Jim

Maia Kowalski

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

“Come on,” Jim said, and he held out his hand in a high-five. “I know you love the handshake.”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Yolk began as an electric conversation around a picnic table in Saint Henri Square.

Our scruffy pioneer and present prose editor had previously approached each of us with an idea, a vision: We would establish our own literary magazine in Montreal. And so it was, or so it would be. After that original encounter, eight individuals devoted to the word resolved that they would gather bi-weekly, on Sundays, and bring something new into this busy, manic world—something that might slow its spin down somewhat and cause its patronage to say: “You know what, it ain’t so bad, is it, Susan?”

We are undergraduate, graduate, and graduated students of writing. Some of us learn our craft formally from accomplished authors in seminar courses, and some of us learn by looking out the window of the world and onto the streets that sing below. Some of us learn from screaming squirrels, old curtains, departed grandfathers, and bowel movements. We learn from old lovers, long winters, imperfect mothers, and from the deep internet where a musical genius remains entombed.

Yolk is cold floors on Sabbath mornings, home-brewed ginger beer in the endless afternoon, and downpours of French-pressed coffee in assorted artisanal mugs. Our first official gathering was scheduled for a duration of two hours; most of us remained for six, departing only to attend to the summons of our own beckoning realities. Together, with time suspended, we talked endlessly of contributing something to disrupt Montreal’s literary ecosystem. Something unparalleled, something true.

But what? There was nothing to discuss. There was everything to discuss.

We volunteer our time, hounding some elusive beast composed of combustible words and works. We are hopeful, truly hopeful, that we can give something new, a new way, a new light, and that if we cannot, we might at least uphold the traditions of our predecessors, cast star-wide nets to capture their echoes. We are a thousand decisions. We are a sanctuary for the orphaned word, the solitary writer, the cereal-eating artist who yearns for company, for the comfort of a like mind; we sit together with them at foggy dawn, it rains a baptism, with our arms and hands intertwined, we form an umbrella—underneath, they scribble madly, the perfect picture.

Yolk in no way presumes to be superior to its contemporaries, but its contemporaries should not presume yolk to be anything other than loud—quite, quite loud. We are yippidy jazzed to address the oh-so-technicolorful magnificence of the human experience, but we are prepared also to address the ugliness, to stare at its wet, hairy snout and into its square depth and to roar in return at the things that yearn to devour our skin, beset our ethos, and dig graves in our own backyards.

There’s so much to say, there’s so much we don’t know, but together, with you, we can placate that ignorance, render it peaceful, tolerable, and perhaps even, fucking beautiful.

And Susan says, “Amen.”

Everyone thought Patty was pretty. Boys, girls, teachers, parents; even people she passed on the street. She had classic Shirley Temple curls, dark-but-not-too-dark freckles across her face, and a slim build. To be fair, she never bragged about it. She just took it all in and smiled.

She always had a boyfriend, even when we were in kindergarten. Consequently, she was always caught in the middle of some kind of relationship drama. Every few months, during recess, there would be a spat between Patty and another girl in our class about who Patty was dating. More often than not, it would come out that the boyfriend in question was cheating on both of them with each other. In her younger years, there were tears, or name-calling, or hair-pulling. Patty would sulk and I would reassure her that all boys were stupid and weren’t mature enough to deal with their feelings yet. But in fourth grade, as it happened yet again, Patty did something different.

“Why did you do it?” she asked the boy that time, in front of everyone. “Why didn’t you just break up with me?”

The boy just shrugged. “You’re both pretty,” he said, “so why should I have to choose?”

That didn’t stop her from dating, but it stopped her from ever expressing anything else to the kids at school. In any spat after that, even if the other kids called her terrible things, Patty remained calm. I never understood how she did it. I would hear about whatever she had been feeling after school, when we’d call each other and talk about it until it was time for dinner, but never in the moment. If I envied Patty of anything, it was that.

