Stephanie, John, and Hector spent an evening in early July selling their art on a sidewalk in Old City. The money – all pooled together – was enough to buy plenty of Four Lokos. They were the original recipe Four Lokos, filled with caffeine and famous for Jonestown-like massacres across college campuses. Stephanie knew about Four Loko and Joose way before frats did, a staple of the diet of her former friends in Hazeltown. In the heat of the cramped kitchen, the three drank the lot of it, unending cans into slack mouths with the occasional stream of neon green dribbling from the corners of their lips. It looked like the seepage from the 1991 movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and for that I always kind of liked it.
By the time I found the trio in the kitchen, they were prostrate across the ground swaying back and forth and eerily sing-songing: Family. Family. John held a camcorder above his head and sang into the lens. Hector stubbed out his cigarettes into the linoleum, leaving little plastic craters in the floor. Dirt was tracked and ground into the kitchen floor so much that it became one with the tiles.
Like imploring children they begged me to join in. Janie, hi! Janie, hi! Play with us! Stephanie, still on the floor, raised a can to me and I took it from her small, elfish hand.
Several hours later, having endeavored to catch up, I sat on the floor in a sequined romper unzipped to the waist because I gained too much weight to force it to fitting. At some point I thought it would be festive to dress up.
I smoked Pallmall Blues and half crouched over a 40 of Coors. Next to me Stephanie hoovered deli meat down her gullet. She was the type of girl that said she was vegetarian but ate meat. And, like, a lot of it. She spread round slices of beige turkey in a line and ate them in a row off the floor.
On one of my feet was an orange cheetah patterned high heel, part of a pair that Catherine bought me, the other heel kicked off and across the room. When I was a little kid there was a line of stuffed animals – kitty cats and jungle cats and other various members of the genus Acinonyx – where the head of the plushy was filled with marbles. When you cuddled it the marbles would “purr.” The abandoned high heel, wounded and propped against a ceramic statue of a fisherman holding a lantern, looked like the cheetah version of those stuffed animals.
The malt liquor tasted like the candy that I used to spend every saved cent on at the snack shack at the community pool seventeen years earlier. While I mixed beer, gin, soda with whiskey – in between sips of the lime colored pint—the booze was a Gobstopper of inebriants. In 6th grade my best friend Emily took me to her family’s fancy golf club. I asked how much the chewy Spree cost and she said it was free. “Free” in the sense that in our youth we didn’t know what a charge to an account meant. I ate sleeve after sleeve of chewy Spree until my stomach ached. Feeling disgusting in the humidity, too sick to jump into the pool at the club, I became a puddle in the heat. Abstentious Emily, the product of a weight-loss obsessed mother, made impossible height on the diving board and slipped under the water. I watched her jack-knife dives while holding my extended stomach.
Hector vomited Four Loko on my thighs and then rested an exhausted head against my shoulder. I didn’t move him. The puke was a warm an embrace. It seeped into my panties. It filled the craters on the floor from the cigarettes. I rested my head on top of his; Stephanie and John were already asleep in the recovery position near the oven.
Mark returned from his second shift job and towered over us – a Converse-wearing Cronos. Our bodies blocked the refrigerator door; he couldn’t get to his dinner. He wouldn’t be able to drink his beers, since those were consumed earlier in the evening – after the dress-up but before the deli meat.
He placed paper towels on my thighs that stuck like a second skin. He pulled Hector’s hair off of his cheeks, stuck in clumps to the drying throw up on his face. While rolling John on his side, Stephanie woke up to drowsily sing-song: Family. Family.
About the author:Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review, a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, a cat fanatic, a contributing writer at SSG music, and a candy enthusiast. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com. She occasionally drinks wine out of a mug that has a smug poodle on it, and she’s not wonderful at writing in the third person.