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the girls are shooing you away, saying Stop it, Donny, you perv, but they’re not being serious how could they be serious when they’re laughing? Mostly it’s Allison who doesn’t want to be videotaped she hides in her hair whenever you come around. She wasn’t even going tonight until Shay persuaded her, said it would be fun, said You might meet some cute guys so why not? You’d like to think you are that cute guy tonight. You’ve been working out for months and you hope so.

Prom was lame. The fake palm trees and flamingo cut-outs and the papery leis they ambushed you with at the door meant the dance was supposed to have a Caribbean flavor, but this is Des Moines, and it only seems tragic. The closest you’ve been to the ocean are the floods that steal the horizon every spring and the tidal drone of eighteen-wheelers tearing down I-80.

You’re all back at Shay’s house now, in the living room watching The Breakfast Club. Bender’s giving Claire shit about her earrings: —got those for Christmas, right? Know what I got for Christmas this year it was a better fucking year at the old Bender family I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me said Hey smoke up Johnny! It amuses you to be videotaping a videotape. You pretend it’s real. Like the whole gang is here and you’re all friends, happy, the way life should be always.

You decide to go hunting for Bix, who wandered off about twenty minutes ago. Shay, when she sees the camera again, grins and cups her breasts and asks if you like these Baby do you? and with crushed lips you tell her yes, you do.

Bix is your best friend. He plays junior varsity football, at the line because he’s good at smashing kids. He’s all his mother. She was strong too. Before the motorcycle accident that twisted her spine into a question mark she lifted competitively. You’ve seen the photos. They’re hanging with her medals in the dining room they never seem to use.

You find Bix in the upstairs bathroom, giving himself a pep-talk in the mirror. He’s already jumped off—the rig’s by the sink—but he asks if you wanna go and of course you do, you’re always up for another one and the video cuts

—in the living room again Bix shoves his grinning hysterical sweaty face into the lens. Now that Mia and her drama-buddy Patrick have arrived it feels like a party. Even Allison has loosened up. She’s laughing at pretty much everything you say, even though your jokes are lame and unfunny. Your insides are breaking. Mia tugs the plunging neckline of her dress aside, flashing the camera, and the cheering hugs your ears and electrifies your heart

—and Shay, Allison, Mia, together like they’re on stage while you sit between Bix and Patrick on the couch, feeling like your head is an escaped balloon. You’ve only been naked around girls, never other guys, so it feels kind of weird. Occasionally you glance at Bix and Patrick, just to maybe compare, just to—you don’t know.

They’re sliding off dresses, underwear, leaving piles at their feet, until you are all exposed, so finally real. Quiet now. No more laughter. You glance at each other unsure how to proceed and it hurts to see Allison this way, so revealed. How can a smile look so sad? Part of you wants to rescue her, go somewhere private, but it’s just a small part a tiny voice that quiets under the boom of your heart. Too late now. This needs to happen and there is no other way, but it’s okay, through the trace of your fingers you tell Allison it’s alright, hey, there’s no reason to be afraid we’re all friends here, our love is pure and real and neverending


Jon Mcgill lives in Omaha and works evenings at a local hospital where he is sometimes called upon to clean blood off the floor. Occasionally he makes up wild encounters, writes about them, and tries to sell them for money.

Read more stories by Jon Mcgill


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