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Today's Story by Luke Boyd

Now Bleecker is gone. Poof. Just like that. His entire suite swept and sterilized.


I sit down at the table across from Cecily with my sandwich, fruit salad, and unsweetened iced tea. My tray makes a hard clanking sound and she looks up at me with neutral recognition before continuing her reading. She’s not eating. I should say not eating again because she goes through these periods where she just won’t. Not in an obvious way, though. More in a I’m-going-to-slowly-try-to-make-myself-disappear kind of way. Sooner or later, though, she always gets caught. One of the others slips a note to NancyLane or maybe it’s the dark green circles that start under her eyes when her body starts feeding itself by eating itself. It’s something she can’t control; even when her mind has decided to politely bow out of the play, her body seems to have a mind of its own.

I have never told on her, though. And I never would. But I know that if she ever dissolved into nothing there would soon be somebody else to replace her. Maybe another girl like the last one, but not necessarily another girl. Maybe a boy. It could be a boy, but whoever it would be they would be just like her. That’s just the way it works—certain types for certain parts.

I know, that sounds like something Cecily would say. Well, what if I told you that I used to pretty much be Cecily. I was where she is, I felt what she feels. I knew then what she knows now.

Cecily is always reading something. Today it’s Sylvia Plath. Fitting. She holds the book upright when she reads and all I can see is her eyes roving back and forth across the page. I can’t see her mouth moving but when I stop chewing I can hear breathy, quick little words from behind the book. Her fingers are long and slender and splayed across the front and back covers of the book, tap-tap-tapping away as she reads. She wears rings, lots of them. One on every finger maybe. She moves a hand quickly, like a bird flitting from a branch and relighting again. She turns the page and a small puff of air reaches me. Her hand settles again, tapping, in a new position. I can see most of the title, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.

I sigh on the inside, and I think on the outside, too, but Cecily doesn’t seem to notice. It’s been one of those days. Bleecker wasn’t at group and nobody seems to know where he is. He isn’t exactly easy to miss, either. Ever since he’s shown up he’s caused problems, for everyone. He’s a button pusher. He’s a perpetual squeaky wheel. After he lashes out one too many times at group NancyLane has no choice but to call Dr. Bendrix in and he’s the one who calls Bleecker on his actions. He says to him, in a very un-doctorly way, “You know, you’re the only squeaky wheel in this group. You know what happens to the squeaky wheel?”

It’s probably supposed to be one of those rhetorical questions, but not to Bleecker. He says, “Yeah, it gets the grease, doc. It gets the grease.” But Bendrix just shakes his head no—back and forth, back and forth—but keeps his eyes fixed on Bleecker the whole time. The unspoken message is: I am the Alpha dog here. I am the tail that wags the whole kennel.

Now Bleecker is gone. Poof. Just like that. His entire suite swept and sterilized and de-Bleeckered. As if he was never here at all.

The morning’s group discussion was centered around Changes. Changes with a capital C. I wanted to say something like, “Are we talking sleeping-on-your-back-instead-of-your-stomach type changes or are we talking Bleecker-gets-released-while-the-rest-of-us-are-still-wearing-shower-shoes type changes?” I didn’t though. I didn’t say anything, and when NancyLane came to me and asked me about Changes, I just said “Pass.”

She cocked her head at me, like a dog listening to far-away barking, or maybe more the way Michael Myers does in H20 when he’s staring through a window, face-to-face with Jamie Lee Curtis after twenty years apart. That’s how NancyLane looks at me and I lean back, feeling the plastic patio chair legs beginning to buckle under me. They creak and I wobble side to side, then plant all four on the floor.

NancyLane taps her pencil against her lips and I stare over her eyes at the silvery blonde bob of hair. Perfect, a commercial for Aqua-net, fifty years ago anyway. “What?” I blurt out. “I said ‘Pass’ so pass.”

She looks at me the way you look at old men on benches at the mall or people in wheelchairs in the hospital lobby, then she moves on to Ted—the Freakshow, the C-word, the Psycho. He’s always willing to talk.

Cecily flips another page of Plath and the whiff of air hits me again. This time it moves my hair, though. I look down the table at her and she’s not down the table at all. She’s two seat away from me now, sitting exactly how she was before, reading with her eyes flying across the page. Her lips are moving like an incantation and I can hear her now, but something is wrong as—whiff—she flips another page:

“Day of Success. Page 89. ‘Your inner woman, of course!’ Nancy exclaimed impatiently. ‘You need to take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. The way I should have, before it was too late,’ she added grimly. ‘Men won’t admit it, but they do want a woman to look right, really fatale. The right hat, the right color…Now’s your chance, Ellen. Don’t miss it!’”

I put the rest of my sandwich down, reaching for the sealed fruit cup cocktail instead. I devour it, but it’s more about anger than hunger. It certainly isn’t about taste. The syrup squishes out the corners of my mouth and runs down my chin and in two spoonfuls it’s all gone. All around my mouth it’s slick and sweet and I’m barely resisting the urge to snap my plastic spoon in half and eat that, too. Instead, I stare at it like a puzzle.


The whisper is in my ear, so close I swear I can feel the flick of a tongue across my lobe. I turn and Cecily is there. Not just there, she’s in the seat right next to me, pulled right up alongside mine, her face inches from my cheek. The book is—I don’t know where the book is.

She puts takes two fingers and sticks them into my mouth, still holding my eye contact. Now sniffing my face as she swabs my cheek with her fingers. She pulls something out and holds it delicately between her fingers, a maraschino cherry from my fruit cup.

She holds it up at eye level, between us, shiny and sweet and dripping. Her voice goes from a whisper to that of a librarian scolding a child for an overdue book. “Henry, you took my cherry.” With that she bursts it cruelly between her pointer and thumb. I hear static in my head, the volume coming up, louder, louder, then a scream long and drawn out like a train whistle, but female, very female.

I cover my ears, blink hard and when I open my eyes Cecily is back down at the end of the table reading. Her fingers tap-tap-tapping, eyes roving line to line. In front of me is my tray, my half-eaten sandwich, my spoon and my empty fruit cup.

Except for the cherry, mutilated, gash-down in the syrup.


Luke Boyd worked as a dishwasher throughout college and also in a sawmill. Now he teaches high school in the city. There are more kids than desks and more desks than computers.


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