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Vo l . 7 N o . 1 I bought Barbara Orange Crush and Devil Dogs after school. She didn’t have to ask. I loved to listen to her stories. The owner seemed fine with the present arrangement at his bar because everyone in town wanted to prove they were tougher than the Grady boys. The place was always crowded, and the Grady boys never touched the till. One of them wore a sombrero and liked to remind customers that Billy the Kid was Irish. Barbara said he kept a pearl-handled revolver behind the bar. I believed her every word. She disappeared at the end of seventh grade. Nothing lasts forever and after too many visits by the Paddy Wagon, the bar was closed. I met Barbara years later when, early one morning needing a drink, I wandered into a bikers’ bar on Moody Street where she was drinking with her girlfriend. I bought her a shot of whiskey and a beer, a boilermaker, which is good for clearing out the cobwebs. By the time I was twelve, if a girl seemed to be interested in me, I crossed the street or turned around. If a girl did manage to come close to me on the narrow school stairs when I went up the girl’s stairs instead of the boys, I turned red. I still blush easily. If my parents noticed they didn’t say a word. They seemed to give up on my social life when I managed to miss my own 6th birthday party. My cousins were there and a few of my sister’s friends along with Deirdre and Joey. I was there and then I wasn’t. I spent the next two hours wandering. When my father found me and brought me back, my birthday cake was still uncut and the kitchen was empty. I realize now that hiding beneath the porch the previous year was the beginning of my tendency to disappear. It isn’t that I wasn’t interested in girls, I was. I peeked at my sister through a small hole in the bathroom wall that I discovered when I was playing in the cellar of the house we had moved to from High Street, but I had no idea what I was hoping to see. There was an old privy down there from when the house was built ages ago that fascinated me. No one else ever went into the cellar. Down there when my hormones were in control, I would commit an unspeakable act that was certain to leave me blind if I did it again, but I hadn’t crossed that bridge yet. I did fall in love in the sixth grade, a love that ended with a broken heart and a long walk home. In the middle of the school year, a vision appeared in

115 class. Her name was Cobina Jerome. In a world where most of the girls were named Mary or Jane, Cobina was mysterious for her name alone, but there was something else – she was from Texas and her father was a chef. Texas! What could be more exotic than Texas? I wanted to ask her about the Alamo and Davey Crockett, but as usual, I held my tongue; however, my friend, Roland Savard, was also smitten. After Cobina gave both of us a Valentine in class, we had to do something to show her how we felt. A plan was hatched. After school one day with money we had earned carrying groceries home from Conant’s store where rich people shopped and were willing to give you something for carrying their groceries, we went downtown to the Five & Dime to buy a bottle of lilac scented perfume for Cobina. I think it cost fifty cents which was a fortune back then when you could get a donut from the machine that made them fresh for a nickel. We debated buying her a couple of donuts and having a few ourselves, but in the end the perfume won out. Donuts would not do for Cobina. It was still early so we set out for Cobina’s house in Tewksbury about three miles from school. I don’t remember how we found her address, but we did. It was a long walk but we didn’t care. We took turns carrying the perfume, squirting a little to make sure it was still good enough for our Cobina. I asked Roland if they have lilacs in Texas. He thought they did. He was certain they had rattlesnakes. When we reached her house, a small white ranch in a new subdivision, we flipped our last dime to see who would knock on the door and ask for Cobina. Roland won. Roland spoke English as a second language as we say today. Until he went to school, he spoke French at home. His grandparents had come down from Quebec, so it must have been his accent that caused Cobina’s mother to slam the door closed on the small boy holding a bottle of cheap perfume and asking for her daughter almost as soon as she opened it. We left the perfume on the curb in front of her house and made our way home. We agreed that we should have brought donuts instead of perfume. Our mothers were not amused when we were both sent home the next day from school with a note saying Mrs. Jerome wanted us to stay away from her daughter. I thought, given her suspicions about me, that my mother would have been delighted. I was wrong. The Jeromes went back to Texas at the end of the year. When I began

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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