THE [SOME GIRLS] ASSIGNMENT
Some girls might think we are heroes because a bunch of people we never met are going to be killed today.
As always happens before any of our mandatory and questionable sprees someone is going to cock around in an attempt to make us laugh and we will laugh not just the first time but the second time too even a third time but after that you’re pushing it. Cresp is the clown of our band and he’s pushing it now. There is only so much funny that is funny and well we all try to be funny because let’s face it we are in sore need of funny because not much is funny but as everyone throws down with funny there is a certain democracy to it but Cresp on the other hand just wants attention. We give it to him. We take it away when he pushes it. He gets the message then but only for a couple of hours and then he’s off again with the funny. The thing is when you are like that you get to have a reputation.
Some girls have deep thick voices and they are typically tall and keep their hair long and are either totally into fucking or don’t want anything to do with it.
We all agree that after Cresp makes a fourth funny he has pushed it and Solt shuts him up good. Solt is not the biggest of us but he is big enough and he is not the meanest of us but he can make a point with a good shove.
None of us slouch. We have been badgered into superior posture by our superiors who have also helped us through rigorous exertion to build mighty fine bodies that women drool over when we are allowed to see women which is not ever but they’d drool if they saw us. Fivarito takes pride in sharing with us a letter he received from his wife in response to one he sent to her with an enclosed photo of himself in his new outstanding physicality and his wife wrote When you get back I’m going to wear you out or die trying. Fivarito always says to that Now there’s a reason to come back alive and he says it over and over and over and over. We don’t like it when he says that because we don’t like the words he chooses which is to say we don’t like those particular words strung together but we don’t say anything to him about it. Anyway we all think Fivarito’s wife is a bit of a whore even though we have never met her or seen her we just know.
I have to write this out with my hand and my handwriting is tiny and packed and I could care less if they will be able to read it they will have to bend forward to see it and possibly squint and really look really really look and that’s a good image to have in my brain them having to really really put forth some effort to read this thing.
Birnes has yet to grow into his face. Birnes is the youngest of us and it is still possible to imagine him crooking a slim arm across a Mead notebook as his neck reddens as he talks to the tall girl he is studying with. His teeth are too big for his mouth and he licks them and I think he still thinks he is wearing braces I’ll bet they were newly off when he signed up and shipped out. Birnes is an obvious virgin and I think his virginity bothers many of us but for once it is a botheration we do not discuss. Birnes sleeps an untroubled sleep which surprises and angers all of us because we expected him of all people to be an antenna for nightmares. Cresp says this untroubled slumbering is a sure sign of virginity and Solt says it is a sure sign of a history of playing video games for hours and hours and hours and Fivarito says that makes him feel safer and we leave Birnes alone when he sleeps. Somebody among us should sleep like a baby.
Some girls are short and squat and develop early and wear tight striped tops and when they drive a car they prop their unoccupied leg up against the door and at the movies they put your arm around them if you haven’t already done so.
We are very aware of the clock and the door. The clock is big and its size is a comfort. The clock is one of those clocks you might see in a factory or in one of those control rooms where everything depends on everyone seeing the same clock and it makes a humming sound and none of us look directly at it we glance at it in secret. We will sit and talk. Our muscles are shelves and our guts are rocks. We will edge forward a little while talking and sitting and make it look like we are about to stand but we don’t we look up at the clock. The door is a door and is always shut except when it opens and when it opens it means something and that is all that can be said about the door.
Many of us miss sweet coffee.
There are several hundred words now if not one thousand and maybe I can be done with this even though I have not written about that I have been told to write one thousand words about. I smell a skunk which is impossible there are no skunks here so the question now is what smells like a skunk but is not a skunk. Cresp is being funny about it first time second time third time and he is pushing it.
Some girls are very young who are very young not because they are very young but because their bodies are turning not very young and they know it but don’t know what to do about it what to do with it yet and you would like to show them.
We are very hungry today but do not eat much.
I have asked them why they want me to write one thousand words about what will happen and I was told it is an order and I accept that. I think however I think many things and maybe what is wanted is a prediction about the immediate future but all future is immediate so that is a stupid thing to say. A prediction about what will happen based on what did happen what happened many times before oh yes many many times before. If that is the reason then one thousand words is too much way too much. Thirteen words would cover it nicely. Thirteen words. Less with editing. Too late now.
There are things we do not discuss very few things three come to mind and yes these very few three things go untouched by Cresp although he can find the funny in anything and everything. But we do not let him because we do not let ourselves. We talk about girls and back home.
Back home to all of us is small and big. Back home our towns and back home our country. When we say back home we mean all of it small and big and our towns and our country. Very few of us are from cities. Breek is from a city. Breek is no different from us and I’m not implying that he is trying to fit in but his stories about girls are without passion and seem kinkier. We do not question his stories. We listen to all stories many of them the same over and over and over and over we listen without complaint and none of us care if they are the truth or fantasy and even if they are fantasy that’s okay that’s understandable. We cannot prove fantasy. How can we check the facts of fantasy how can we know if someone is lying it doesn’t matter the story the stories are there and they are welcome. Except Birnes who tells no stories because he has not lived any he is waiting to have some to have just one.
There is a hush now because none of us are saying anything.
Some girls have a tattoo on their foot and these girls often take birth control pills. Breek tells us this. Everyone nods and everyone understands. Birnes is napping. We want to wake him up but Birnes should sleep should do the sleeping for us the dreaming too.
Solt makes as if to stand up but he does not he glances at the clock. Behind the door are all sorts of sounds and smells and some of them we recognize and some of them we do not which makes it very hot where we are inside waiting to go outside.
Fivarito is telling me that when he closes his eyes he can still see can still make out shapes he can still function normally and is it possible for someone to have thin eyelids. I am telling him I have never heard of such a thing and it is the truth I have never heard of such a thing. Fivarito is closing his eyes and is saying Try me. I hold up three fingers in front of him and he is saying Three. It is unsettling.
We are hearing a collection of footsteps outside and therefore as always happens the door which coincides with the clock will soon not be shut and someone is asking Cresp to say something funny and Cresp does not for once. Fivarito opens his eyes. Birnes is awake and his neck and cheeks are red.
We are dressed for it we are armed for it we are trained for it we are prepared for it we are nonetheless wishing it was not about to happen. Something will happen. To us. To them. We hope more of it will happen to them than it will to us. We hope.
I would like to tell you what all of us are thinking but it would be the same thing over and over and over and over. I will try. We are thinking make it through make it through make it through make it through make it through. We are thinking now now now now now.
I would like to tell you how comfortable we are and how uncomfortable we are in our clothing it is all the same clothing we are all the same.
I would like to tell you how heavy we feel.
I would like to tell you how it feels to be very aware of your own neck your own nape your own back of your head.
I would like to tell you how each time before has been and then maybe you will see the unnecessity of what I am writing now of what I have been asked to write one thousand words about but I can’t.
Some girls make you perspire when you hold their hands. These are the girls you love.
I have lost track of my one thousand words and anyway it is time. I will choose the thirteen essential words the thirteen words that really are all I need to write I will choose them later when I get back and we’ll see if I get away with that. We’ll see.
They’ll owe it to me.
JON STEINHAGEN is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists; his fiction has recently appeared in Alliterati, Monkeybicycle, The Atlas Review, Bodega Mag and The American Reader. Selections from his forthcoming collection of fifty tiny novels (each 500 words long), Americans Elsewhere, have been published in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly and The Yoke.