FICTION May 20, 2011


Four weeks later, Colin again knocked on her door, with Jalapeño Jack spread and a tin of chocolate-covered macadamias tucked under his left arm and the order form rolled in his back pocket. Since first stepping into her home, he had spoken with Wanda several times, starting conversations with her when they were both outdoors. She’d wanted to know how the team was doing. He was happy for the chance to be in her house again—and without the goofy uniform.

She called from inside, told him to come in.

A radio hummed in the kitchen. Dogs barked and romped in the backyard. Upstairs, light footsteps shifted across the wooden floor. Wanda appeared at the head of the stairs, wrapped in a beach towel, her short hair angling in every direction. The towel featured Warner Bros. cartoon characters.

“Colin.” She looked on him kindly. “You’ve brought gifts.”

“You did order them.”

She laughed. “Not for me. Only my husband would eat that junk.” She retrieved a checkbook from her purse on the dining room table. “ To whom shall I make the check?”

The items grew heavy against his arm and chest. “I’m not sure.” He put the items on the floor to check the order form, but she stopped him.

“Never mind,” she said, digging through her purse. “I have cash.”

“It’s twelve dollars,” Colin said, too quickly.

She reached into her purse before looking up. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said. Blood rushed to his cheeks. He didn’t like to lie, especially when it was obvious.

“So am I,” she said. “I’m in a great mood. I’ve had a wonderful afternoon.”

“My day’s getting better,” he said.

She held one bill in the air. “I’ve only got a twenty.”

“I don’t have change.”

She stepped down two stairs and leaned towards him, clasping her towel with her other hand. “Take it,” she said. She hopped back up the steps.

“I can bring it later,” Colin said. “The change, I mean.” Every word sounded forced and awkward. He wasn’t a talker.

“That would be great,” said Wanda.

She could be his mother. But she wasn’t; she didn’t have children. What she did have was a belly ring—he’d seen it several times. She always wore a bikini top and short-shorts when she mowed the lawn. “Nice towel,” Colin said.

“You like it? I’ve had it since I was a girl.”

“Daffy’s my favorite,” he said. The duck’s bill scrunched around her hips.

Wanda asked him if he’d ever seen a naked woman. “In the flesh,” she said. “Not in a magazine.”

This time he did not lie to her.

She smiled and pulled back the towel. Colin glimpsed the whole of her body in those brief seconds: small white breasts, tan lines and dark nipples, a pierced navel, the lines of her form seamlessly meeting. Then she gathered the towel. He looked up at her face, which shone like a paper lantern.

“Don’t forget my change,” she said.