August in the Pearl (Part 1: His Version)
A Short Story by Jason Moore
Written using the suggestion "Dragon"
Originally featured on 02-14-2008
As part of our series "Zodiac Thriller"

It was late and warm on that August night in the Pearl District. You were sitting on the front steps of Joel’s brick townhouse. It was really his recently divorced dad’s place, but it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be back for days. It was just you and three friends, and you were feeling cool and urbane, more than your 16 years. You were all still a little high and tired from the party and not much sleep the night before, and no one felt the need to talk. The steps had iron hand rails, and you were holding on as you swayed to the music and smoked imported clove cigarettes. You were wearing black Lucky jeans and a Sick Puppies T-shirt, and very cool, very dark, green Adidas sneakers. Joel and Brady and Dodge discussed walking down to Voodoo to get a chocolate donut. Dodge wanted pink sprinkles on his.

You felt good because you knew you could always go home to your five-bedroom house in the West Hills, the one with a view of the city and Mt. Hood. You could always go home to your parents and Svetlana, your twice-weekly Russian maid. You liked to think about her when you were in bed, polishing the granite counters and fluffing the TV room pillows, or bending over to wash the leaves on the plants in your dad’s office.

An amazing cute skinny street girl with short black hair and a button nose walked by. You were on your third clove, as you listened to the sounds of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs drifting out the open door. You were happy to be doing nothing but hanging out in the city. Nothing on your mind but sex and music and the deepest mysteries of life, and how you were going to try everything that felt good—at least once. She walked by just then, her pit bull puppy on a dirty homemade rope leash, and a chubby friend with pouty red lips.

The cute skinny girl smelled your clove, and maybe she heard the crackling sound it made as you took a long, deep drag. Slowly, she turned toward you. You could tell she was into your strong but not athletic body, your muscular forearms and defined chin. She probably liked the way your bushy black hair hung in front of your eyes, messed up just so.

She turned and raised her chin, and said, “Hey.” She made you just a little afraid, like you knew that she didn’t have anyone to answer to.

“Hey,” you said back.

“Do I smell a clove,” she said, looking at her chubby friend.

“Yeah,” you said, a shiver shooting up your spine. Having a girl like that walk by was just the kind of thing you’d hoped would happen, sitting on those steps on that warm summer night. You were hoping to meet some cool girls, not like the ones at school who’s socks and sweaters matched and had tans year-round and could tell you about the best malls and newest hair care products, but nothing about what really mattered.

She said, “Do you have an extra?” She looked back at you, with that same dismissive defensive smile. You didn’t even try, but you saw right through her, and that made her the coolest chick you’d ever seen.

You didn’t know what came over you because you were normally shy, but you said, “Only if you sit here while you smoke it.” It was the smoothest thing you’d ever said and you felt like a fucking rock star, and your life would be pretty damn good if you stayed that smooth forever. She said something to her chubby friend who was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt even thought it was warm, and too-tight-for-her-body jeans. Her friend shrugged and looked like she didn’t care at all, and walked off. The cute girl with the button nose and short black hair sat there and smoked the clove in silence for a while, and you tried to act cool, but you couldn’t help but peek at the wisps of hair on her neck and try to smell her, and check out the gold and red dragon tattoo on the back of her hand. She had pale white skin and a pierced nose, a lot like yours. You checked out her black and white converse, and her skinny arms and her round face with little dimples, and her small perky tits in her brown T-shirt from an Idaho trucking company.

Her puppy licked your wrist. You laughed, then growled and it barked and jumped back into her arms.

You asked if she wanted to go for a walk, and she had that same tone you could see right through when she said, “Sure, why not?” Joel and Brady and Dodge tried to act like this kind of thing happened everyday, but you could tell they were burning with envy.

You walked around the Pearl District for a couple of hours. You looked at all the new glass and steel high-rise condos, and the old brick and cement warehouses converted to lofts and shops. You asked what bands she liked. They were a lot of local bands you’d just barely heard of, but you pretended you’d listened to them for years. When you wandered past a furniture store she said something like, “I hate the rich fucks who shop here.” You walked by an expensive French restaurant that was closing, and a waiter in a white apron was pouring ice into the street. She said, “God, I hate anyone who would ever spend that much cash on food.” You laughed and told her that your parents ate there last week.

You asked where she went to school and she looked at you like you’d just kicked her puppy in the face.

“Sorry, what’d I say?”

“I don’t go to school anymore. They kicked me out when I killed the principal.”

It was getting kind of late and you walked by your car and asked her for her phone number, and she laughed and said she didn’t have a phone. You were feeling pretty bold because you really liked her and you could tell she was the kind of girl who would go for anything.

Your car was a little red BMW 325i two-door, with light brown real leather seats and a white top. You didn’t say it was yours. Instead, you pressed the remote lock, and it beeped and the lights flashed. She laughed and said, “Is that your fucking car?”

You tried to sound serious, but your voice cracked when you said, “Yeah, I guess it kind of sucks to be driving around something like this, but it’s all I have.”

You both got in. She couldn’t believe the seats were cool even though the air was hot. She couldn’t stop talking about the amazing sound system and she made fun of your Journey and Ratt CDs and asked you what century you thought this was, but you didn’t care and you told her you had to really listen to appreciate them. You put some Prince on the stereo to set the mood, and cracked the windows and pulled out your pipe. You were taking a big chance getting high right there in the middle of The Pearl at 2 a.m., but you felt like it was your lucky night and you were 16 and high with this amazing hot street chick you’d just met, and you might even get laid. Even if a cop showed up it would all be cool once you told him this was pretty much everything you’d ever hoped for, and pointed to your nice car. Once he saw how you were being nice to this street chick he’d let you off anyway, and not call your parents once he remembered what it was like to be 16.

You remembered a bottle of gin under the seat. It was really harsh drinking it straight, but you both did. It was a great buzz and you told her about the synergistic effect, where smoking and drinking multiplied to make you higher together than either would alone, and she laughed really hard and called you a geek and spit some gin on your tan headliner. You felt like you were in the center of the universe, and you started kissing her and you could tell she was really into it right away. After just a few minutes you were so hard it hurt and you finally knew what they meant by blue balls. You put your hand under her shirt and felt her warm, soft stomach, and worked your way up to her chest and you felt her small breast under her soft bra and she didn’t even try to stop you like the girls at Lincoln always did. You worked your hand down lower and she squirmed and stopped kissing you for a second, and you stopped too. She started kissing you again and you felt a presence pushing down on you like a huge warm cloud with sparkling neon lights.

You grabbed her hand and put it in your lap and pushed it down a little, but she stopped cold and said, “What are you doing?”

Her question surprised you, but you knew it was just a game. You started kissing her again like she’d never said anything, and you couldn’t tell how long it was after that, but when you felt the tension pass and her breathing speeding up again you put your hand on the back of her head and pushed her down.

She said, “What are you doing?”

You said, “Relax. Just do it.” The gin and pot and music combined into a force that you knew would help her make the right decision. She resisted at first, but you pushed a little harder, and thought she gave in, but then you realized she just slid out and that feeling on your face was a slap and that sound was her getting out of the car.

“Fuck you. Fuck you and your BMW.” She slammed the door and the puppy woke up and started growling and yelping and she opened the front door and grabbed him and left.

You leaned back and frowned for just a second, but then you remembered that your whole life was still ahead of you, and you smiled. You sat there just listening and staring at the red stereo lights. Once the disappointment and anger passed you felt like a rock star again because you knew there were going to be a lot of nights like this for a good looking guy like you. Especially with that red BMW with the white top.

Read More By Jason Moore

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Portland Fiction Project

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