It had never been that easy; Norman uncertain of each step as they approached her green Sedan. Mable unlocked the doors before lobbing her purse in the back along with some junk from the floor. A black sticker with white text reflected on the dashboard, as the passenger buckled up. She flipped the engine over and skipped around on the stereo before distortion carried them away from the school. “You like these guys?” Mable asked at the first stop sign.
“Yeah, sure,” Norm replied, just as his cellphone buzzed. Struggling to pull it out, he quickly hit ignore.
“No, just dear old dad checking up on me.”
“Are you gonna get in trouble for jumping into a stranger’s car?”
“Not if there’s candy in here,” Norm quipped.
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
“I don’t think that’s possible.”
His comment sunk in a moment, before she turned the music down. “So did you have some huge crush on me back when I was in school?”
“You weren’t the only one.”
“And what about now?”
“Now we barely know each other,” he said. “But that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me.”
“So just you couldn’t resist, huh?”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“Look, I just wanna clear the air a little bit before we get any further.”
“This isn’t about some kind of minor infatuation,” Mable said. “It isn’t about sex either, or lust or any of that other shit that consumes people, but I will say that it is about love, which is an emotion I can’t help but feel every morning when I wake up and go out into this world.”
“What kind of medication are you on?” Norm asked sarcastically.
“I’m trying to explain things best I can, but I guess it’s never easy. Maybe just read the headline,” she tapped on her dashboard sticker.
“The road to revolution is often rocky. Where’d you get that, Spencer’s Gifts?”
“I can’t wait for this cynicism to fall by the wayside.”
“Yeah, me too.”
They exchanged a glance of knowing, whereby neither one could judge the other for being inherently false. Mable drove downtown in a state of perpetual bliss, humming along while dangling her general wisdom above his head. Norman rattled his brain for ways to impress her, uncertain of any more small talk. He’d made it far enough to enjoy the scenery, while the rest could be fabricated for Bucky’s sake the following day. All that remained was the big reveal, Norm vastly approaching a level of adolescent impatience so far removed that even someone with Mable’s legs couldn’t satisfy.
Pumping the breaks, she parked on the corner of 15th Street and hopped out. “We’re here.”
“And where’s that?” Norman glanced up at the hand-painted sign. “Murky Books? My mom took us here once as kids. It’s smelled like piss.”
“That’s part of the charm, now C’mon.”
He stepped out of the car and followed her into the store, shelves of soiled paperbacks tunneling them towards the register. A thin woman with jet black hair looked up from her page and then back down. “Isn’t it a little late to be recruiting?” she suggested.
“Trial run,” Mable replied. “Am I the last one?”
“Is there ever a last one?”
“What am I missing here?” Norm asked.
The clerk looked up at him, skin hanging like leaves on a rotting branch. “That’s the question everyone will be asking themselves tomorrow,” she replied.
“And why’s that?”
“C’mon, let’s go downstairs,” Mable intervened, gently tugging him towards her.
They walked past crooked cases of nonfiction, before she opened a door leading further underground. “What aren’t you telling me?” Norman took a breath.
“Plenty, but no need to worry. Everything’s cool,” Mable replied.
“Then what the hell was that back there?”
“That’s just Diana. She takes some getting used to. I guess all of us do in one way or another.”
“Right.” His cellphone clanged as she looked him in the eyes. “It’s just my mom. Give me a second.” He quickly typed an excuse, before pocketing the device.
“Must be nice having so many people looking out for you.”
“Don’t pretend like you’re any less suburban than I am.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it darling, but just in case, let’s find out.” Mable grasped his collar and pulled; their first kiss almost cartoonish, saliva dripping to the hardwood before birds flew around their heads.
Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. My Idea of Fun is an art and music archive focused on digital preservation with roots in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (www.myideaoffun.org). Christopher’s work has recently been published in Lakeview Journal, Noctua Review, Yellow Chair Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Pot Luck Magazine, Crack the Spine, Foliate Oak, The Gambler, Lime Hawk and Talking Book among others. He has also contributed to Entropy and Fogged Clarity.