Vo l . 7 N o . 1
I didn’t see Josh for the rest of that Christmas trip. Lee Ann and I told Mom we learned more from “home bible study,” and as long as we talked about God for an hour, Mom was okay with us staying home. In fact, I heard nothing about Josh until the third week of April, not through a letter but a postcard. It went something like:
Red Truck and Pumpkin
talent for crumpling his body up, making it look like a microwaved candy cane. Later I’d find out this posture was the direct result of day-long World of Warcraft marathons. My dad, who was so fond of correcting my own posture--telling me “shoulders back, chest out, annnnddd strut!”-- would have found Josh despicable. And as my father’s opinion was my own at this time, I saw this stinky man as worthy of opprobrium. Josh already knew Mom and greeted her with warmth. He then turned to my sister. Mom introduced them with embarrassing excitement. Lee Ann’s face was still as stone. Josh stuck out his hand with his big mouth opened like a dumb dog. My sister didn’t take it. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m not feeling well. I don’t want to get you sick.” This was the man the Church Ladies were trying to hook her up with. I was pleased to see that she was disgusted with the suggestion. “Oh-okay,” Josh said. He suddenly turned to me: “Put it there—.” I gazed up at him. It surprised me that he chose to use a tone of voice one would use toward a shy 5-yearold. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were kind or crazy. He had curly blonde hair that was nappy with sweat, but in the church’s light became something aureole, like ringlets in a Raphael. Owning to his youth, he was attractive. But the BO, cowboy jacket, stooped posture and encroachment on my family made him, in my eyes at least, despicable. I shook his hand. “Heard so much about you champ,” he said. The rest of the conversation blurs. Probably about how “awesome” the service was and how great God is.
“Hi Matthew! I hope you’re soaking up all the sunshine in California! and showing the world your great bright big smile :) I can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks. Josh and I will make sure you have a great summer vacation. We are dating now. Give my love to Lee Ann and see you soon! I love you forever, Mama” I looked up out at the California street that was my home: Did she just tell me about her new boyfriend through a postcard? Without taking my backpack off, I ran through the front door and grabbed the phone. Mom answered on the first ring. “I didn’t tell you about Josh?” her voice was light and airy. “Yeah Mom. That’s the kind of news I would remember.” “Oh, well. I thought you knew... I’m sorry if this came as a surprise— “—It definitely did.” “Yeah…I can understand that. But you know, he’s a good guy. I think you’ll really like him, when you get to know him.” “I don’t want to get to know him.” The conversation cycled like this for the next half-hour. • When I came back to Alaska that summer, Mom and Josh were acting like newlyweds. In the kitchen, they tickled each other’s armpits and flirted in highpitched voices. Mom didn’t change her voice as much as encourage the continued distortion of Josh’s. “What do you want dear?” She’d ask. In a Mickey Mouse pitch, he’d shout: “Top me off with some whiskey!” This was code for a glass of apple juice. “You got it,” Mom said, like any other mom in a Welch’s commercial. Once they were married, he would use the same high-pitched voice every