EXCERPTS FROM BURN FORTUNE (A NOVEL)
The Dairy Creme is an ice cream stand built into the front porch of someone’s house. It has two windows and two flavors of ice cream closer to custard but who knows what to call it. An additional flavor is rotated in every few weeks and advertised in block letters in the parking lot with a flashing arrow.
Marci works there before detasseling season. She and her coworker Melanie come up with the most amazing concoctions, chocolate-blue- raspberry slushees, banana-peanut-butter-mint shakes.
For a while, I work at the fast food joint across the street. I am not lying when I say my manager takes fries from one of the trash barrels by the picnic tables, rinses them off, and throws them back in the fryer.
I cannot make this shit up.
Melanie is thrown from the back of a motorcycle and dies. At the funeral, I don’t know how to feel because she has been mean to Marci and me but now she is dead and Marci is crying hard enough for both of us so I am embarrassed. I didn’t know about open caskets, but there she is, Melanie, an awful orange color, kind of Oompa-Loompa.
I never want to see another dead body again.
A new kid shows up the last week of the detasseling season. Not just any new kid, either.
Drea Dell is a freak.
During band practice, Drea Dell aims the spit from her trombone at your feet. Her nose leaks too so she wears a navy bandana like a dog. Her neck every day, that bandana, her initials embroidered in used-to-be- white thread. She’s wanted to be called by those initials—Dee Dee— since birth.
Come lunchtime, Drea Dell eats with us in the midday sun, sitting in dirt at the end of the field.
I’m so fucking sick of bologna, Jeremy says. He picks it from his sandwich and throws the slimy slice to the ground in front of Chet.
I don’t want your goddam bologna. Chet nudges it with his sneaker to My Boyfriend.
Fuck you. My Boyfriend picks the slice up at arm’s length, flings it away. Soil-encrusted, it lands in front of Marci, who squeals.
Christ guys, Jeremy says. It’s just bologna. He tosses it straight up and the bologna lands in front of Drea Dell.
Drea Dell looks at the meat on the ground. We look at Drea Dell. She wipes her nose with her bandana and gathers the remnants of her tuna sandwich into a plastic baggie in her lap. She scoots a few feet away from the lunchmeat.
Then, instead of looking at Drea Dell, or even at the grody bologna, we look where Drea Dell had been. In the dirt is a round, rust-colored smudge, six inches across.
It looks like a field kitten was murdered.
Nobody moves. We stare, overheated sandwiches in our hands. After a decade, Jeremy chokes into a laugh. Chet snorts and Marci bursts into giggles.
Drea Dell turns to look, snot down her lip. She looks back at her sandwich, sets it aside. She leans toward the spot.
Drea Dell begins writing. With a flat index finger, Drea Dell writes in her own menstrual blood.
DD, she writes, plus a scraggly, lopsided heart. She rubs her finger in the dirt, wipes it on her overalls. She picks up her sandwich, continues eating.
After, nobody feels much like working.
I’m in Marci’s Skylark or My Boyfriend’s Cavalier or the Nova Great- Grandmother gave us. The material glued to the roof has come unglued in spots. It feels like felt puppets when Marci or My Boyfriend or I drive too fast and we reach up to steady ourselves. The car smells musty, or like leftover fast food. It smells like My Boyfriend’s Eternity cologne or the warm night wind or Marci’s hairspray. That she bought at the salon. It smells like Sun-In and Gatorade. It smells like gasoline from filling up at the Kum-n-Go, fumes lingering on Marci’s miniskirt she got at the outlets.
Ahead, the taillights of other cars line up to scoop the loop. The streetlights flash off the windshield, each other’s jewelry, each other’s teeth. The lights blur past in streaks.
I’m desperately trying to get the attention of the boys in the next car by desperately acting like I’m not trying to. I am desperately trying to get their attention by looking straight ahead while driving and hoping they will notice me not noticing or I am desperately trying to get their attention by commenting loudly about the boys in the car behind their car or I am trying to get their attention by laughing too loud and Marci’s quick, she joins in.
We are fucking hilarious. We are having such a good time.
Or My Boyfriend is driving the car with me in the front seat and Marci and The New Girl in the back and I am trying to act like I’m not jealous of Marci and The New Girl desperately trying to get the attention of the boys next to us. The New Girl leans out the back window and starts to lift her shirt she is desperate but not desperate enough. Marci is though so she lifts her shirt and the boys’ car swerves and everybody screams and My Boyfriend floors it but can only go 20 feet before rear-ending the car in front of us so he slams on the brakes and everybody shrieks and it is epic.
Or I am driving because My Boyfriend is tired because I need the practice because I like to drive. My Boyfriend is riding shotgun. My Boyfriend is a big boy but his teammates in back are bigger and dumber. They are wearing different-colored letter jackets than the boys in the car next to us from Small Town Nearby. Ours are red and black. Theirs are blue and white. We are the Cardinals and they are the Bluejays or Dragons or Warriors. One of their boys spits his chew a little too close to the hand of one of our boys. Our boy says shit or fuck or damn. Their boy says shit or fuck or damn back. Our boy hucks ice from his cup. I yell EVERYONE BE QUIET because I can’t concentrate on driving and their boy yells WHY DON’T YOU TELL YOUR BITCH TO SHUT UP and My Boyfriend almost falls out of the car trying to get to their boys.
We are at the end of the drag but their boys won’t let us turn the corner and I don’t know what to do. My Boyfriend shouts just drive and I am scared because I’ve never heard him yell before.
Or I’ve heard him yell but he reminds me of his dad so I gun it.
THE NEW GIRL
You know The New Girl is a Satanist, she’s been to rehab and it’s not even Senior Year.
You know I slide my hands down My Boyfriend’s arms and there are moles there. You know I lost the promise ring the day after. You know My Boyfriend and I argue whether it is spelled come or cum. You know I still don’t know.
You know The New Girl returns Christmas presents for drugs. She digs butts out of the backseat and smokes them.
You know I get My Boyfriend’s book in Biology, where he had written his name on the line the year before. You know I think this is a sign. You know he snuck into my room and put his class ring on my dresser. I tie it with red yarn to fit. You know the yarn matches the stone.
You know. I take all the ribbon out of every cassette he ever gave me.
Brandi Homan holds a PhD in English, Creative Writing (Prose), from the University of Denver and is the author of two books of poetry, Bobcat Country and Hard Reds, from Shearsman Books.