The Andrews are our next-door neighbors, and even though Myriam is really pretty, I don’t have a crush on her.
Okay, maybe a little one. But she’s so out of my league, with her long, slim arms and dark hair. She looks a lot like Justine Bateman from Family Ties. Anyhow, she’s a whole year older than me, even though we’re in the same grade (on account of me skipping grade four last year) so I’ll never have a chance. That takes the pressure off. Besides, all the boys in upper grades are after her, but all Myriam ever wants to do is hang out and play, so it works out great for me.
Sometimes, we hide in the high laurel hedges between our houses and we smoke—not cigarettes, but bits of “bamboo”, which are hollow twigs from the laurels that we could light the ends of with Myriam’s dad’s Zippo. Mr. Andrews smokes a pipe, which is why Myriam always smells like pipe smoke mixed with girl smell.
We’re sitting there one fall afternoon and I say to her, after taking in a good puff of smoke, “They’re really dry, man.”
“Yeah,” Myriam says. She even inhales the smoke and can blow little smoke rings. It’s really sexy when she does that, because her lips are really pink, especially when she’s all tan from the summer sun. I just look down and focus on keeping my burning twig lit. “Do you like your classes?” she says.
“They’re okay,” I say, “I like my English teacher, Mrs. Horovitz. I tell her how great she is and she gives me A-plusses.”
“I’ve got Black,” she says.
Everyone knows that Mr. Black is the toughest teacher in the school. He has a big belly, bulbous eyes, gives out the most homework, and the most detentions.
“Oh, man,” I say. “Is it true that you have to learn that raven poem off by heart?”
“To the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore, nameless here for evermore,” Myriam says.
It’s a good thing we’re sitting down, because I’m wearing jogging pants. “Gimme your Zippo,” I say.
Myriam hands it to me. “You wanna play 500 after?” she asks.
“Sure. In a minute.”
When we’re done our smoking our bamboo, we grab my aluminium baseball bat and tennis balls and head out onto the street to play Popfly 500. It’s not as fun with two people, but we make it competitive by seeing who can get to 500 in the shortest number of catches. I give her my baseball cap so she can shag the fly balls better in the sun. She’s got her own right-handed baseball glove though (because she’s a leftie). I start whacking tennis balls into the air and Myriam leaps around like a gazelle, catching nearly every ball. She’s really good. She’ll probably be a professional athlete.
At the bat she’s better than I am, even though I’m stronger (which I know because when we wrestle I always win). She can’t hit the ball as high, but you can tell by her easy swing that she’s got more accuracy and overall hitting skill.
I fail to catch five in a row, and I’m soaked with sweat, when she says, “I win. Wanna play again?”
Panting, I wipe my brow with my baseball cap. “It’s my mom’s fault,” I say. “She always makes such big dinners and desserts.”
“And you eat them up, Fatty.”
Myriam calls me that sometimes, and I don’t like it. Mainly because it’s true: I am kind of chubby. Still, I get enough of it from kids in the upper grades.
I grab the aluminium bat from her and take a practice swing. The bat goes all the way around, and pangs off the back of Myriam’s head. She screams and starts crying, then runs for home.
I’m standing there in the middle of Harmony Street with the bat in my hand. I toss it into the laurels, run into my house, down to the basement, and turn on the TV.
In a few minutes, Mrs. Andrews is at the door with Myriam. I can hear her talking to my mom: “ALAN HIT MYRIAM WITH A BASEBALL BAT!”
“Alan!” my mom says.
I stare into the TV. It would be so good to just watch this rerun of Night Court in peace.
“Yeah?” I say.
“Come upstairs please.”
Slowly, I make my way up. I’m dead. I’ll be grounded for the rest of my life.
I look up from my dirty socks and sweat-stained jogging pants just long enough to see Mrs. Andrews with her arm around Myriam.
“Alan,” Mom says, “did you hit Myriam on purpose?”
“No! I was just doing a practice swing. It was an accident. Honest!”
“Then apologize to her, please.”
“Sorry, Myriam,” I say. I can feel tears coming, and my face feels hot.
Myriam sniffs. Her mom pulls her a little closer.
“Are you okay Myriam?” my mom says. Myriam huddles in even closer to Mrs. Andrews. “I’m sure it won’t happen again,” my mom continues, “and that Alan is very sorry. Aren’t you?”
I nod my head up and down like a madman.
“Okay, then,” Mrs. Andrews says. “Come on home, Myriam.”
“Alan,” Mom says, “you head on up to your room. No dessert for you tonight.”
Now I feel the tears come. As I start heading up the stairs, I look back at Myriam, whose face is buried in her mom’s armpit, and I can’t believe it.
About the author
Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband and father (four kids, all seven-and-under), who teaches acting and writing for a living. He’s had stories published in Canada, the US, and the UK, and has an upcoming piece in A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology, to be published in 2021. Adam is currently working toward an MA in Creative Writing from Teesside University, UK (distance), and his debut collection was released in May, 2020.