Claudia Smith lives and writes in Austin, Texas. She attended the Writing Seminars graduate program at Johns Hopkins in 1992-93. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming online and in print, most recently in The Mississippi Review, Opium, Pindeldyboz, Eyeshot, Salome, Moonshinestill, Word Riot, Zacatecas: A Review of Contemporary Word, Smokelong Quarterly, Ink Pot, The First Line, Flash!Point, and Night Train. Her short story, "How To Catch a Good Girl" was one of StorySouth's top ten online stories of 2003. She busy at home preparing for her first child and writing a novel, The Box. You can read more of her work at Claudiaweb.


posted Oct 4, 2004

Delia remembers Theresa's car, a camel-colored Pacer inherited from a half-brother in Florida. Theresa wasn't old enough to have a license so she only drove it on back roads. Summer before sophomore year, they would drive to the snack shack on Saturday afternoons, get Dr. Pepper floats, then drive out to an abandoned warehouse behind the old school and make out.

"I don't ever want to go home," Delia said.

"Me either," Theresa said. "But my Mom doesn't care. I do what I want."

Delia's mother knew all about people like Theresa. "Neglected," her mother said, lowering her voice to a hiss. "That's why she doesn't know any better than to sit with her legs spread eagled."

"Her mother sends her to Catholic school," Delia said.

"That's the grandmother's doing," her mother answered. She wanted Delia to do something constructive with her summer. Take a Prep class. Volunteer at the Y.

Nobody would ever see them. The car was swallowed up by overgrown grass. They weren't the only ones who went out there, but they picked the daytime so they had it to themselves.

Those afternoons were lazy and still, time in between time for Theresa, Delia could tell. The hours all slip into one long memory. Snapping Theresa's bra so hard she squealed. The way she smelled, like soap and laundry and all the things Delia's Mom paid the maid to do, things that never smelled so good until they were Ther's smells. They'd unroll the windows and leave the battery running, listen to Theresa's Mom's old eight-tracks. Roberta Flack, Neil Diamond, Simon and Garfunkel, stuff they complained about but that sounded right.

"I want Depeche Mode," Theresa said.

"Those guys are all gay, you know," Delia told her.

Theresa had yellow hair so shiny it looked like sun on water, cut square above her chin like Louise Brooks. She wore black lace-up boots with lovely old dresses bought from the Thrift Barn. She lived with her mother in a ratty duplex. It smelled like cat piss, she told Delia.

Theresa wanted boyfriends. Delia was just for when she felt lonely. She said she was a virgin.

"You aren't really a virgin Ther," Delia said.

Theresa jerked away, then bent over to unlace her boots. She always wore satin ribbons or lace from her grandmother's old sewing box in place of shoelaces. Delia loved her best in her crushed velvet brown dress with brown ribbons in her boots, and a felt flapper hat she only wore at night. She called it a cloche.

"It depends on your criteria," Theresa said. "I say until your cherry is popped, you're a virgin."

They'd talk. About the boys Theresa liked. About the popular kids at school who seemed to know things they would never learn. About how much Theresa wanted breasts like Delia's, big and soft but not slutty-looking. Then, Theresa would decide when it was time. She'd scooch over, drop her head in Delia's lap, or grab her wrist.

"This is the last time," Delia said.

"You always say that," Theresa said.

"It's a sin," Delia said.

Theresa said what they did was like an electric shock. But it didn't count. She hadn't done it, not the way Delia had, with a boy, with blood.

Theresa lay her head in Delia's lap.

"Put the 8 track in, Delly. I want to hear 'I Am I Said.' "

Delia was still.

Theresa took her hand, played with her fingers. She bent Delia's index finger back so far it popped.

It was getting dark, too late to leave the windows opened because mosquitoes were out. Hard to remember exactly what the sounds were from, but Delia can hear them now—crickets? Cicadas? Or were they the same thing? She doesn't remember. Fireflies flickering, and all that burned grass.