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Glory and College by Matthew Simmons



     “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” he says, and we all get up to do so, or to do something else, instead. Depends on who we are.
     Wood, Toddler and I grab our boards from the trunk of Wood’s car. We ride over to the funeral home parking lot. The building is empty, abandoned. No one yells at us to move along. On the way we push off on parked cars and avoid the bumpier side streets. We find the smooth new pavement. Toddler hits a rock, and skips forward off his board, and almost falls. He gets his legs under him, though. He runs it out. He chases his board to the curb and catches up to us.
     At the parking lot, Wood and Toddler grind the concrete parking blocks that line the edges. They leave behind shavings of metal. Their trucks are grinding down. The bolts are grinding down. The slick wooden decks are wearing through. The stickers on the bottom are peeling off. The plastic rails are almost gone and it has been a long, dry summer.
     A teacher’s strike has given us an extra month off. It’s August and we should be in school tomorrow. Instead, we’ll probably come back here. The Escanaba schools will be open, so it’s just going to be us and the truants.
     And the cops, who will stop us and ask what we’re doing. We’ll say we’re from Gladstone. Teacher’s strike.
     I’m shirtless, ribs and stuck-out hipbones, lying on my board.
      “You need to eat, or something,” says Wood.
     The grip tape on the board scratches my back.
     A car rolls by and someone inside shouts: “Skate fags!”
     Wood raises his middle finger. He has long fingers. When he flips someone off, he curls the other fingers to his palm, and mashes them down with his thumb. He has a long, long middle finger, and he can raise it high.
     Toddler and I cock the index and ring fingers when we flip someone off. The final knuckle of each frames the middle. It makes Wood seem all the more certain of what he is doing.
     The car that is rolling by squeals and stops.
     We yell back. We raise our middle fingers. We react to insult.
     But, we don’t fight.
     We run down to the beach, cutting through yards. We go where the cars can’t. We run until we get to the beach, and then we stop at the beach house. Wood asks us if we saw how big the guys in the car were. “They were big,” he says. “Big.”
     We buy sodas at a 7-11, and Toddler steals a pack of gum. He gives us each a piece and throws away the rest, tossing it to the ground.
     I’ve got my hands in the pockets of my shorts as we skate away.
     Wood tries a pop shove-it, but gets tangled up. His board rolls away as he watches, leaning over, hands on his knees.


     "Where are you?"
     "You know where I am."
     "Are you in your dorm room?"
     "Describe it."
     "It's a room."
     "Describe the room. Everything. Tell me everything about the room."
     "It's a room. Bed. Window. Desk. Door. Bathroom."
     "No. Tell me. Tell me more. I need you to tell me details."
     "Because I don't know where you are."
     "I'm in my dorm room. In Ann Arbor. In Michigan. In the USA. On planet Earth. In our solar system. In the Milky Way galaxy."
     "Don't make fun. Tell me about the room."
     "The room. I want to see it."
     "See it."
     "You're in a submarine to me right now. Under the Antarctic. You're lost on the Moon. I can't see where you are. I can't see you."
     "Are you still high?"
     "Tell me what the room looks like."
     "It's 4am. I should be sleeping. I have class tomorrow."
     "Tell me what the room looks like."
     "I don't know. It's painted light blue. There are bunk beds along the wall across from the door that leads to the hallway."
     "Where's the desk?"
     "There are two. Facing away from each other. Against each wall. One has a mini-fridge next to it. Don't you have school in, like, three hours?"
     "I'll skip first period. Mrs. Varner. I'll tell her I had cramps. She always buys 'female troubles' as an excuse."
     "I'm in the bottom bunk."
     "What's on the wall next to you?"
     "A photo of you."
     "No. Really."
     "I put you photo up. From last year."
     "I hate that picture."
     "Send me a new one."
     "Maybe. I'm not getting a senior portrait done. Stupid expense for nothing."
     "You should."
     "You should."
     "I won't. My folks don't care. The room."
     "What else?"
     "What's on the desk?"
     "My boom box is on it. Some tapes."
     "Which ones?"
     "I'm tired."
     "Which ones?"
     "Stone Roses, I think. Public Enemy."
     "The tape I made you?"
     "Yeah, that's there."
     "When are you coming home?"
     "Spring break."
     "No. My car won't make it. I'll break down in Sault Ste. Marie."
     "I'll come get you."
     "They won't let you."
     "I'll steal a car."
     "They watch you."
     "I'll take a car. I'll just take one."
     "You know you won't. You're afraid to drive."
     "I won't be."
     "I should sleep now."
     "Don't. Don't hang up."
     "I have to go."
     "Don't hang up."
     "I really have to go. I love you."
     "Please don't hang up."
     "Please. A little more. Tell me a little more."
     "Tell me about what you see when you look out the window."
     "I'm going. We've been on the phone for five hours."
     "Tell me. I want to see you."
     "Let me sleep."
     "Don't hang up."

Matthew Simmons is the author of the novella A Jello Horse (Publishing Genius Press). He has a blog called The Man Who Couldn't Blog, is the Interview Editor for Hobart and is a regular contributor to HTML Giant.

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