Excerpt: From Philly Author Jaime Fountaine’s Forthcoming Novella, Manhunt
BY JAIME FOUNTAINE
Emily’s parents don’t let her wear lip gloss or go out after dark, so she won’t admit she has a crush on Jason out loud. Instead, she asks endless dumb questions. “What kind of ice cream do you think Jason likes? Cookie dough? I bet it’s cookie dough.”
It’s never occurred to me to ask him his favorite flavor when his hands are up my shirt and his tongue is in my mouth.
Part of me wishes I could just say that out loud and end these stupid conversations for good, but I know that if I did, I’d also be ending my chance of having friends for the summer, and maybe making the school year worse.
Emily and Lauren are never in my classes, but even if they were, they have other, better friends. The summer is about proximity. I take it while it lasts.
“Are you seriously still talking about Jason? He’s so gross.”
Lauren is more interested in famous people than anyone we actually know. She likes the blond one in all those bands. She hangs up posters and talks about them like they’re real.
“Do you think Jason and Matt are at the park riding bikes? Maybe we should go for a walk.”
A bunch of boys have dragged some plywood and cinder blocks to the corner of the old basketball court and built bike ramps. None of them are any good at tricks, but there’s enough kids there that going to watch feels like an activity to some people. I’m not one of those people.
Emily is. She’s got this idea that if she’s in his line of sight long enough, one day he’ll realize he can’t live another day without her; that if she waits long enough, he’ll be able to see something in her that no one else has ever noticed. It’s the kind of hope my mom has when she waits at the bar for someone to take her home.
People see what’s in front of them. It’s why the flasher pulls his dick out of his shorts at girls, instead of just talking to them. It’s why Emily always stands between Laura and me down by those stupid ramps, trying not to look too interested, even though she’s staring.
Matt knows we’re not there for him. I can’t tell if he resents us for that, or for taking Jason’s attention away from him. He’s a year younger and two grades behind the rest of us. Up until this summer, he’d never been included in anything. He’s not as good at hiding his desperation as he thinks he is. No boys are, but he’s especially bad.
“You better not distract us,” he says. “We just made the ramp eighteen inches higher.”
“When did you start measuring?”
Jason shoots me a look. One that says “shut up,” even though it’s also halfway down my shirt. Emily can’t tell. She just knows he’s looking our way.
“I think it looks good. Are you really going to jump it?” She’s so clueless.
“What do you think?” Jason and Matt screech past on their stupid bicycles. Emily watches like it’s the most interesting thing in the world, rolling her shoulders as far back as she can, contorting a new body with her posture. She looks ridiculous. The boys look ridiculous. This whole thing’s ridiculous.
I nudge Lauren with a pack of gum. Something to keep us occupied. She blows bubbles big enough to pop with her fingers, and I crack mine loud enough that Matt and Jason think the ramp is breaking.
Emily smacks my arm. “Come on! Someone could’ve gotten hurt.”
Someone could always get hurt. I don’t say that out loud either.
Jaime Fountaine was raised by “wolves.” Her work has appeared in JMWW, Paper Darts, X-R-A-Y, and Barrelhouse, where she writes the “Fountaine of Advice” column. She lives in Philadelphia, where she co-hosts the Tire Fire reading series with Mike Ingram at Tattooed Mom. She’s on the internet at jaimefountaine.com, and @jaimefountaine on Twitter and Instagram.
Manhunt will be published by Mason Jar Press on July 16th — order it here. A book party and reading is scheduled at Tattooed Mom that same night.