife got in a fight at a hotel. She claimed Johnny hit her and choked her. Now he was single again, sixteen years old, and had lost a lot of weight. His latest stint was a commercial for a cologne called Incredibly Hopeless. In the commercial, he walked along the beach at night, running his hand through his hair, which was still that long careless kind of cool Alex Bolt had. His shirt was unbuttoned, jeans lagging around his feet and collecting sand. Rumors were going around that he was on drugs. Another rumor that he wouldn’t star in the Robots from Hell sequel was also starting to circulate. Who else could fucking play Alex Bolt? I was angry at it all. Angry that he was allowed to get married to someone so old. Why wasn’t anyone looking out for him? His career couldn’t already be doomed. American Boy would prove it. I’d prove it by going to see it every day. I had to get to the cinema. I had no idea if American Boy would play at Meroney Theatre. It was an independent film and those weren’t The Meroney’s specialty. They wanted the big blockbusters. I might call the theatre later to listen to the show times for this weekend. And maybe finish my mix tape. Those were my big plans for the summer evening.

In American Boy Johnny played a teenager who ran away from home and started prostituting to survive. Unlike Robots, there were no commercials about the film. It was rather hush-hush. If I didn’t get to see it tomorrow night I’d throw the biggest fit. Dad promised he’d take me but did he even remember? Would he even come back home?

I looked over at the now vacant house next to ours. There was no car in their driveway either. The house seemed to exude the same lonely feeling ours did. The feeling of abandonment.


I took my chicken pot pie upstairs but ignored it and turned up Headbangers Ball. I yanked the covers back from the bed. The Chupa Chups flew off and landed on the floor. A little tantrum never hurt anybody.

I’d let Mom’s so-called dinner get cold in the corner of my room. She must have been too wrapped up in her book because the crusts were burnt and the middle was still cold. Tiny cubes of cold carrots floated in an icky oozing grey soupy mess.

I stared at the television after calling Meroney Theatre. To my surprise, American Boy was playing tomorrow night. Now I had to come up with a plan. I guess I could go see Titanic with Mom and maybe sneak off and go into the theatre playing American Boy. How funny Leo and Johnny were kind of competing with each other. The thought disappeared from my head as quickly as it had sprouted. Little did I know I would be able to see Johnny right here in bed. MTV saved the best videos for late at night (meaning the dirty videos). I turned the light off and slipped down under the covers. The first video to come on was by a terrifying band called Gun City. They hailed from Louisiana. The singer was insanely skinny and slithered around on stage in tight vinyl pants, never bothered with a shirt, and sang about sex and drugs and murder. Johnny Chavarria stared in their new video for their song Sex after Death. In the video, Johnny flirted with his school teacher, had unprotected sex and wrecked a car. He sported strange makeup in one scene – looking very beautiful and sadistic all at one. In another scene, his dad gave him a condom. He pretended to appreciate it and the second he was outside, he tossed it into the rosebushes. He sported the same Too Drunk To Fuck t-shirt he wore in Robots from Hell, shredded jeans and black boots as he strolled into class. The video featured a sexy school teacher who flirted with Johnny. She made him stay after class. The final shot of the video was of Johnny’s clothes on the school teacher’s desk next to a coffee mug that read Teacher’s Pet.

I went to sleep with the video on my mind and had my first wet dream. I was the hot teacher in the Gun City video. Johnny was tied down to his desk as I pranced around in front of him with a long wooden ruler in my hands. I wore a tight skirt and blouse like the woman in the Gun City video. I forced Johnny to stay after school for wearing that dirty shirt. He just looked at me with those dark secretive eyes of his, that cool 90s hair slipping over his face.

He tried to move his wrists, pulling at the restraints but the knot work was intense – he wasn’t going anywhere.

“Stop struggling!” I demanded.

He stopped moving but gazed up at me with eyes that seemed to hold some kind of hidden power. I reached down to touch him and unbutton his jeans. His erection caused the crotch of his jeans to rearrange and hide his button. I had to dig and touch him harder to undo them and he moaned, pulled on the rope anxiously. That area triggered all of his reactions. I touched him again and again. He twitched and pulled and struggled. The legs of the desk thumped against the floor.

“Yes,” I sighed, trailing my finger along his cheekbone. “I’m gonna make you come.”

He watched me, helpless, knowing it was going to happen. His mouth fell open, hungry for heavy petting. I slipped my tongue in his precious mouth. I bit his lip.

“Owe,” he cried out. He wanted to check to see if it was bleeding but he couldn’t. He tugged on the restraints before giving up. I touched the perfect drop of blood and showed the tip of my finger to him before licking the blood away. My ruthless teeth seemed to quiet him.

“Why can’t you wear normal shirts like everyone else? Then you could be out in the sun playing with your peers right now.”

“Because I’m not normal. I’m all sad and fucked up inside,” he explained in that gritty tone his. I kissed him again. Licked the blood from his lip. He was so dominant he tried to take over with his lips, forcing a kiss on me before I pulled away.

I slapped his hand with the ruler again. He winced, and a big red welt appeared on his skin. I petted him again too. His cock moved like it knew his jeans were open and maybe it could find its way out of the boxers and pop up to greet the palm of my hand.
“You like that, huh?” I teased.