***

Her mom drove her to and from school. She picked me up too because our families lived close to each other. Mrs. Teller was nice to me, but nothing about her was particularly special: her hair was greying and always in a tight bun on the top of her head; she kept her glasses on a chain around her neck, like my grandma, even though I didn’t think she was that old; and she wore a lot of baggy linen shirts and loose jeans. She taught art at the nearby college, but Patty told me she never did any of that fun art stuff at home.

Patty started sixth grade single. When the bell rang at the end of our first day, we ran out the school’s front doors as usual and walked across the street to the parking lot. The green-grey Honda was parked closest to the sidewalk. We ducked into the backseat and Patty gave a long sigh: “Being single is so boring.”

Her mom glanced at us in the rearview mirror. “I don’t remember boyfriends being part of the curriculum,” she said, turning on the engine. She backed out of the parking spot and turned onto the main road.

“You don’t get it,” Patty said, and slouched into her seat. Something in the car started going ding, ding, ding.

“Are you wearing your seatbelt?” Mrs. Teller looked at us again in the mirror.

Patty sighed dramatically as she pulled the belt over her body and clipped it in. “Yes.” She stared out the window with her arms crossed.

“Thank you,” her mother said, in a sing-song way. The rest of the drive was quiet; Mrs. Teller never put the radio on. When I saw my house, I unclipped my seatbelt before the car fully stopped and grabbed my bag.

“I’ll call you tonight,” Patty said, as I opened the door.

“Oh, no you won’t,” Mrs. Teller said. “Sorry, Carrie, but Patty’s got some housework to do tonight.”

“What?!” Patty said.

“We talked about this already,” said Mrs. Teller. “This morning, remember?”

I wanted to leave so I just said, “Okay. See you tomorrow,” and shut the car door. The windows were open and I could still hear them arguing, even as I walked away.

***

A couple of days later, Patty told me her uncle was going to drive her to and from school now because he was visiting town for a few weeks.

“I’m so glad,” she told me at recess, as we waited for our turn at jump rope. “I need a break from my mom’s nagging.” She gave a little huff. “He’s lived in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, so that’s why we don’t see him much. But he’s my favourite uncle. We have a secret handshake and everything. He buys me ice cream even if Mom says no. One time he even visited us on his motorcycle. Mom wouldn’t let me go on it with him, though.”

I agreed that he did sound cool, but Patty wouldn’t stop talking about him during class, or when we went to the bathroom together.

“We’re super close,” she said, as we reapplied our chapstick in the bathroom mirrors. “I’ve told him stuff about my boyfriends that I haven’t even told my mom.”

“Is it stuff you’ve told me, too?” I asked.

“Well, duh,” Patty laughed. “I tell you everything.”

It took me until the final bell to realize that if he was picking Patty up from school, he’d be picking me up, too. My excitement was renewed at the prospect of riding on a motorcycle. But as Patty and I ran towards the parking lot, we just saw the green-grey Honda, sitting in its usual spot.

“Aw man,” Patty said, as we walked over. “No motorcycle.”

I saw her uncle in the front seat. He looked as old as my dad, with a fuzzy beard and a big wrinkly forehead. His hair started in the middle of his head. He rolled down the window and smiled as he saw us.

“Did someone call a chauffeur?” he asked, and put his hand out the window in a high-five. Patty slapped his hand and I did too, tentatively. I opened the back door to let us both in, but was surprised to see Patty getting into the passenger seat. Once she sat down and put on her seatbelt, she looked back at me with one eyebrow cocked. “What are you waiting for?”

I stepped into the backseat and shut the door beside me.

“I let her sit in the front with me,” her uncle said, turning around in his seat. “Margaret thinks she’s too young, but I think she’s mature enough to sit here. Right, Patty?”

She smiled.

“I’m Jim,” he said, putting out his hand again. I took it and he gave it a firm shake. “What’s your name?”

“Carrie.”

“Nice to meet ya. What a pretty name, too. All of Patty’s friends have such pretty names.”

“That’s because they’re my friends,” Patty said. “But Carrie’s my best friend. You can forget about anyone else you’ve ever met.”

“Okay, okay,” he said, and started the engine. “Carrie, I know you live close to Patty, but you’re gonna have to give me some directions once we get into the neighbourhood, alright?”

