Sunday, November 14, 2010


There was this apartment building on the other side of a chain-link fence at the end of my street where huge puddles were left standing every time it rained. Me and my neighbor Lisa liked to climb over the fence and wade through them.

“Come on its not that cold,” I told her. We were standing in my driveway next to the vomit green Valiant my Dad called 'the Chartreuse Goose' and we could see our breath. Forty degrees was actually pretty cold in Palo Alto and we weren’t dressed for it.

“I’ll get in trouble,” Lisa said. Her mom was always around to make sure she didn’t get into more trouble than the average twelve-year-old girl was allowed. Mrs. G didn't know about the time we had gotten busted shoplifting at Midtown Pharmacy. She probably didn't know about the old guy at the gas station that would give you a quarter if you'd kiss him. Or that the 7-11 would sell us clove cigarettes. I figured there were a lot of things she didn't know.

"Say you're staying over at my house," I said.

"I can't stay over on a school night," she said.

The sky had rained for a week straight, which was weird even for November. And I don’t mean drizzling. It had rained with force. She lived at the end of a cul-de-sac which branched off from my street. There was a creek behind Lisa’s house. That creek was now a screaming rapids. You could hear it when you went by, even in the car with the window rolled up.

"Dude, come on. I'd go with you." I begged.

“I have to get my gloves first,” Lisa said.

We crept down the street like we were Nancy Drew looking for the clue of the dancing puppet. I waited outside Lisa's house shifting my knees while she ran in to get the gloves. I had on a sweatshirt with the neck cut out like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance and my shoulder was cold where it kept falling down. Lisa's little black poodle, Pookie, barked at me the whole time.

“Pookie, shhhhh, it’s just me,” I said, bouncing slightly, which only made him bark louder.

“Pookie come here!” Lisa’s mom called from the bedroom, and the dog shut off like spigot.

Lisa carefully shut the door behind her. "You are so lame," she said, standing there.

"What?" I started to walk to the end of the driveway.

"Whatever," she said, following. "If I get busted I'm totally blaming you," and we walked back to the chain-link fence.

Somebody had cut it so that you could pull the fence aside like a curtain and slip through. You just had to be careful not to scratch yourself on the jagged hem. The fence screeched when Lisa pulled it back and I ducked through. I held it open from the inside.

"That's not enough room," she said.

When I let go it swung back and she pulled the fence up again and maneuvered through. She looked like she was doing the limbo.

Inside, we turned to see one huge puddle in the middle of the driveway between the two car ports. Under the water was asphalt. Black. It made the water look like oil. There were no streetlights there, just the moon hanging in the sky like a roulette wheel. When you looked down at the puddle there was no reflection, no bottom, no nothing. We watched for cars, people, a light going on in a window.


I took my shoes off.

“I wonder how deep it goes,” I said, rolling up my pant legs.

“Lets call it Blackie, that way when we talk about it no one will know,” she said.

Blackie was the name of our favorite soap opera character.

“Ok,” I said, and I walked out into the water. It felt good how the cold bit into me. I stood there like that for a while and Lisa stomped in a few of the smaller puddles with her boots like how her brother had shown her to make a big splash. But that got boring pretty quick.

“Okay, lets go home now,” Lisa said.

“Look it’s not even that deep,” I said, water chewing around my ankles.

“I'm so sure. You’re gonna get sick,” she said.

“I don’t care…” I don’t remember now what was going on. Something about a boy or my mother.

"Just come on," she said.

"If you get busted don't narc on me," I said, looking up at the clouds. They look like scabs on the moon, I thought.

“Ok, fine but I'm leaving. Call me when you get home. Just let it ring once and hang up,” Lisa said over her shoulder.

I stood there in that puddle wishing I had a rope I could loop around my neck. My skin crawled with goose bumps. There was a crazy inside me fathoms deep, like a hollow weight I couldn’t shrug off or fill up or make go away. And that was when it started to rain again.

EXERCISE: Write a scene placing two characters in this very fundamental conflict: one wants something that the other does not want to give. The something may be anything--money, respect, jewelry, sex, information--but be sure to focus on that one desire and how it puts the two characters at odds.

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