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Fiction Winners

Summer Boys

First Place

Illustration By Donald Ely

Fiction & Poetry Contest 2007

Our Annual Fiction and Poetry Contest Once again, this wasn't easy. With more than 150 short fiction entries and more than 200 poetry entr...

Summer Boys First Place | By Holly Nicole Hoxter

The Great American Museum of The American Nickel Second Place, City Paper's 11th Annual Fiction Contest | By Donna Sellinger

Swimming With Dolphins Third Place | By Rob Roensch

Dusk Arrangement First Place, Poetry Contest | By Hastings Hensel

Business Loafers Second Place, Poetry Contest | By Batworth

Untitled Third Place, Poetry Contest | By John Mazur

By Holly Nicole Hoxter | Posted 11/28/2007

I fucked up so I'm taking remedial English

and algebra at summer school. Everyone there is a friggin' moron, and the air conditioning is so cranked up, I swear to God it's so cold you can see your breath.

Back in May when I found out I failed those two classes I didn't really care. I thought I'd just drop out and keep working at Weil's like my sister Winnie did. Then I realized that working at Weil's friggin' sucked. They kept making me clean the bathrooms and it was nasty so finally I quit.

After I quit I realized I didn't want to get another job working at a stupid supermarket or a fast-food place. I knew I needed to finish school and be a secretary or something and get my own apartment, because living with my parents plus Winnie and her kid sucked, too. But since I'd already failed those classes, I thought I was screwed. Then when Mom found out, she rolled her eyes and said, "Great, now we have to pay for summer school." And summer school felt like a miracle, even though Mom was pissed.

Summer school is kind of weird because they actually want you to pass. At real school everyone does their own work and they're like, so serious about it. It's like, you better figure it out on your own, or you're screwed. But in my algebra class, instead of sitting at our desks in neat rows and KEEPING OUR EYES ON OUR OWN PAPERS, we go over all the work together. The teacher shows us how to do something, and then we each do a problem on the board and explain how we're doing it. Mom says I'm hardheaded, so of course I have to hear something 15 or 20 times before it sinks in.

So after algebra in the morning, I have English in the afternoon. The kids in there are so slow, I swear to God. The teacher knows they can't read fast enough to actually finish any books, so we're watching movies based on books. The class should probably be called the Films of Daniel Day-Lewis instead of American Literature, but Daniel Day-Lewis is kind of hot, so whatever. So far we've watched The Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible, and The Age of Innocence. We also watched half of Toy Story one day but that was just because the teacher forgot her grammar lesson plan and didn't have any other movies in her car.

When I walk into English class on Friday, I watch this guy Roger watch me walk in. He's been watching me like that since the second day of summer school. During break he always follows me out of the classroom and leans against the lockers and asks me dumb questions like,

What's your favorite movie?

What's your favorite kind of ice cream?

Would you rather be an astronaut or a movie star?

I kept complaining about how cold it was and finally he started bringing in a sweater for me to wear during class. I know I could have brought my own sweater in, but it was fun to see if I could drop enough hints to get Roger to bring one for me. Roger always wears stuff like basketball jerseys that don't even have sleeves. He says it's not all that cold in here. Not that I'm complaining, since Roger's got real nice arms.

On Friday during break, Roger asks me if I have a boyfriend. We've already been in school together for three weeks, so it seems kind of weird for him to be finally asking me that. But I do have a boyfriend, so I tell him that.

"What's his name?" Roger asks.

"John."

"He good to you?"

"Uh-huh."

"He take you out lots of nice places?"

"Uh-huh," I lie. John doesn't take me out anyplace. He can't because of being on house arrest since before we started going out. He lives next door and we only hang out at his house even though he could probably come over to my house without setting off his ankle monitor.

"What's the last place he took you?"

I try to think of some place John might have taken me, but I don't know what kind of place might impress Roger and make him think John is a good boyfriend. "I don't know. Why do you care?"

"I wanna know where your boyfriend takes you so I can take you someplace nicer."

