Meeting

“Light’s out.” Jonathan pointed to the star atop the Christmas tree.

“Don’t say anything about it. Not even when we put up the decorations,” I said. He put his finger down before Aunt Sherry carried a cardboard box up out of the basement. She stopped for a second and then put the box down at her feet. She held her arms out as I walked over. Her hug was silent. We stood until she pushed me away with her hands on my shoulders. Half her upper lip didn’t move when she smiled. I rolled my arm backwards to Jonathan and cranked it towards Aunt Sherry. Jonathan came forward, pulled his eyes up, and stretched his lips across his face. She eyed the bag in his left hand. He pulled out a bottle of Four Roses and a block of Brie cheese.

“I hear you like bourbon.” He stayed back and extended his arms. She took the bourbon and walked out from behind the box. She didn’t take the cheese until his lazy eye wiggled a bit between us. She smiled with both sides of her mouth and gave him a hug, patting him on the back.

“You heard right.” She patted him on the back and came back from the hug. We ate the cheese and the drank the bourbon over by the coffee table. Just as she invited him to Christmas dinner, she caught his eye sneaking off to the burnt-out star. He accepted. We didn’t put out the nick-knacks that year.

“That went pretty well. I could tell,” Jonathan said while driving us back home.

“I can tell how it went by her smile.”

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Hypotenuse

Jerry sat next to Dennis his second day, but just rocked in his plastic blue chair and stared at the triangle on the dry erase board for the eight minutes before the bell. Dennis’s hands were calloused and his nails were too short. Jerry was disappointed in his own hands’ lack of character. He asked Dennis if it was okay to sit there. Dennis said he didn’t blame him. Mark and Chris said yo mama when Mrs. Mates called roll. Jerry sat next to Mark and Chris yesterday. They sucked.

Dennis clasped his hands together after lowering his hand. Jerry folded his arms and warmed his hands under his armpits. Jerry said he was from Greensburg. Danville before that. Dennis said he’d never been.

Dennis wrote his notes with his left hand. Jerry hit the meat between Dennis’s wrist and pinky with his own while drawing a hypotenuse. Like wet emery left out in the sun. Mrs. Mates erased her measurements. Dennis looked off Jerry’s paper. His new friend smelled like firewood. Jerry watched him spell hypotenuse wrong.

The bell rang. Mrs. Mates erased and redrew her triangle. They sent each other texts after they packed up their notes. Mrs. Mates warned Jerry not to sit there tomorrow. Jerry texted him the correct spelling of hypotenuse as a conversation starter and sat there for most of the semester, until they had the falling out.

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Runner

I spill the popcorn after complaining about Berry spilling it last time, which is what I get, he says. I spend too long outside in the hall talking to a man in joggers with a ring on his right ring finger. When I get back with a new tub, I try my best to catch up without Berry’s help. When the movie’s over, I say it was alright. Berry says it was worse than the last one. We get dinner at an all-night cafe on Bardstown Road. Berry asks which beers they have on tap. I ask which hand is the hand you’re supposed to wear a wedding ring on. Berry looks at me with his eyes wide open, his oval mouth at a diagonal. The waitress smiles and shrugs as she turns away with empty glasses on a stack of brown trays. He tells me she was single, dude. I say I’m not asking about her. Berry looks around the cafe for the rest of the meal, asking me about different women. By the time we leave the hookah lounge upstairs, he’s under the impression that I like husky girls with headbands that punch in place. I run with it for the next ten years.

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