Saturday, September 20, 2008


A bicycle’s tires thrummed on the footbridge as Eve and I sat dangling our feet off the edge, leaning our chests against the cold lower rail. A bulb mounted high on an iron pole behind us created our island of light. Ahead in the darkness we heard ducks bickering at the water’s edge.

I told Eve, “Danny said that they give the ducks cancer, then see if they can cure them.”

“Why do you still talk to Danny after what he said about me?” If I had asked her that question I would have tried not to sound hurt, but women are just fine with telling you that you hurt them.

I thought about it. The lights of the cars on the main bridge reflected off the black water, but the reflections were far away and the car sounds were beyond our hearing. Before us, the bayou looked like space beyond the stars. “I didn’t think what Danny said was a big deal. He said you are out to marry me and take me away from the game—or the gang. You are, aren’t you?”

“You know they hate me,” she said flatly, softly.

I shrugged a shoulder.

Eve took a fig from our paper sack. She and I had picked them on the bank of the bayou before the sun went down. She pulled off the stem and tossed it into the water; something sinuous surfaced momentarily beside it. She turned the purple globe inside out, revealing its succulent center. She ate.

Something bumped under our feet, accompanied by a soft sploosh, as if a huge fish had rolled on the surface of the water. I whispered, “What was that?”

A few hollow bumps later, the canoe appeared below us as two girls paddled from under the bridge, probably heading back to the bank beyond the main bridge where the canoes were usually stowed for the night. The girls were like twins, long blonde hair dimly visible over ninja black. In a few seconds the girls had paddled beyond the island of light that illuminated Eve and me.

She sighed. “What would Danny know about the ducks?”

“He’s a pharmacy major. The professors over in health science play evil genius with the ducks.”

She looked down at the ripples where the canoe had been. “Danny samples every drug they make, you know. Half the time, he’s either speeding or he’s dopey.”

I grinned. “Yeah. I didn’t know you knew they sampled. He says that when somebody prescribes drugs they need to have experienced the effects—so they know what’s normal.”

“He says what he needs to say. And you believe it.”

I looked up into the heavens and said directly, “That’s insulting.”

She murmured, “Sorry.”

I glanced toward the sound of heavy rhythmic steps. I waited for a couple of huge, black frat guys, Omegas, to pass by. They wore white shirts with dark blue letters. I idly wondered if you had to be huge to join. Eve had leaned her forehead down onto the lower rail. I could feel the heat radiating from her body. I thought she was crying and almost consoled her.

She took out another fig, de-stemmed it and turned it inside out.

I said, “You don’t need to give anybody up for me. It’s not like you have a lot of friends.” As soon as I had said it, I regretted it—whining and insulting at the same time.

She turned her head to face me. She held the juicy fig out to me. The faint light overhead was enough to show the thin scar on her cheek. The ducks had gone to sleep.

As I leaned forward and bit into the sweet, wet fruit, the only sound was her voice. “Just one friend. That’s all I want.”

I sucked the juice from her fingers. I could feel her warmth against me and could smell her vanilla perfume. And then I knew that was all I wanted too.

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