The drive home was already much different than those with Mrs. Teller. Jim not only turned on the radio, but he sang along to some of the songs. I thought he had a good voice and told him so after he finished singing “Sweet Caroline.”

“No, you girls are the superstars here,” he said. “When you both sang the bababa part, I got goosebumps.”

“You goof!” Patty said, and swatted him lightly on the arm.

He had brought some CDs with him and let Patty and I choose which one to listen to next. He rolled our windows down and didn’t scold us when we put our heads out, letting the wind whip through our hair. When I noticed familiar houses and stop lights, I cleared my throat.

“It’s just past these lights,” I said, as we stopped at an intersection. I leaned forward in my seat to make sure Jim heard me.

He glanced at me in the rearview mirror and winked. “Sounds good, Carrie.”

As I leaned back I noticed he was only driving with one hand. The other was on Patty’s thigh. She was looking out the passenger window. Nothing in her body language seemed to say she didn’t like it. Jim was looking straight out the windshield. I didn’t say anything. Patty had said they were close, after all. When we reached my house, Jim turned around in his seat again to face me.

“It was a pleasure driving you home, Miss Carrie,” he said, and smiled. I hadn’t realized his teeth were crooked, as if a kindergartener had drawn them. One of his front teeth was longer than the other, and I stared at it. “I’ll see you again tomorrow after school.”

“Thanks, Jim,” I said. “Bye, Patty. See you tomorrow.” She looked at me and said bye, too. I quickly glanced at her lap before opening the door. Jim’s hand was gone. I smiled at them both and left the car.

Jim picked us up from school every day for the next two weeks. All of the pick-ups after that first day were different, in that he didn’t touch Patty during the drive at all. We still listened to music, still rolled the windows down, and Patty talked about her day at school and the boys she had a crush on. But I didn’t see his hand on her thigh again.

***

It was a Tuesday when Patty and I ran out the school’s front doors and found her mom waiting to pick us up instead of Jim. Immediately, Patty’s mood changed.

“Where’s Uncle Jim?” she demanded, flopping into the backseat. Her arms were crossed and her eyebrows drawn. “Why are you picking us up?”

“Hello to you too,” Mrs. Teller said. “Would you rather walk home?”

Patty answered by staring out the window. Mrs. Teller put her necklace-glasses on and sighed: “He’s doing some errands before he goes back to Europe in a couple of days. You two spend too much time with each other, anyway.”

“Well, Carrie’s coming over today,” Patty said, which wasn’t true, but I knew I could call my mom from her house to ask for permission.

I had forgotten that Mrs. Teller didn’t like turning on the radio. The drive was too quiet. I missed hearing Jim sing along to the music as we drove through the neighbourhood. When we got to Patty’s, Mrs. Teller dropped us off at the edge of the driveway. She told us she had to get groceries, but that the back door was open, and of course I could help myself to anything in the pantry. Patty slammed the car door as we hopped out. She made sure her mom had driven out of sight before rolling her eyes and saying, “She’s so annoying.” I nodded because I didn’t know what to say. We walked up the long, black driveway beside the house and up the back doorsteps. The door was open but the screen door let out some sound. We could hear Jim’s low voice from inside.

“Uncle Jim?” Patty called, as she pulled the screen door open. She dropped her backpack on the floor and I did the same. “We’re home!”

There was no one in the back mud room, but when we turned the corner, we saw Jim sitting at the kitchen table with a girl who looked our age. They were holding hands. When they saw us, they didn’t move.

“Oh!” Jim said. He sounded surprised, but he grinned like he was expecting us. “Hi girls. I didn’t think you were going to be home yet. Is your mom back, too?” His fingers tightened around the girl’s hands.

“No, not yet,” Patty said. The fingers relaxed. Patty leaned closer towards the girl and narrowed her eyes. “Christina?”

“Hi, Patty.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Isn’t this funny?” Jim said. He was still grinning like a clown. “I ran into her on my way home and thought it would be nice to invite her in for some snacks. She remembered me right away. You two were friends back in third grade, right?”

