Here I stand upon the scales
a plump and rounded figure.
And if the boys don’t like me now
they sure won’t like me bigger.
—Newfoundland Nursery Rhyme
The husky young girl traveling with her grandmother has never been kissed by a boy, held by a boy, or wanted by a boy in her life. There’s no way of knowing this for sure, of course. But one examines the scene and makes use of what he can and then maybe there is something like this:
The girl and her grandmother drive into a public campground in a 900 Saab stuffed to bursting with junk you might find in the depository bin behind the Goodwill. They are coming or they are leaving but either way they are moving.
They pull into a $20 day-space surrounded by RV’s and clans of cross-country campers pulling beer from Styrofoam coolers and lounging ass-inch-from-the-ground in plastic webbing lawn chairs.
The girl parks the car and helps her grandmother out. She sprays her grandmother’s arms and neck with OFF bug spray.
She goes to the trunk and takes out a crooked knuckled walking staff which she gives to her grandmother, and which her grandmother takes into a patch of nearby pine wood and begins to slash and hack the air with.
Grandma, in her plain black shirt and blue sweat pants, is wearing her prescription sun-goggles on top of her head. She is dispatching a party of ruffian pine trees with flamboyant Earl Flynn-like strokes while her granddaughter begins the slow chore of pitching camp.
The granddaughter is built like a high-school lineman. She is big, but there is a prophecy in her physique that she will get much bigger. She is dressed in baggy-no-style clothing and there is a tick-bit, buck snorting petulance about her that no boy in his right mind would ever attempt to bargain with.
She pitches tent, smokes a cigarette, unfolds two lawn chairs, brings out a cooler, takes a beer from the cooler, smokes a cigarette, drinks the beer, hangs three wash cloths over a tree branch, goes into the car, takes out a Styrofoam container and whistles for her grandmother, who ceases her swashbuckling flick-switch quick and joins her granddaughter at the lunch bench, head down, dragging her rapier behind her.
The granddaughter opens the container and serves a chunk of breaded chicken and a plastic cup of applesauce on a paper plate. She shoves the plate across the table and commands the old lady to eat. There are no utensils.
Grandmother peels the foil lid off the applesauce and sticks one long finger into the cup. She hooks a grainy sweet glob and sucks the finger all the way down to the bottom knuckle, her face cast in the kind of lobotomized absorption that comes to little children delighting in their food.
When the applesauce is gone she licks the cup clean, begins to pick at the edges of the foil stuck around the rim of the lid. “Eat your chicken,” the granddaughter says. The grandmother pokes the breaded chicken with her finger.
From a clearing in the trees a trio of teenage boys appears. The boys are shirtless and wearing Hawaiian-style board shorts. They are thin but blooming, biceps like small hard biscuits and rising pectorals. Warm air swirls around their heads as they emerge from the cool woods and stroll their lean unblemished bodies across the campground, striking the air with their white lightning smiles, paying no attention to the girl or her grandmother. They walk with their chests out, wearing wraparound sunglasses, talking about girls they’d like to bang.
The scene goes on for a moment: grandmother sulkily avoiding her chicken, granddaughter staring after the boys and their shapely dreams as they dwindle into the trees and out of sight forever.
Without warning the girl’s hand leaps across the table, cracks the grandmother’s face hard enough to get the paint to fall off a fender. The grandmother shrieks and covers her head with her arms. A few birds scatter from the trees.
“Eat your chicken,” the girl says softly. The grandmother eats her chicken.
Some time tonight, awake in a tent in the middle of the go-nowhere world, grandmother asleep by her side, the husky young girl will think of these boys and add them to the book of boys who never kissed or touched her in her life, and her gut will not bellow and clench as it does in broad daylight when the blow of neglect—the hardest punch in the game—is first delivered, but will soften in the temple of 2am solitude as she runs her hands along her body with all its sacred and tender entrances, and wonders why it hasn’t been filled with the same lust and affection that all the cocky pretty boys give so wholly and eagerly to others just like it.
There’s no way of knowing this for sure, of course. But sometimes it’s excusable to presume a life if it serves to remind that every now and then we all need the feast of another’s desire—and, Jesus, the way we sink our teeth when we don’t get it.