Richard Hollinger

“Stay there,” she says.

“No,” I say, not moving any farther along the limb.

“Face it, you’re too old.”

“I’m eight.”

“I’m seven and a half. So there.”

“Plenty people kiss who aren’t exactly the same.”

“Like who, Smarty-pants?”

“King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, for one.”

“They’re married, so it’s okay for them to kiss.” She moves her butt around on the branch.

“Married people only kiss in bed. Jack told me,” I say.

“Jack tried to kiss me. I told him he couldn’t. He’s only seven and a quarter.”

“Does someone have to be born on the same day you were?”

“It helps. Carol Spurgin was born two days after me.”

“Did she try to kiss you?”

“Yuk!”

“Well, did she?”

“You pervert.”

“You’re a pervert. I think you’re a dyke.”

“You’re a dyke. No, you’re a dam.”

“Very funny, lemon and honey.”

“A dam man. A dam fool. That’s what my Mom calls my Dad. ‘Elliott, you’re a dam fool.’”

We laugh at her parents.

“Ever seen them kiss?” I ask.

“I caught them doing it once.”

“What?”

“What, what? What, are you stupid?”

“I just asked.” I inch forward and the branch sags.

“Stay there.”

“The branch is good. I been up here with four kids. You can’t weigh much.”

“Oh, you’d know, Randy.”

“My name’s a word.”

“What’s it mean? Stupid-head?”

“Very funny, lemon and honey. My brother says it’s something bad.”

“Look it up in a dictionary.”

“Dictionary has a dick in it,” I say.

“You’re gross.”

“You’re nice.”

“Let go of my hand. What are you doing? Stay back.”

“I love you.”

“You’re really gross.”

“No, I’m Randy. Kiss me and I’ll carve our names here.”

“No.”

“It’s a present.” I show her my pocket knife and dig out the longest blade with a fingernail.

“Don’t cut yourself.”

“Don’t worry.”

“I don’t want blood on my pants. Especially yours. What’s that?”

“A heart with a R and S inside it.”

“Why not a C? I heard Carol Spurgin likes you.”

“Remember? She’s a dyke.”

We laugh again. I take her hand. She lets me keep it. I lean forward. She bows her head and I end up kissing her hair. Then she looks up and puckers her lips. I close my eyes and meet her cool mouth.

When I open my eyes, all the tree’s apples grow redder.

 
 
 


Richard Holinger’s fiction has appeared in Witness, The Iowa Review, Flashquake, Other Voices, ACM, Cream City Review, WHR, Flyways, The Madison Review, Whiskey Island Magazine; creative nonfiction and book reviews in The Southern Review, Midwest Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Crazyhorse, Northwest Review; poetry in Boulevard, Chelsea, Southern Poetry Review, The Ledge, the new renaissance, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, ACM, Manhattan Poetry Review, Webster Review, North Dakota Quarterly. Essays in anthologies include The Writing Group Book (The Chicago Review Press) and In the Middle of the Middle West (Indiana University Press).