We know the rules. When you’re a girl at a picnic lunch, it’s your job to stand, picnic basket in hand, feet aching, until a boy picks you. Remember: you can’t choose the boy; he chooses you. One by one, our friends are auctioned off. Crinkled dollar bills slide from the palms of grubby boys, money attached in envelopes and safety pinned to their back jean pockets by their mothers.

Before we left, we swiped our mothers’ lipstick. This made us feel grown up, like the older girls at school who were always puckering their lips in front of bathroom mirrors, then swinging their ponytails to hide the hickeys on their necks. Now we just feel like little girls. The lipstick is waxy, caked on our lips.

We try not to think about how the last girl chosen always has the plainest face or the worst food, the kind that tastes like a meal served in a nursing home. If our fathers were here, they’d try to make us feel better by saying that we are like samurai warriors, the last ones remaining in a fight. But they are not here, so we stand, eyes glimmering, teeth bared.

The boy who chooses us hands over a jangle of coins. He doesn’t stop to admire our mothers’ handiwork: the carefully folded napkins, the mouthwatering ham sandwiches with the crusts cut off, the thermos of pomegranate juice, the pomegranate carefully plucked from the tree in the backyard then juiced, staining our mothers’ hands mauve. Our stomachs growl as the boy wolfs down another sandwich. We wonder if this is why our mothers sometimes clatter the silverware drawer shut after dinner, complaining that no one ever appreciates them. The boy slurps down the juice and twists his mouth at the taste before ripping the saran wrap off the sandwich. When he softly kisses one of us on the cheek, she slaps him the same way women with sharp eyebrows and shoulders pads in old movies do. Then, she rubs a finger across reddened lips as if she’s trying to hold back a smile. He tears off a chunk of the sandwich and swallows. Hands brush crumbs off his pants. One final bite of the sandwich, and he’s gone, just a streak of boy running across the grass.

***

Candace Hartsuyker has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from McNeese State University and reads for PANK. She has been published in Cotton XenomorphHeavy Feather Review, The Hunger and elsewhere. 

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