“We were friends for like two seconds. I thought you knew that.”

“It was more like a year...” Christina started to say.

“My mistake. I thought it would be nice for you to see her,” Jim said. He let go of Christina’s hands and stood up; Christina followed suit.

Then he looked at Patty. “Hey, wanna do our handshake? We haven’t done it in a while.”

Patty didn’t move. I expected her to freeze out the situation with her typical coolness, but something about this time was different. Her arms were loose, but her nails were digging into the sides of her thighs. She had bitten the inside of her lip in a weird way that made them purse.

“Come on,” Jim said, and he held out his hand in a high-five. “I know you love the handshake.”

The four of us stood in the kitchen in silence.

“Okay, afterwards then,” Jim said. His grin turned into a tight-lipped smile. “When I get back. Nice to see you, Carrie,” he said to me before he walked away, with Christina, down the hall.

I looked at Patty and she looked at me. She gave a huge sigh and looked at Jim’s back, but he didn’t turn around. She headed towards the basement steps and I followed. Before I stepped down, I peered down the hall again, towards the front door. Jim’s hand was on the doorknob. He was about to turn it when he put his other hand on Christina’s cheek, bringing it down her face, slowly. As I had seen with Patty, Christina didn’t seem uncomfortable with what Jim was doing. I looked away.

Patty and I plopped onto the crackly leather couch in her basement. I held a pillow to my chest and buried my nose in it. The pillow, and Patty’s basement, still smelled like the burnt, buttered popcorn we had during our most recent sleepover. Whenever we went into the basement, I knew Patty needed to talk about her feelings. She looked like she was going to be sick and had her arms crossed the same way as whenever she was irritated at her mother. In an effort to be normal, I walked over to the bookshelf and chose an old puzzle. I shook it out of the box onto the coffee table. That seemed to wake her up a bit; she helped me sort the pieces. We heard footsteps upstairs, creaking around the kitchen right above us and then out the back door. Patty looked at me and said, “Do you think I’m pretty?”

I put together two pieces before answering. “I think you’re the prettiest girl in the whole school,” I said. “Why?”

She stared ahead for a moment. “Just wondering.”

I looked back down at the puzzle and tried to find the corner pieces. “Does your uncle always wanna do your handshake at random times?”

She paused, her fingers retreating from the puzzle. Had I asked too much? I looked at Patty, who was watching my hands. “Only when we’re keeping a secret,” she said.

***

At the end of the week, as we walked over to Patty’s car and saw her mom sitting in the front seat, I asked, “Did your uncle leave?”

“Yeah. Last night.”

“You were right,” I said. “I thought he was really cool.”

“Uh huh.”

We filed into the backseat and strapped ourselves in.

“Oh, Patty,” Mrs. Teller said. She rummaged around in her purse in the passenger seat. “Your uncle left you something.”

She handed her a slim, simple-looking box. She examined it for a few moments before opening it. As she did, her jaw dropped.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a bracelet,” she said. “Help me put it on!”

The silver charm bracelet fit around her wrist perfectly. It held a “P” charm, a set of red lips, a heart, and a mini padlock. Patty moved her wrist around so it could catch the light. The charms jingled together.

“I told Uncle Jim he didn’t have to get you anything but he insisted. You’ll have to call him to say thank you,” her mom said.

“Of course,” Patty said, and smiled. It was the first time I’d seen her smile all day.

