September in Medford
By Wesley Jacques
The summer was getting away, so we ran to the roof with tequila and a six-pack of PBR to chase it, holding on dearly for another night. Shane strummed a chord or two on an out-of-tune guitar while sitting on a milk crate. I sat on the ground and hummed and air-drummed. There was a song we had in mind, not the same song, but it didn't seem to matter much as neither of us had yet grasped a full melody.
We met somewhere between Willie Nelson and Jeff Buckley, and I was fine with that.
Shane apparently wasn't. He jumped up, dropped the guitar and startled the sun into setting a minute or two sooner than it would have—I swear it. Then, he angrily proclaimed ownership over the night. He did so every three days or so—with a toast or a shot or a strange little dance where he churned invisible butter with both his hands, following through with his hips.
This time, he yelled three stories down to a girl on the sidewalk and accidentally spilled some Pabst half a yard behind her.
The top of her head was pretty, he told me when he sat back down on the milk crate.
"What the fuck, creep!" she screamed up at me when I leaned over to look, a beer in one hand, one-third of a bottle of tequila in the other, a stupid grin on my mug.
"It's our night!" I yelled back, meekly echoing Shane's corny sentiment. "Come up!"
Shane laughed. The smell of booze on his breath sailed the warm night air as he cackled for nearly twenty-minutes. He smelled like the sort of bum that would tell you jokes in Harvard Square for loose change. He smelled and looked like a madman. End-of-summer madness.
The girl never came. We'd mostly forgotten about her soon enough.
But later on, there was another girl at a bar on Highland that Shane swore had the same head. She didn't understand the compliment but it was said with the confidence that a lot of girls find attractive when last call creeps close. So Shane crept closer and sniffed the top of her head. She cooed.
They left the bar together. I left alone soon after, taking the long way home with a sloppy strut.
I hadn't been a schoolboy for several years and like many grownups, had work tomorrow and the day after just as I had work earlier today and the day before—but somehow, I'd caught the first day jitters.
I'd felt it in my throat on the roof earlier, and I'd felt it in the bar. Now I was sick.
I faked eleven tummy aches in my whole life. I counted them while I vomited on a tree outside my apartment. The first four times, four separate first days from second grade to fifth, were the most believable I think. My mom coddled me for the day, and I ate soup in my briefs and watched daytime talk shows until cartoons came on.
The seventh time, or maybe the eighth, I escaped a spelling quiz with "facetious" on it.
The last time was just to convince Shane his meatloaf sucked. It was actually pretty good. That was three days ago. I could still taste it.
I threw up again. Then I could see it. It sort of looked like autumn.
Wesley Jacques has been writing short fiction for twenty years, not to be discredited by the fact that he’s only twenty-three. Born in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York, to Haitian immigrant parents, he was raised within the web of group homes, foster homes and other non-homes. He has an MA in English Literature and is currently working on a novel, tentatively titled A Native Sun. He writes the television review and culture blog Ears of a Rabbit.