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164 fiction p Lea marisa silver 165 The girls were manning a lemonade stand—a medium-size Dixie cup for fifty cents, or a cup with a Hydrox cookie for seventy-five. Sheila, who was twelve, her older sister, Trudy, and Maggie and Jeannie, tenyear -old twins who lived down the street, sat on folding chairs behind the small card table the twins’ mother had loaned them. The backs of Sheila’s thighs burned from the heat trapped in the metal of her chair. She wore culottes, a combination of miniskirt and shorts. Sometimes she thought of the outfit in the opposite way, as shorts mixed with a miniskirt. But today it was the first version because Maggie and Jeannie were both younger, and because, for once, Trudy was not pressing down on Sheila’s soul as if it were a thumbtack. The man standing in front of the table bought a glass of lemonade. He said, “I have a problem. Maybe one of you girls can help me.” He’d driven up in his car and parked at a reckless angle to the curb, like the boys at school who refused to hang their coats on the hooks provided at the back of the classroom but let them fall to the floor in arrogant puddles. The man said his problem was that he needed to change his clothes. He gestured to Sheila with a wrinkled paper bag that she assumed was filled with his new outfit. He had a job interview, he said. A very important job interview. “But I need someone to guard the door,” he said. “Why don’t you change in your car?” Trudy said. “That wouldn’t be very private,” the man said. “It might be embarrassing.” Sheila’s body understood first, and then her brain followed, knowledge spreading out like a stain. She could tell by the penitent silence of the younger girls that they could tell something was wrong, too. Still, no one screamed “Stranger, Danger!” the way they had been taught. “Just around the corner,” he said. “There’s a little garden shed, but the door doesn’t lock. Anyone could come in, and that would be embarrassing , wouldn’t it?” The way he repeated the word made Sheila believe that embarrassment was somehow tangled up in pleasure. “We can’t help you,” Trudy said. She was fourteen. “Really?” he said. “Not even you?” He looked directly at Sheila. Sheila wore a halter top and she liked the way the bumps of her new breasts felt against the nylon. The man’s eyes searched her face, but she did not look away. She felt a curious ambivalence about his wrinkled paper bag, and the fact that he wanted to do something bad to p 166 ecotone her. What was “bad”? she wondered. How bad did a thing have to be before it was something you would never get over for the rest of your life? Two boys rode up on bikes. They asked how much for the cookies. Trudy said you couldn’t buy cookies without lemonade, and the boys began to argue with her. When the boys didn’t leave, the man got into his car and drove away. The little girls burst into giggles, and Trudy told the boys what had happened, exaggerating for effect. Sheila felt the way she had one day when she took a corner too quickly on her bike and an oncoming car swerved to avoid her; the sip of breath, the way she could see her life and her death at the very same moment. She put her arms across her chest to hold herself. “What’s wrong with you?” Trudy said. “I’m cold.” “It’s a hundred million degrees out here,” Trudy said. The attentions of the boys had unleashed her haughty condescension. She told everyone to pack up the stand. “Right away,” she said, like their mother. Sheila and Trudy walked home, carrying an unopened bag of cookies and the plastic container half full of lemonade. Sheila felt as if everyone were watching her—the lady kneeling by her flower bed, the kids across the street playing Chinese jump rope, even God...


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pp. 164-176
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