He shut his eyes and nodded, completely owned by my touch.

“Please,” he said, giving in, bowing his head so his hair slipped over his eyes. His cock was in my hand now. He belonged to me.

“Say please again, boy,” I demanded. “Or I’ll keep you here forever, just tease you and leave you throbbing.”

“No…please…” he begged, those perfect little lips moving just enough to beg me. His cock throbbing. His hair slipping over his cheekbones. “Please…” he begged again, so sweetly.

I slipped my thumb over the opening of his penis and he came, spurting delicious semen all over my wrist, twitching about like he was being tortured. His lips parted more and more.

“Ahhh…” he sighed. “Ahhhh-ahhhhh…”

I woke up in bed, my hand stuck between my legs, summer in the palm of my hand.


The permeated smell of cold pot pie drifted over from the corner of the room. The middle of the crust collapsed like some poorly assembled ceiling. I imagined all the little carrots and other vegetables as little people trapped inside.

“No one’s gonna save you,” I told them, before drifting back to sleep. A warm summer wind blew through my window, waking me up hours later. It was like a slow kiss all over my body. Then I recalled the wet dream about Johnny Chavarria and blushed into my pillow. I’d certainly never done anything like that in real life – not even close. I’d never seen a penis, except in a dirty movie once when I spent the night at Aunt Marie’s. She’d stepped out of the room and there it was.

It was Friday. The movies changed at Meroney. American Boy was playing tonight. Plus, Mom always made pancakes on Friday. Okay, I had enough reasons to get out of bed.

I heard the sound of a car door slamming shut outside. Dad? I got up and looked out the window but our driveway was still empty. There was, however, a big U-Haul in the driveway of The Goldenbecks house. I watched a boy jump out of the back. He had shaggy hair just like a young Dee Dee Ramone except it was angelic blonde. It flopped around in his face relentlessly.

“I can’t find it!” I heard him yell. He ran his hand through his hair. I wanted to see him up close.

“MOM!” he yelled before hurling himself back up into the back of the truck to continue his search. New neighbors! It was Friday! Pancakes! Johnny Chavarria! Everything was exciting.

I grabbed the nearest thing to wear and skipped downstairs. It was almost noon but Mom was still in bed holding a Monsoon Mystery over her head. Two others were on the bedside table just waiting to be opened – not a single crease in the cover yet, no page had been folded in the corner to keep her spot. She probably wouldn’t even get out of bed today. No pancakes, I guessed. But I was too intrigued by our new neighbors to care. I also needed to put a plan together if I was going to see American Boy tonight. I practiced my friendly tone of voice as I grabbed my mood ring and my Walkman.

“Mom, do you wanna see Titanic tonight?” I said, all excited and hopeful, but nowhere loud enough for her to hear.

I went outside to my swing and glanced over at what used to be The Goldenbecks house. I tried to act like I wasn’t invested. I pushed play on my completed 90-minute mixtape. Interstate Love Song kicked things off to be followed by Hole’s Violet. I’d printed the names of the songs on the back and even gave the tape a name: Chupa Chups Mix. I imagined a box filled with the sweet suckers spilling out, and the awesome Salvador Dali wrappers had the names of my favorite songs written on them.

The boy jumped back out of the truck again, landing on his feet with zero trouble. He had caramel skin and a few freckles on his face. I saw pouty lips and a slight overbite. He looked over at me and curiosity built in his eyes. He lifted a hand to give me a lazy smile and I uncurled my hand from the swing chain to wave back. He had on a baggy pair of jeans ripped at the knee Johnny Chavarria-style and a Pearl Jam t-shirt (the one that read 9 out of 10 kids prefer crayons to guns on the back) and a pair of green converse. We both glanced at each other again because once wasn’t enough. The only other time I felt this excited was when I watched Robots from Hell.

A woman appeared, coming out of the side door of the two-story brick house so she was facing the driveway. She was effortlessly pretty. She didn’t need makeup and wore her long black hair pulled back in a ponytail. I was used to seeing Mr. Goldenbeck standing there with a stoic expression and a cigar in his hand. She was lovely and soft. She wore a floral sundress and a pair of black Mary Janes. She also had freckles, and dark circles under her eyes. It was as if she’d handed her youthfulness down to her son, who radiated with it.

I watched her walk down the steps on the side of the house, to the U-Haul. She had long legs and the dress she had on flowed gracefully with her moves. She walked to the gravel driveway where the boy had carelessly placed a lamp down and picked it up. It was a honeycomb lamp. She wrapped the cord around the base and started to go back into the house.

“Careful with this, it’s my favorite lamp,” I heard her say.

“Mom, where is it?” the boy snapped. He did not care about the honeycomb lamp. He was wrapped up in whatever he was searching for. He wrestled with his hair, fingers running through it to keep it out of his face but it never worked. Then he dove back into the U-Haul.

“Where’s what, Jonas?”

Jonas, I thought, letting the name wash over my brain.

