Uniform

by Andrew Scott

Colin Myers first slept with his neighbor four days after his eighteenth birthday, but he’d wanted Wanda Mitchell for two long summers. He liked wrapping his arms around her and tasting her salty neck in the fleeting minutes before she slid off the bed and sent him home. He lived across the street. They had not been caught, no close calls, but like adrenaline after a car accident, the possibility lingered.

When the Mitchells moved in Colin had watched from his basement bedroom window as movers hauled cardboard boxes into the house. Since that day, he’d taken an interest in Wanda, who was thin with short black hair. His parents sometimes spoke with her and Gary, her husband, a short man with a belly. Colin had twice seen them arguing in the front yard. It was inconsiderate, Colin’s mother claimed, to air your troubles outside.

For two years he’d noticed Wanda, nodding when she said hello, trying not to stare, until the beginning of this summer, when his baseball team raised money for renovating the ballpark and Colin had walked from house to house, enticing his neighbors with cheese spreads, tins of chocolate, and other unwelcome items. The coach said wearing the uniform lent credibility to the task, but Colin felt stupid. He and the team’s best pitcher had already been down his street and back again when they met in front of the Mitchells’ house, with only four sales on Colin’s order form. The pitcher said, “You take this one. I’m heading home.”

Colin smoothed the front of his jersey and walked to the porch.

Wanda opened the door and said, “You hear a knock one afternoon and what do you find? A man in uniform.”

Colin looked at his feet. “Hi, Mrs. Mitchell.” At least he hadn’t worn cleats.

“Oh, don’t call me that,” she said. “Call me Wanda.”

Of course he’d spoken her name in the quiet of his bedroom, but never aloud in front of another soul, so now he spoke those two easy syllables, pleased to hear his own voice.

“There,” she quipped. “First-name basis.” She invited him in, offered a soda, and thumbed through the catalogue while Colin noted the fireplace and the leather couch, where he promptly sat. Photos of her and Gary lined the mantle—vacation shots of the beach, Paris, a skiing trip. Catalogues covered the coffee table, and a knotted rope, a dog’s toy, lay at his feet, though the Mitchells almost always kept the dogs in the backyard.

The silence crashed against him. “This couch is a nice color,” he said.

“Hunter green,” said Wanda. “Gary hates it. I told him it was my living room, and he’d better get over it.”

Wanda returned the order form after she’d signed her name and marked a few items. “That’s it for me,” she said. She showed him to the door. “Hope it helps. What position do you play?”

“Center field,” he said.

“The leader of the outfield. You’re in charge out there.”

“I guess so.”

She touched him on the shoulder and said, “I’m sure you’ll have a good season, Colin.”

He went home. Later, after dinner, his mother rapped on the bathroom door and asked why he’d been in there so long. Was he okay? Did he need anything? Colin had said he was all right. He only needed Wanda; he kept imagining her elegant fingers lingering on his shoulders, and then across his body. He imagined well into the night, every few hours, until he went to bed and dreamed of her instead.