Mary Catherine Curley

Betty Ann told us that a boy’s tongue in the crook of our elbows would feel just like a boy’s tongue in our…
At this she trailed off.  
We all knew what trailing off meant.  And we believed her.  We believed in the ancient commonality between of these two bodily hinges: the joint where bicep and forearm met, the join where thigh and thigh met. A couple of us—Jolene and Erin, certainly—even imagined the lower one as smooth and sealed as our elbows.  
“But it only works when my boyfriend does it,” Betty Ann added.
“Why?” Jolene asked.
Betty Ann twirled her clear-pink plastic cup and stared down into her lemonade as though trying to find the words. “That’s just the way it works, Jolene,” she said. “It has to be someone special.”  
“I don’t think your elbow can tell the difference,” I said. I wasn’t trying to be funny but everybody laughed. I noticed Erin was subtly straining her head towards her elbow. “Believe me, Erin, you can’t reach,” I said, and everybody laughed again.
Betty Ann slit her eyes at me. “Don’t be disgusting,” she whispered. Her hair gleamed like a commercial.
“Let me try it,” I said. “Close your eyes and pretend that I’m your boyfriend.”
The other girls fell silent. Betty Ann closed her eyes but crossed her arms over her chest, tight. She breathed out so hard and angry that her gleaming bangs fluttered up. I looked around at the other girls.  
“Come on,” I said. I extended my arms towards them, palms up, like a Jesus statue.  
I could hear everyone breathing. You wouldn’t believe how they looked at my elbows. Like they were seeing elbows for the first time.


Mary Catherine Curley grew up in the shadow of a nuclear reactor in Vermont. She received her MFA from Hollins University. Her work is forthcoming in Barrelhouse.