Fiction: Loaf ‘n’ Jug

I was rooting around for something else and came across this 2014 fiction story I wrote. I don’t know why I never posted it before.

Creative Commons photo.

My head is in my sketchpad, as I etch away the contours of Mistress Taint’s poisonous talons. I couldn’t get the nails on the end curly enough without looking silly and deformed. I stop and try Black Pearl’s necklace and find that to be even more arduous shaping it around her neck. Circles are hard to get right.

“Amelia, your turn,” my teacher, Mr. Evans, says. A shadow looms in front of my desk, forcing me to bring my head out of my sketchpad. “To do the problem; it’s your turn to do the problem on the board, Amelia.” He holds a white stick of chalk between his forefinger and thumb, twitching away.

I hadn’t done last night’s homework. Or the night before that’s. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I completed a homework assignment without doodling all over the page galactic battles with my favorite superheroes and villains. Mr. Evans found my drawings to not be his idea of sine, cosine and tangent mastery.

A triangle drawn with a ruler was on the chalkboard. On each side of the triangle was a number. Inside the triangle was a degree.

“Calculate the sine, Amelia,” Mr. Evans says, and hands me the chalk. I take it. “Don’t forget your calculator.” I grab it, too.

Sine, sine, sine, sine, hmmm, it had to do something with Sohcahtoa. That was one of the first words Mr. Evans said to us at the start of the quarter: Always remember Sohcahtoa, if you can remember that, you’ll do fine in this class, he had said. Well, shit, I could remember it and that wasn’t helping.

Okay, the longer side has the number 3.6. The bottom has the number 5.9. And the other side has 2.2. Inside the triangle is 22 °. I’m gonna Sohcahtoa this motherfucker. I read the math book on the first day…some. On the chalkboard, I divide 2.2 by 5.9 to get .37. I drop the chalk back on the silver chalkboard tray.

“So, uh…,” I start, standing back from the chalkboard, “The sine of 22 ° is um, .37.”

“That’s close, but incorrect, Amelia. To calculate the sine, which is 22°, you need to divide the opposite by the hypotenuse, not the opposite by the adjacent, which is tangent. If you did that, you would have divided 2.2 by 3.6 to get .61. Not bad, though, brush up on your Sohcahtoa. You may return to your seat, Amelia.”

I return to my sketchpad and now I have goddamn Sohcahtoa stuck in my head. I repeat it in my head like one of those tribal songs: Soh-cah-toa, soh-cah-toa, soh-cah-toa. Ugh.

The final school bells rings, jolting my concentration, causing me to fuck up Mistress Taint’s cleft foot. I close my sketchpad and put it, my pencils and calculator in my Martian Manhunter book bag. My iPod is in the front pocket and I plug the tiny ear pieces into my ears and shuffle to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I flip the one good strap of the book bag around my right shoulder and follow the rest of the students out of the classroom. I skip my locker unlike they do and go straight outside.

I don’t have my license nor want it yet. I don’t have a bike, either. But I do have two feet and I use them to follow the adjacent sidewalk to the school. I nod my head from shoulder to shoulder to Vivaldi’s masterful violin play. I keep a brisk pace, as the breeze wafts at my hair, and not a mile later, I reach Loaf ‘n’ Jug. If you didn’t notice the pumps right away, you wouldn’t think Loaf ‘n’ Jug was a gas station.

Loaf ‘n’ Jug is my go-to after-school special of sorts. I sit down at my usual spot on the curb facing the pumps ten feet away with some dead flowers behind me and car after car filling up in front of me. The smell of gas in the air is predictably strong. I can feel the fumes already beginning to assault my nostrils and tingle at my few nose hairs. I lie back on the dead flowers and inhale deep.

Soh-cah-toa, inhale, soh-cah-toa, inhale, soh-cah-toa, inhale. This is my mantra for the next thirty seconds. Then I stop.

I pull myself up from the curb, turn away from Loaf ‘n’ Jug and walk the two miles home. The whole way, I can smell the fumes, as if I was still there by the dead flowers.

When I get home, I push through the front door and make a leap for the mid-way point of the stairs and before I can even steady myself, I hear my mother from the kitchen.

“Amelia? Is that you?” she says, her voice comes in groggily due to the ear pieces. Apparently Ellen is on.

“Yes, mom,” I say, rocking back and forth on the step.

“When you get done with your homework, can you do the dishes?” she says, and before I can respond, I hear Ellen’s voice and the volume rise.

I inhale. Instead of the gaseous odor from the Loaf ‘n’ Jug, I only detect a potent wave of Midnight Jasmine; my mom’s favorite scented candle. She probably has eight of them stashed around the house. I close my eyes. Fuck. Until tomorrow, I guess.

For now, Black Pearl has a poisonous mistress to fend off.

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