I roll my eyes.

Roger laughs. "Your boyfriend don't take you nowhere." He walks away from me like he doesn't want to talk to me anymore.

"Fine," I say. "You want to know the truth?"

"No, baby," he says sarcastically. "Lie to me."

"Come here," I say, and Roger walks back over.

"What's the big secret?" he asks. "You don't got a boyfriend?"

"I do so. But he's on house arrest."

Roger laughs.

"It's not funny," I say, and I wonder why I even told him. "He'll take me places when he can. He just can't right now."

"Girl. What do you do on Friday night? Sit up in his house with his mom and dad playing Monopoly?"

"He doesn't live with his parents."

"How's he pay his own damn rent then?"

"He lives with his brother and his girlfriend."

"I thought you was his girlfriend? Shit. You're dating a boy on house arrest who's got two girlfriends."

Roger grins, so I know he's just messing with me, but I smack him anyway. "His brother's girlfriend, jackass."

"This is English class, Carly. We gotta use correct grammar and punctuation so as to make ourselves clear to each other."

"Whatever."

"So what you're telling me is, there's no way your boyfriend is gonna catch us when I take you out tonight?"

It's my turn to laugh. "I'm not going anywhere with you tonight."

"Why not? You think you got a better deal dating Mr. House Arrest? I got a job. I'm in school getting my education."

"You work at McDonald's," I say.

"So? It's a job. And everybody's gotta eat."

The bell rings and break ends. Roger winks at me and then we walk back inside.

I try not to look at Roger for the rest of class, but just before he walks out, he slips me a note:

"Meet me at McDonald's when I get off work tonight at 8. Come hungry and no I'm not gonna slip you any free McD's shit. We'll go someplace nice. Call if you're not coming or else I'll be expecting you and you'll be standing me up if you don't show up and I'll be sad tomorrow and you'll feel real bad."

I don't have Roger's number, and he knows it, and he's gone before I can tell him hell no, I am not meeting him at McDonald's tonight, because I already have a boyfriend. Jeez.

I might have lied to Roger. I do have a boyfriend, but actually, I kind of have two. There's another guy I write letters to. If Roger thinks it's bad that John is on house arrest, I can just imagine how he'd make fun of me if I told him that my other boyfriend is in prison.

I know.

I know!

I didn't mean to fall in love with some guy who's locked up. But a few months ago, I wrote some letters to my cousin and he had this buddy who started writing to me 'cause he saw our family picture and thought I was cute. He didn't say anything about Winnie at all as far as I know, so he probably didn't think she was very cute. So I started writing to this guy-he calls himself K-Rock, but his name is really Kejuan, so I call him Kejuan because I think K-Rock sounds stupid.

This is the sort of thing Kejuan writes to me:

"My baby:

Hows life out there in the real world? I love you and miss you every day of my life but you already knew that. I long with great eggerness and antecepation for the day when I can get out from behind these bars and embraze you in my arms and tell you how I truely feel. Nothing will make me happyer than that day and the only thing that keeps me going on know is looking at that smileing face in all those pitchers over my bed and knowing that 1 day I will kiss those sweet lips."

Since Kejuan is so far away I don't feel like I really have two boyfriends. Kejuan is like the emotional part of a boyfriend and John is like the physical part, so it's really only like I have one. But technically it's two. And I can't even tell Roger the last nice place my boyfriend took me-I can't even make one up. Pretty damn sad, huh? You don't have to tell me I have problems 'cause I already know.

I walk in the house after school and nobody is home. I go up to the room that I share with Winnie and her kid. Winnie's kid's name is actually Deonte William Hall Jr., but we don't call him that anymore since Winnie found out that Deonte had got some other girl pregnant like a few months before he knocked her up, and that girl named her kid after Deonte, too. She's trying to think of another name for him.