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Additional reading

Sundogs

Flash-Fried 2.0

Everyone thought Patty was pretty. Boys, girls, teachers, parents; even people she passed on the street. She had classic Shirley Temple curls, dark-but-not-too-dark freckles across her face, and a slim build. To be fair, she never bragged about it. She just took it all in and smiled. She always had a boyfriend, even when we were in kindergarten. Consequently, she was always caught in the middle of some kind of relationship drama. Every few months, during recess, there would be a spat between Patty and another girl in our class about who Patty was dating. More often than not, it would come out that the boyfriend in question was cheating on both of them with each other. In her younger years, there were tears, or name-calling, or hair-pulling. Patty would sulk and I would reassure her that all boys were stupid and weren’t mature enough to deal with their feelings yet. But in fourth grade, as it happened yet again, Patty did something different. “Why did you do it?” she asked the boy that time, in front of everyone. “Why didn’t you just break up with me?” The boy just shrugged. “You’re both pretty,” he said, “so why should I have to choose?” That didn’t stop her from dating, but it stopped her from ever expressing anything else to the kids at school. In any spat after that, even if the other kids called her terrible things, Patty remained calm. I never understood how she did it. I would hear about whatever she had been feeling after school, when we’d call each other and talk about it until it was time for dinner, but never in the moment. If I envied Patty of anything, it was that. Her mom drove her to and from school. She picked me up too because our families lived close to each other. Mrs. Teller was nice to me, but nothing about her was particularly special: her hair was greying and always in a tight bun on the top of her head; she kept her glasses on a chain around her neck, like my grandma, even though I didn’t think she was that old; and she wore a lot of baggy linen shirts and loose jeans. She taught art at the nearby college, but Patty told me she never did any of that fun art stuff at home. Patty started sixth grade single. When the bell rang after our first day, we ran out the school’s front doors as usual and walked across the street to the parking lot. The green-grey Honda was parked closest to the sidewalk. We ducked into the backseat and Patty gave a long sigh: “Being single is so boring.” Her mom glanced at us in the rearview mirror. “I don’t remember boyfriends being part of the curriculum,” she said, turning on the engine. She backed out of the parking spot and turned onto the main road. “You don’t get it,” Patty said, and slouched into her seat. Something in the car started going ding, ding, ding. “Are you wearing your seatbelt?” Mrs. Teller looked at us again in the mirror. Patty sighed dramatically as she pulled the belt over her body and clipped it in. “Yes.” She stared out the window with her arms crossed. “Thank you,” her mother said, in a sing-song way. The rest of the drive was quiet; Mrs. Teller never put the radio on. When I saw my house, I unclipped my seatbelt before the car fully stopped and grabbed my bag. “I’ll call you tonight,” Patty said, as I opened the door. “Oh, no you won’t,” Mrs. Teller said. “Sorry, Carrie, but Patty’s got some housework to do tonight.” “What?!” Patty said. “We talked about this already,” said Mrs. Teller. “This morning, remember?” I wanted to leave so I just said, “Okay. See you tomorrow,” and shut the car door. The windows were open and I could still hear them arguing, even as I walked away. A couple of days later, Patty told me her uncle was going to drive her to and from school now because he was visiting town for a few weeks. “I’m so glad,” she told me at recess, as we waited for our turn at jump rope. “I need a break from my mom’s nagging.” She gave a little huff. “He’s lived in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, so that’s why we don’t see him much. But he’s my favourite uncle. We have a secret handshake and everything. He buys me ice cream even if Mom says no. One time he even visited us on his motorcycle. Mom wouldn’t let me go on it with him, though.” I agreed that he did sound cool, but Patty wouldn’t stop talking about him during class, or when we went to the bathroom together. “We’re super close,” she said, as we reapplied our chapstick in the bathroom mirrors. “I’ve told him stuff about my boyfriends that I haven’t even told my mom.” “Is it stuff you’ve told me, too?” I asked. “Well, duh,” Patty laughed. “I tell you everything.” It took me until the final bell to realize that if he was picking Patty up from school, he’d be picking me up, too. My excitement was renewed at the prospect of riding on a motorcycle. But