I watched him jump out of the U-Haul again. It was a big leap, and he landed on his feet perfectly again. Maybe he played sports, because he seemed very compatible with gravity. He jumped around in one spot with too much energy for a second. A bit of anger, a bit of restlessness and a bit of confusion. Then his hazel eyes spotted me again and he became incredibly still. I was pretty much the same, just staring back at him, lost in fascination.

His blonde hair slid over his eyes and his lips parted like he was going to speak then his mom came back outside, and he became ruffled all over again.

“Did you get my Halloween lamp?” he asked her. His voice was quite deep. He was tall and incredibly skinny. I stared at him, barely swinging at all. The swing made creaking sounds as I pushed myself back and forth with my toe buried in the ground. I was swinging kind of sideways.

“I had a whole box labeled Halloween with masks and stuff!” Jonas obsessed.

His mom had a relaxed smiled on her face. “I left it in Georgia,” she teased. Then she looked over at me, still smiling, and waved. She was obviously aware that I’d been listening this whole time. I lifted my hand to wave back, feeling a little bad for drooling over her son. Her eyes slipped over the ugly car in our yard and she went back into the house.

“MOM!” Jonas yelled, jumping back into the U-Haul. “You better be lyin’!”

He proceeded to go through everything in the trunk. Violet came on, and it made me want to swing. And the sky was made of amethyst…

I put my feet on the ground and pushed backwards, gaining momentum. I was happy to have new neighbors – new voices. I turned the song up some more, content in the moment.

Jonas took a chair out like it weighed nothing and tossed it back so it fell in the driveway. Next flew a tool box then a vacuum cleaner. His mother reappeared, watching the chaos unfold.

“Careful with that stuff!” she said.

“Then where is it!” he hollered.

I turned the music down a little to hear them. The faded floral pillow in the chair had come untied from the backrest and fell along the gravel driveway. I wanted to sit on it and stare up at them. They were the most beautiful people I’d ever seen. His mother with her dainty-as-a-flower features and the same bone structure was handed to her son.

“Mom!” he yelled. “Seriously, where is it?”

“Jonas, it’s summer!” she just said. “And I tossed all that candy from last year out. Who wants sweet tarts from last October?”

“They’re Smarties!” he yelled. I laughed because I was a lover of candy too. One should never confuse plain sweet tarts with Smarties. Smarties came in that cool little roll of perfect rainbow-colored tiny candies.

He looked at me when I laughed. I’d been digging my big toe into the soft ground, beneath the tall grass. The ground was soft from yesterday’s rain and felt nice and cool. I thought about that wet dream last night. I couldn’t stop pressing. I watched an earthworm appear. I still didn’t dig up my toe. I looked up and saw Jonas still looking at me, very calm and observant. Everything had just stopped. The tossing of the stuff in the U-Haul. The yelling about Halloween. He’d seemed to give up on his search for the moment and had a cute smile on his face. He stood completely still as if moving would somehow distract him from taking me in. I waved at him again. Then my Walkman slipped from my lap, dragging the cord with it so my headphones fell off and it all landed on the ground. It felt like a huge disaster but thankfully no one saw it. Jonas went back to his search for Halloween stuff. His mom came back outside, holding a box labeled HALLOWEEN in black marker.

“Jonas,” she calmly called.

“What!” he snapped, throwing something else over his shoulder into the driveway.

She paused, letting him continue to have a hissy fit. She glanced at me and we shared a silent chuckle.

“Jonas?” she called again. He jumped out of the truck, this time all sweaty. He lifted his Pearl Jam shirt to wipe his face and I stared at his slender physique. He had a line of hair that disappeared into his shorts, which were held up around his jutted hips by a braided leather belt. He was gorgeous. His smooth skin glistened with sweat. When his mom looked back at me, I tried to shift my eyes to the ground as fast as possible, reaching for my Walkman.

Go on take everything! Take everything! Courtney Love was yelling in the tall grass. A bee made a hostile circle around my hair before flying off into the rosebushes. I pictured a halo of honeybees around my head.

“Mom! Seriously?” Jonas trudged over as his mom stood there giggling.

“You get so worked up,” she giggled, spanking him on the bottom as they went into the house.


But now it’s getting’ late

And the moon is climbin’ high

I waited for them to come back out and fill the air with new voices. I had my Walkman stationed between my thighs, but didn’t bother with my headphones. I wanted someone to talk to. I wanted to feel involved and needed. I knew if I went back in my house, I’d spend the entire day alone.

I gave up, getting off the swing, letting it fly around behind me because I’d jumped off in a bit of anger. I had at least eight hours before I could see that movie. If I decided to spend the rest of the day watching MTV then Mom better deal with it.

“Hey!” I suddenly heard Jonas call out to me. “Yo, hey, wait a sec!” he waved me over. I realized my mouth was hanging open in a dumb, dazed smile and I straightened up, pressing my lips together as the wind pulled strands of blonde hair across my face. I placed my Walkman in the grass and walked over to the fence. I looked down and suddenly saw the cutest puppy by his feet. It had shiny brown fur and was very chubby and energetic. It was more like a fat worm with tiny legs and feet. It tried to be intimidating with its bark, but it was only a high-pitched yelp.

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