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by Marie Hoy-Kenny

Brooklyn draws rows of eggplants and zucchinis on her math textbook. She catches me looking and winks. Mr. Foster’s at the front of the room, obliviously discussing the Pythagorean Theorem. Brooklyn bats her fake eyelashes like she’s waiting for me to compliment her artwork so I whisper that I can see she’s got a thing for vegetables and she answers, “Oh, Catherine, they’re not vegetables.” She winks at me again and I get it, but all I let myself think is a squared plus b squared equals c squared because I refuse to let my face turn pomegranate. She’s not getting at me that easy. She skates her tongue across her glossy lips, points at what the innocent version of me from 20 seconds ago thought was a bent zucchini, and says, “That’s what my boyfriend’s looks like.” She slides her textbook to the middle of my desk. “Which one is your boyfriend’s?” I tap each dick sample thoughtfully, with the tip of my pencil, until I rest on a stubby one. I stare Brooklyn dead in the eye and don’t let myself even frigging blink. Brooklyn scoots back in her chair, the legs squeak as they scratch against the linoleum. She widens her eyes and gasps like it’s so completely shocking that someone like me could have a boyfriend. Several people spin around to look at us, but Mr. Foster keeps at it with his chalk. I cross my fingers on the hand that rests in my lap, turn my face and stare at the triangle Mr. Foster has drawn until it blurs. I can see it in my peripheral vision, can see the tassels on the sleeve of Brooklyn’s poncho waving as she furiously sketches and I don’t want to look, I will myself not to, but my eyes are lassoed. She’s drawn this leafy thing. A plant maybe. Two leaves side by side with this tiny bean thing in the middle. A Venus fly trap. It’s got to be a Venus fly trap, but Brooklyn’s lips turn up at the corners slyly. I tell myself to stop being so damn naïve, that she wouldn’t draw that on her math book, would she? This time she’s got me and my face temperature rockets to boiling point; I know it’s scarlet, matching nicely with my tracksuit. Mr. Foster’s looking for an answer now and my clammy fingers punch at my calculator. I raise my hand, desperate for his eye contact, but he chooses someone else. Brooklyn’s pen pings as it hits her desk. She’s done. My breath escapes in a long swish. But then she reaches under the table, grazes her hand up my thigh, and rests it near the edge of my underwear. I smell her strawberry lip balm and feel her tongue flick against my ear and her hot breath as she whispers, “Whatever turns your crank.” My fingers jab into my calculator, hit random buttons now, the numbers creeping higher and higher, 12,988, 35,765, 81,433. My leg quivers and I know Brooklyn can feel it because she makes a clicking noise like she’s congratulating herself. Her hand retreats. A new triangle’s on the board and I look at its angles dumbly. I’ve forgotten how to compute. Brooklyn’s long pink fingernails clink against the buttons of her calculator and her hand shoots into the air. Her tassels swing like a pendulum.

Marie Hoy-Kenny is an elementary school teacher from Ontario, Canada. She earned a B.A in English at the University of Toronto. Her work is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue and Flash Fiction Magazine.

Lead image“Home Grown” (via Flickr user Alan Levine)