A Friendly Reminder

Steven sat staring at the words on the screen of his phone—Do you have plans tonight?—his mind vacillating, heart throbbing, feet cold, thumb trembling over Send, threatening to tap it. They'd texted here and there, but always about school, class, homework. Never about anything extracurricular, much less on a Saturday night. He'd seen her out at the homecoming game, saw her at the dance the following night, too, but their paths didn't cross. Implied somehow was that their relationship couldn't, or perhaps just shouldn't, exist outside the context of math class. But Steven was determined to change that. At least part of him was.

He got rid of the would-be message—indecision, that most tragic of flaws, prevailing again—and pulled up his conversation with Mark. They were going to hit the liquor store around nine, Mark said, then swing by and pick Steven up. Weren't they going to a bar first? No, they’d plenty of girls coming already. Just gonna pick up some booze—vodka, rum, tequila—and head back, get things going early. It was quarter to seven and Steven, having already showered and decided on his clothes, wondered what he would do for the next two and a half hours.

He woke up to his phone buzzing against his thigh.

"Hello?" Trying not to sound dazed.

Mark's voice pierced through the din in the background. "Yo we're here."

"Ok," Steven said, sitting up and blinking hard, "I'll be right down."

Brian's SUV was idling in the street, rims sparkling vulgarly in the dark, bass booming, vibrating the doors. Mark was riding shotgun. Shawn opened the back door and got out, forcing Steven into the middle. Bottom of the hierarchy. Nathan was on the other side. The stench of marijuana, intermixed with mint tobacco, was overwhelming. Mark changed the song and told Brian to drive.

"Chill," Brian said at length, typing at his phone, his voice muffled by the music, some hip hop that Steven didn’t know.

"Come on!" Mark shouted after another minute.

Brian looked up from his phone and spit blackish liquid into a bottle. "You're such a faggot." And he pulled away from the curb.

Mark held up a tin of Skoal for Steven to see. "Want a pinch?"


"You gotta take a pinch," Shawn said with a clownish grin, "to ride in this car."

Nathan laughed.

"No he doesn't," Mark countered. "This shit's expired anyways.” He opened the window and flung it into the street. Then he turned and looked at Steven with a knowing smirk. "Yer girl's comin tonight."

"Who?" Steven's pulse quickened.

"That Evelyn chick. She'll be there."

Right. A few weeks ago he'd regrettably let slip to Mark about Evelyn. They'd discussed—what else?—her tits.

"How do you know?"

"I invited her. Chelsea gave me her number. Yer welcome."

"You fucked her?" That was Nathan and it was directed at Steven.

"No, I didn't," Steven told him, screening his indignation. "She's in my math class."

"Wait, Evelyn who?" Shawn.

"Decker," Mark said. "Right, Morgan?"

"Yeah," Steven confirmed, Morgan being his surname.

"You know," Nathan added, "big tits, curly hair, walks like a fuckin pigeon. She went to homecoming with that Slipco faggot."

Shawn: "Oh right. She's in my lunch. Her body's decent."

"Got any nudes?" Nathan.

"Nah." Steven was starting to feel claustrophobic; his ears were warm.

"She seems like a bit of a bitch," Brian put in from the driver’s seat, "but I'd blow a load in her face."

Collectively: “Ha ha haha ha!”




Michael Howard

Michael Howard's essays and short stories have appeared in a wide variety of print and digital publications. His website is michaelwilliamhoward.com. He recommends B'Tselem.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 20:50