A Simple Prop

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Nine

That year he got his first knockoff Walkman, listened to Document in the living room while his parents watched TV, went outside to the broken picnic table with a book whose words he barely saw, hearing a refrain whose words he changed to suit himself, “This song sails out to the one I love.”

That year he got his first job, bagging groceries at the A&P, nervous as hell his first night, the Moonlight Madness Sale, where a kid one year ahead of him in school taught him to put the cans in the middle of the paper bag, to arrange the boxes around the outside to give stability, like walls.

That year when he touched himself he pictured Jason Carpenter’s cutoff football jersey rising to reveal his navel. His mom almost caught him twice, or maybe she just pretended she didn’t see, closing the door again while he stayed in bed. That year he didn’t bother to be careful, tried to forget about the A&P, the bags and boxes, the eggs set apart so they didn’t crack, soaps in a different bag so their scent didn’t taint the bread. He lingered in bed each morning, slipped his fingers into his underwear, his eyes fluttering closed to imagine feathered hair, blue eyes, rippling forearms, one melody in his head always, “A sinful prop to occupy my mind.”

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