Winnie's got her bed on one side of the room, my bed's on the other side, and the crib is in the middle. The kid is finally to the point where he's pretty much stopped waking up screaming in the middle of the night every single night. Now it's just once in a while. Winnie always sleeps through it. I have to shake her until she gets up. It probably would be easier if I just picked the kid up myself-he'll shut up as soon as you hold him-but it's the principle of the thing. I'm not the one who had the damn kid and threw my life away. I'm the smart one in this family even if no one else has any idea that I am.

I find a note on my bed. It's from Mom, written on the back of one of my homework assignments for algebra.

"Carlene, we need you to babysit tonight. me and Winnie are going to bingo at 5:30. thanks. love ya. -mom."

That note seriously pisses me off.

First, she's always calling me Carlene, which is technically my name but I hate it, and does she ever call her other daughter "Winifred?" Absolutely not.

Second, do you ever catch her asking me to baby-sit instead of telling me? No. And shouldn't Winnie be asking me, anyway, since she's the one who gave birth to the kid?

Third, when's the last time I got invited to bingo? Not that I'd go, but you know what I mean.

Well, I'm not doing it. Not this time. She can ask John's brother's girlfriend. She's the one who watches the kid while Winnie works.

I open my notebook and start a letter to Kejuan. I write all about my mom and Winnie. He already knows about them and how it pisses me off that Winnie is the favorite even though she does nothing but screw up and make our lives harder. I can already imagine what Kejuan would write back:

"Carly, you are wonderful and beautiful and I am truly sorry that your family cant apreceate you're skills and talents and beauty."

After I'm done writing the letter I don't tear it out of my notebook because I'm not sure if I'll mail it. Sometimes I don't mail the letters I write to Kejuan. I'll look at the letter later, and if it still pisses me off, I'll send it so he can write something to make me feel better. When I'm pissed off, I can never tell the difference between something that's going to keep pissing me off later and something that won't. I wish I could tell the difference, and then I'd know not to waste my time getting all upset about certain stuff.

I take Mom's note and walk next door to John's house. I walk in without knocking because nobody ever comes to the door anyway. Winnie's kid is on the floor looking up at the TV. He doesn't even look at me when I walk in. At our house the kid does nothing but watch TV, and if you try to change it to anything that isn't animated, he screams his head off. But here, John's brother's girlfriend has him trained that the TV belongs to her and that it's going to only play QVC and he better like it. She isn't even anywhere around when I walk in.

I go up to John's bedroom. I know he'll be either sleeping or on the computer. Those are the only two things he does.

I open his door and he's in bed sleeping.

I walk up to the bed and slap the side of his face. Not too hard. That's the quickest way to wake him up. He sits straight up and almost bangs his head on the top bunk.

"What the fuck, Carly?" he yells at me. I back away from the bed. He gets up and paces around, hands on his hips, glaring at me. He's just wearing his boxers. He looks good.

I shove the note at him.

He takes it and reads it. "Car," he says, like he's annoyed with me. Like, why do you get upset over this stupid shit?

I grab the note from him. "I want to watch TV."

"Alright," he says.

He lays down on the bottom bunk and I roll in next to him. He puts his arm around me, feels for the remote, and turns on the TV. After he picks a channel he rests his hand on my stomach. I like that.

I look over at the clock radio and I wonder if I'm going to meet Roger later. I'd made up my mind that I wasn't, but Mom is going to bingo so she won't be making dinner, and a girl's gotta eat, and John sure as hell isn't going to take me anywhere nice, and I'm sure as hell not staying home and watching Winnie's kid.

John moves his hand off my stomach.

"John," I say, like I'm annoyed.

"I got an itch!" he says. I hear him scratching. And then I hear him stop. But he doesn't put his hand back on my stomach, and I sigh, and I look back at the clock radio and count down how many hours I have left until I have to decide what I'm going to do★

Related stories

Fiction Winners archives

More Stories

And the winners are... (12/2/2009)
City Paper's 11th annual Fiction and 10th annual Poetry Contest

An Airline Ticket to Romantic Places (12/2/2009)
First Place

What Was Janie Looking At? (12/2/2009)
Second Place

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