Shuffle, Repeat(11)

Written By: Jen Klein

“He’s an artist,” Itch says. “He’s Picasso.”

“He’s Dickasso,” I say.

“Salvadork Dali,” says Lily.

“He’s Leonardo da…” Darbs’s voice trails off. “Damn. I had one and then I lost it.”

There are hoots from the audience as Theo gets closer to the center of his guy’s head. Lily and I realize what’s happening at the same time.

“Ew!” Lily says while I make a disgusted noise.

Itch shakes his head. “You have got to be kidding.”

“What? What?” Darbs scans the field below us.

Itch nudges her. “June had the best name.”

“What—” Darbs stares at Theo’s victim. She makes the connection. “Ohhhh…”

Theo did, in fact, have a plan. It is becoming horribly clear that he is in the process of shaving the silhouette of a penis and balls onto the unwitting sophomore’s head.

That’s it. I can’t watch any more. I shove the second half of my sandwich back into its reusable wrapper, and I surge to my feet. “I’m going to the library.”

I guess the sudden motion attracts Oliver’s attention, because suddenly he’s looking up at me from where he stands beside Theo. We’re far enough away that his expression isn’t clear, but I can tell he’s definitely staring at me staring at him.

Surely my stance alone tells him how pissed I am.

I lean down to kiss Itch. “I can drive you home,” he says.

“I’ll let Mom know not to pick me up.” I straighten and shoulder my backpack. Against my better judgment, I look at the field one last time.

Oliver has taken Theo’s place behind the sophomore.

I’m going to leave. I want to leave. I need to leave.

And yet I don’t.

I stay and watch as Oliver wields the razor above the sophomore’s head. It’s a show of strength. An act of *ry. The crowd goes wild, clapping and stomping as he flicks his hand first to one side, then the other. He’s warming up. He’s playing to his fans.

I feel sick.

Oliver sets the razor on the side of the sophomore’s head, and he pulls it in a deliberate, straight line from front to back. I see the look on Theo’s face as Oliver quickly switches sides and repeats the motion.

The corners of my mouth turn up of their own accord.

Oliver has rendered what was a silhouette of male genitalia into merely…a Mohawk. He castrated the original design.

He neutered Theo.

Theo’s roar of indignation carries all the way up to us. My smile widens. Below, Oliver hands the razor back to Theo before giving the sophomore a high five.

The glance he flashes up at me could be a peace offering, like my gum, or it could be an apology.

Either way, I accept it.

Itch is suffering through conversation with my mom. I could have told him to show up later, but he spent an entire summer in Florida not talking to his girlfriend’s mom. Ten minutes of polite chatting now won’t kill him.

“I bet your grandparents were thrilled to have you around,” Mom tells him.


“Do you help them in the yard or the house or…Do you cook?” Mom cocks her head at him like an inquisitive sparrow.

I answer for him. “He bakes. What were those things called, Itch? The little pastries?”

“Kiflice.” He glances at Mom. “They’re basically Serbian croissants.”

“That’s so nice!” Mom exclaims. “Maybe we can exchange recipes…June, did you see where I put the paint samples?”

She jumps topics so fast it takes me a second to catch up and realize someone is knocking at the front door. “I think they’re on the buffet.”

“Cash is here,” Mom says.

Itch looks at me and mouths the word: “Cash?”

“Her contractor,” I say out loud.

“My friend,” Mom says, and then calls out, “Come in!”

A couple minutes later, Cash the contractor has greeted us, found the paint samples, and deposited Mom into the passenger seat of his old putty-colored pickup truck (“Made right here in Michigan!” Cash said when I first met him). Itch and I wave from the porch as they drive off in a cloud of road dust. The minute it dissipates, Itch pulls me in for a kiss.

I know some parents won’t leave their kid alone in the house with a significant other because of STDs and teenage pregnancies and whatnot, but my mother has a different strategy. Her weapon of choice is conversation. She talks to me about sex every chance she gets.

Every. Chance.

Mom says I am in charge of my own body and what I do with it is my business. She gave me The Talk way earlier than any of my friends got it, and she also put a box of condoms in my nightstand before I’d even kissed a boy (other than Oliver in kindergarten). She believes it’s better to have them early than too late. Turns out there is such a thing as too early, though, because by the time I needed those condoms toward the end of last year, they’d expired.

Luckily, Itch had some of his own.

All that being said, it’s not like Mom lets me spend the night with Itch or anything. A few daylight hours in an empty house is about the most I can hope for. She’s not a total hippie.

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