as Patty and I ran towards the parking lot, we just saw the green-grey Honda, sitting in its usual spot. “Aw man,” Patty said, as we walked over, “no motorcycle.” I saw her uncle in the front seat. He looked as old as my dad, with a fuzzy beard and a big wrinkly forehead. His hair started in the middle of his head. He rolled down the window and smiled as he saw us. “Did someone call a chauffeur?” he asked, and put his hand out the window in a high-five. Patty slapped his hand and I did too, tentatively. I opened the back door to let us both in, but was surprised to see Patty getting into the passenger seat. Once she sat down and put on her seatbelt, she looked back at me with one eyebrow cocked. “What are you waiting for?” I stepped into the backseat and shut the door beside me. “I let her sit in the front with me,” her uncle said, turning around in his seat. “Margaret thinks she’s too young, but I think she’s mature enough to sit here. Right, Patty?” She smiled. “I’m Jim,” he said, putting out his hand again. I took it and he gave it a firm shake. “What’s your name?” “Carrie.” “Nice to meet ya. What a pretty name, too. All of Patty’s friends have such pretty names.” “That’s because they’re my friends,” Patty said. “But Carrie’s my best friend. You can forget about anyone else you’ve ever met.” “Okay, okay,” he said, and started the engine. “Carrie, I know you live close to Patty, but you’re gonna have to give me some directions once we get into the neighbourhood, alright?” The drive home was already much different than with Mrs. Teller. Jim not only turned on the radio, but he sang along to some of the songs. I thought he had a good voice and told him so after he finished singing Sweet Caroline. “No, you girls are the superstars here,” he said. “When you both sang the bababa part, I got goosebumps.” “You goof!” Patty said, and swatted him lightly on the arm. He had brought some CDs with him and let Patty and I choose which one to listen to next. He rolled our windows down and didn’t scold us when we put our heads out, letting the wind whip through our hair. When I noticed familiar houses and stop lights, I cleared my throat. “It’s just past these lights,” I said, as we stopped at an intersection. I leaned forward in my seat to make sure Jim heard me. He glanced at me in the rearview mirror and winked. “Sounds good, Carrie.” As I leaned back I noticed he was only driving with one hand. The other was on Patty’s thigh. She was looking out the passenger window. Nothing in her body language seemed to say she didn’t like it. Jim was looking straight out the windshield. I didn’t say anything. Patty had said they were close, after all. When we reached my house, Jim turned around in his seat again to face me. “It was a pleasure driving you home, Miss Carrie,” he said, and smiled. I hadn’t realized his teeth were crooked, as if a kindergartener had drawn them. One of his front teeth was longer than the other, and I stared at it. “I’ll see you again tomorrow after school.” “Thanks, Jim,” I said. “Bye, Patty. See you tomorrow.” She looked at me and said bye, too. I quickly glanced at her lap before opening the door. Jim’s hand was gone. I smiled at them both and left the car. Jim picked us up from school every day for the next two weeks. All of the pick-ups after that first day were different, in that he didn’t touch Patty during the drive at all. We still listened to music, still rolled the windows down, and Patty talked about her day at school and the boys she had a crush on. But I didn’t see his hand on her thigh again. It was a Tuesday when Patty and I ran out the school’s front doors and found her mom waiting to pick us up instead of Jim. Immediately, Patty’s mood changed. “Where’s Uncle Jim?” she demanded, flopping into the backseat. Her arms were crossed and her eyebrows drawn. “Why are you picking us up?” “Hello to you too,” Mrs. Teller said. “Would you rather walk home?” Patty answered by staring out the window. Mrs. Teller put her necklace-glasses on and sighed: “He’s doing some errands before he goes back to Europe in a couple of days. You two spend too much time with each other, anyway.” “Well, Carrie’s coming over today,” Patty said, which wasn’t true, but I knew I could call my mom from her house to ask for permission. I had forgotten that Mrs. Teller didn’t like turning on the radio. The drive was too quiet. I missed hearing Jim sing along to the music as we drove through the neighbourhood. When we got to Patty’s, Mrs. Teller dropped us off at the edge of the driveway. She told us she had to get groceries, but that the back door was open, and of course I could help myself to anything in the pantry. Patty slammed the car door as we hopped out. She made sure her mom had driven out of sight before rolling her eyes and saying, “She’s so annoying.” I nodded because I didn’t know what to