- Unicorn Stew
Bev and me, we're cooking up some unicorn stew in a trash can and punching each other. We have a sign and everything, silver spray paint on plywood, so any other craphead kids know what we're doing. Do Not Disturb! it says, Making Unicorn Stew. It's boiling hot outside, and we don't want to deal with their interruptions and stupid questions, like: "Did you know that my dad killed a bigger unicorn than you did?" or "Did you use a regular gun or a plasma laser to kill the unicorn?" or "You should have made unicorn ice cream," which isn't even a question at all.
The stew has other things in it besides unicorns. Like potatoes, because without potatoes it'd be soup, not stew. Also Fruit Roll-Ups and tartar sauce because it does need some seasoning. Bev steals all of it from the store, and we have to tell her dad that right away, so he knows we didn't spend any of his money. He's already pretty sore about me staying with them while my dad is out driving his truck. He glares at me during dinner, and all I can do is stare at his big brown mustache and think about how tough it makes him look. He says I eat too much, but I always make sure to eat a little less than Bev does. "We don't have money for you little piss-heads to be wasting it on your dumb piss-head games," he'll say about our unicorn stew. But then Bev will promise him that we didn't pay for anything. We boosted it all from the packie. The problem is that Bev's dad doesn't usually believe people, so he might still get rough. He might still thwack our knees with the little flashlight he carries on his belt.
We drop in the ingredients, and then we punch each other. "Potato incoming!" I shout and then sock her in the shoulder. "Lemon-Lime Kool-Aid incoming!" she shouts and hits me in the thigh. Pepperoni log!—punch. Creamed corn!—punch. We go on like this for a long time until the trash can is pretty full. We keep adding water from the garden hose. It's so hot out we're both sweating like crazy people. It's that wet sort of heat, the kind that makes it hard to breathe. I want to peel my sweaty shirt off, but I don't because Bev has to keep hers on, Bev being a girl.
The reason we punch each other is to make bruises. Bev gets them from her dad, who doesn't like cigarette smoke or C-minuses for [End Page 8] spelling "besiege" wrong. He mostly leaves me alone, but I get my bruises from seventh-graders, soccer players with shaggy bowl cuts, who wait for me in the little hallway by the cafeteria and don't think I should have red hair or pidgin toes unless I want to be a major-league faggot. So we make new bruises on each other, and they mix in with the old ones, and then we don't know where any of them came from. Bev's a head taller than I am, like most of the girls in our grade, and she hits hard, but I don't admit this or complain about her sharp knuckle punches because I'm the one getting the better bruises, after all.
Bev's mom is sitting in her broken car, on the street, smoking and listening to the Sox game. I think she's watching over us, too. It has to be about a million degrees inside that car, but there she is. Bev's dad won't have smoke in the house since he says he wants to quit, and what Bev's dad says goes. He works across the river at the Necco Wafer factory and always smells extra sweet, like he maybe has a bunch of cotton candy in his pockets. Sometimes he'll bring home a sack of little heart-shaped candies, the ones rich kids...