The teal-green Everlast half shirt rode up right below his rib cage to reveal a dimple of belly button that the boys I knew, had always known, would’ve been embarrassed to show. That naked navel made my heart race when I watched him dangle upside down on the monkey bars. When he sat down in the desk in front of me after recess, with a thin slick of sweat dripping down beyond that frayed and stained collar, my mind wandered far away from Kentucky History. I didn’t give a damn about Daniel Boone. My mind was busy pioneering a land of budding hormones and forging happy trails; a glorious and unknown expanse of young skin on skin. And almost teenage tongues touching tongues.
He worked his way through the popular girls, one intense two-week relationship at a time. I pined away from afar, from my top secret perch in the lower limbs of a giant oak tree where I’d read my way through recess.
“We take good care of each other around here, huh?” he mumbles in a sweet, soft voice in the present.
And then the grown up version of my elementary school crush surrenders to his self-inflicted chemical haze with a sigh.
I sit with him and I watch him breathe, cautious. Half waiting for the overdose, for the puking and the dying on my new, leather couch. His green eyes open long enough to show me the past. He smiles crooked and we’re in fifth grade again, standing in the lunch line. His ice cold index finger slides behind my thick glasses, breaking a nerdy, fat girl force field to retrieve a wayward eyelash.
“Make a wish” he said long ago “and make it good!”
And he waited for me to close my eyes. And exhale. And change our world.
Misty Skaggs, 29, currently resides on her Mamaw’s couch way out at the end of Bear Town Ridge Road where she is slowly amassing a library of contemporary fiction under the coffee table and perfecting her buttermilk biscuits. Her gravy, however, still tastes like wallpaper paste. She is currently taking the scenic route through higher education at Morehead State University and hopes to complete her BFA in Creative Writing…eventually. Misty won the Judy Rogers Award for Fiction with her story “Hamburgers" and has had both poetry and prose published in Limestone and Inscape literary journals. Her short series of poems entitled “Hillbilly Haiku" will also be featured in the upcoming edition of New Madrid. She will be reading from her chapbook, Prescription Panes, at the Appalachian Studies Conference in Indiana, Pennsylvania in March. When she isn’t writing, Misty enjoys taking long, woodsy walks with her three cats and watching Dirty Harry with her ninety six year old great grandmother.