“That movie was terrible!” June laughs, draining the last few drops of Mello Yellow from her 48oz piss ’til morning cup. “The whole series doesn’t make sense. Someone’s just jumping on the dystopian gravy train. Salsa débil” It’s her second refill in the last hour and with her XL popcorn bucket already devoured, you’d think she wouldn’t be able to move let alone complain.
“It was crap.” I agree, giving Grace a playful push as we leave the theater, “And the boy wasn’t even that cute.” Happy chemicals swish through my brain like water in a basin. But who can blame me? I’ve made an A+ on Mr. Singer’s Holocaust report (and no, I won’t be able to look at chimney smoke, lampshades or special needs children the same way again), an A- on Mrs. Powell’s Mody Dick paper (screw the APA format), and most importantly, my best friend, Ms. Resurrected from the Dead June P. Rodriguez, walks once more among the living.
“I liked it.” Grace smiles, hoping to press our buttons, “I thought it was realistic.” Seething with endorphins, she’s in the same good mood as June and myself. She’s even brought her Cannon Rebel along, hanging it around her neck like an Olympic gold medal and taking snapshots nonstop. June’s stopped trying to dodge her and, like a lonesome hippo caged at the St. Louis Zoo, she’s taken on an air of indifference. “And the boy was so cute.”
We walk past the Pretzel Hut, sidestepping a large crowd of mall dwelling teenyboppers. They’re a strange species, all identical with their mismatched socks and nauseating giggles, each birthed from the same privileged womb of suburban America. I’m sure Jr. High will cull the herd. We brush past them quickly.
“How was it realistic?” June asks. Even her objections, usually thinly veiled insults, are cheerful. “People segregated from each other because of personality differences? People need to be separated by race. Blacks to the back of the room, whites to the middle, and Mexicans to the front.”
“‘Mexican'” isn’t a race.” I correct.
“What about Asians?” Grace asks. She’s learned to play June’s game, working her way around the rules, knowing when to take it and when to give it back. “My grandmother is Filipino. Where would I be sitting?”
“Half-breeds will be the worlds janitors, mopping up puke and cleaning toilets.” June tosses her empty cup into a trash can and stretches, the perennial fat cat enjoying the good life.
“You forget, you’re half-breed.” Grace prods, her overbite protruding as she smiles. I think I see it now, with her olive skin, a hit of something other than suburban white girl. “You have blue eyes. That’s a recessive trait. You have more gringo in you than you think. I mean, your mom is more pale than Mable. She’s iridescent.”
June exhales, signaling she’s done with the conversation. “Where are we eating tonight?”
“Where do you want to go?” Grace ask’s. Carrying a role of twenties in her pocket, she’s embraced the role of financier like a new mother embraces her infant. She’s smiled her way through the receipts and never mentioned the cost of our breakfast at Waffle House, or the three movie tickets and the high price concessions. “Outback is pretty good.”
“Kinda expensive.” I say, wondering how deep her pockets really are.
“Don’t worry about it mate, I got it.” Her Australian accent is horrible. “At least for today.”
“Stop being such a money prude Mable!” June laughs. “It’s time for her to spend some of last year’s birthday money.”
Grace gives me a wink and I drop the subject. It’s clear our sugar mama has been frugal. A virtue we conservative Republicans admire.
The smells change as we leave the food court. The aroma of pretzels and hotdogs becomes the heavy scent of perfume and cheap cologne. We pass a dozen shops displaying expensive cloths made in Malaysian sweat shops and pedaled by pimple faced teenagers on iPhones. The global community at work.
“Stand next to the fountain.” Grace says, taking my arm and standing me beside June, “Look at the camera.” June turns with begrudging obedience. “Smile.”
“Why didn’t you take a picture of Deshawn?” June asks, a sly grin across her face. Grace snaps a few quick shots and begins fumbling through the cameras settings. “That would have been a real zinger. Isn’t that what you call them? You might of needed a telephoto lens though.”
“I don’t want to take pictures of that type of thing.” Grace continues with her camera, twisting knobs and pushing buttons, taking too long to do what ever it is she’s trying to do, “Depressing things.”
“People don’t win Pulitzers by taking pictures of birthday parties and kittens playing with butterflies.” June says. She snatches the camera and studies it.
Grace, her hands empty, looks at me. I’ve never seen anyone so naked.
“I know a little about cameras.” June takes off the lens with the push of a button. “My uncle had one in Texas. It was a Nikon 35mm SLR with a 50mm fixed focal length lens. Viejo como el infierno.” She snaps the lens back into place and dangles the camera over the fountain pool.
“Don’t!” Grace lunges, but June stares her down, keeping her in place with a pair of fierce blue eyes. She could be an Australian sheep dog. After a moment a smile creeps across her face, slow as Christmas and just a welcomed.
“Here” She hands Grace the camera, tenderly, as if it were a newborn child, something that would destroy our little world if it were dropped.
“Thanks for getting my assignments.” June says, turning back to the fountain. She’s spying for quarters but only finds pennies and nickels.
“Did you get through with them all?” Grace double checks her camera, taking the lens off then snapping it back on again. “You missed a lot of school.”
June nods. She dips her hand into the pool and pulls up a nickel. “1974…” She tosses it back in and wipes her hand on her t-shirt.
I’m surprised she isn’t boasting. Her homework pile was about the size of Mt. McKinley the last time I saw it. But true to form her No. 2 Ticonderoga burned through it all like a struck match. She’s well on her way to a “Who’s who” blurb in the yearbook whether she wants one or not.
“So you want Outback?” June turns to us and slaps her belly, “Then Outback it is. I have to regain my figure.” She laughs, “I lost fifteen pounds last week.”
We’d laugh too but for the fact that it’s true. June’s current undead state is proof that miracles don’t just happen in the Bible or during David Blain TV specials, but can occur in unknown trailer parks across the world. That’s if said miracle is the body’s ability to expel rotten bits of itself before blood poisoning sets in. June now has a hole in her jaw she can fit a marble in.
“Smile!” Grace raises her camera.
June huffs and pulls close to me. We stare into the camera’s one dark eye. The wonder chemicals are still doing their magic but I force them down and give Grace an expressionless expression.
“American Gothic, huh?” She laughs, undaunted, the camera still poised, “That’ll have to do.”