say. We walked up the long, black driveway beside the house and up the back door steps. The door was open but the screen door let out some sound. We could hear Jim’s low voice from inside. “Uncle Jim?” Patty called, as she pulled the screen door open. She dropped her backpack on the floor and I did the same. “We’re home!” There was no one in the back mud room, but when we turned the corner, we saw Jim sitting at the kitchen table with a girl who looked our age. They were holding hands. When they saw us, they didn’t move. “Oh!” Jim said. He sounded surprised, but he grinned like he was expecting us. “Hi girls. I didn’t think you were going to be home yet. Is your mom back, too?” His fingers tightened around the girl’s hands. “No, not yet,” Patty said. The fingers relaxed. Patty leaned closer towards the girl and narrowed her eyes. “Christina?” “Hi, Patty.” “What are you doing here?” “Isn’t this funny?” Jim said. He was still grinning like a clown. “I ran into her on my way home and thought it would be nice to invite her in for some snacks. She remembered me right away. You two were friends back in third grade, right?” “We were friends for like two seconds. I thought you knew that.” “It was more like a year...” Christina started to say. “My mistake. I thought it would be nice for you to see her,” Jim said. He let go of Christina’s hands and stood up; Christina followed suit. Then he looked at Patty. “Hey, wanna do our handshake? We haven’t done it in a while.” Patty didn’t move. I expected her to freeze out the situation with her typical coolness, but something about this time was different. Her arms were loose, but her nails were digging into the sides of her thighs. She had bitten the inside of her lip in a weird way that made them purse. “Come on,” Jim said, and he held out his hand in a high-five. “I know you love the handshake.” The four of us stood in the kitchen in silence. “Okay, afterwards then,” Jim said. His grin turned into a tight-lipped smile. “When I get back. Nice to see you, Carrie,” he said to me before he walked away, with Christina, down the hall. I looked at Patty and she looked at me. She gave a huge sigh and looked at Jim’s back, but he didn’t turn around. She headed towards the basement steps and I followed. Before I stepped down, I peered down the hall again, towards the front door. Jim’s hand was on the doorknob. He was about to turn it when he put his other hand on Christina’s cheek, bringing it down her face, slowly. As I had seen with Patty, Christina didn’t seem uncomfortable with what Jim was doing. I looked away. Patty and I plopped onto the crackly leather couch in her basement. I held a pillow to my chest and buried my nose in it. The pillow, and Patty’s basement, still smelled like the burnt, buttered popcorn we had during our most recent sleepover. Whenever we went into the basement, I knew Patty needed to talk about her feelings. She looked like she was going to be sick and had her arms crossed the same way as whenever she was irritated at her mother. In an effort to be normal, I walked over to the bookshelf and chose an old puzzle. I shook it out of the box onto the coffee table. That seemed to wake her up a bit; she helped me sort the pieces. We heard footsteps upstairs, creaking around the kitchen right above us and then out the back door. Patty looked at me and said, “Do you think I’m pretty?” I put together two pieces before answering. “I think you’re the prettiest girl in the whole school,” I said. “Why?” She stared ahead for a moment. “Just wondering.” I looked back down at the puzzle and tried to find the corner pieces. “Does your uncle always wanna do your handshake at random times?” She paused, her fingers retreating from the puzzle. Had I asked too much? I looked at Patty, who was watching my hands. “Only when we’re keeping a secret,” she said. At the end of the week, as we walked over to Patty’s car and saw her mom sitting in the front seat, I asked, “Did your uncle leave?” “Yeah. Last night.” “You were right,” I said. “I thought he was really cool.” “Uh huh.” We filed into the backseat and strapped ourselves in. “Oh, Patty,” Mrs. Teller said. She rummaged around in her purse in the passenger seat. “Your uncle left you something.” She handed her a slim, simple-looking box. She examined it for a few moments before opening it. As she did, her jaw dropped. “What is it?” I asked. “It’s a bracelet,” she said. “Help me put it on!” The silver charm bracelet fit around her wrist perfectly. It held a “P” charm, a set of red lips, a heart, and a mini padlock. Patty moved her wrist around so it could catch the light. The charms jingled together. “I told Uncle Jim he didn’t have to get you anything but he insisted. You’ll have to call him to say thank you,” her mom said. “Of course,” Patty said, and smiled. It was the first time I’d seen her smile all day.