Fiction

Crane Game

By: Nicole Le

Crane sleeps in again. He calls up that girl from Nico’s apartment to see if she wants to hang out.

She comes over and they smoke cigarettes together in the backyard.

“Do you have any weed?” she asks.

“No, but we can get some if you want.”

She snorts a little, and unbuttons the pocket on the front of her denim jacket.

“Nah, just kidding. I got you. Wanna smoke?”

She rolls a spliff for them to share. She rolls it fast and tight. It burns hard when he pulls on it.

The sun is out, and her shoulders are bare. Her collar bones are very sexy. Very straight girl. She’s a really cute Asian with high cheekbones and a killer jaw. He doesn’t really like her, but he likes hanging out with her.

They are laughing. It’s nice. It’s easy. He holds up the last bit of spliff to her lips and tells her to kill it. She sucks in and the spliff shoots out from between his fingers right into her mouth.

She coughs, chokes, splutters. Spits the ashy paper in a blackened gob onto the dirt.

Fuck! Crane’s adrenaline shoots through the roof. The self-hate broils. The idiocy bursts out of his ears.

But the girl screams clownishly and has a huge grin on her face.

“Fucking idiot.” But she’s still laughing. And she kicks her feet up on the edge of the fire pit and uses the sleeve of her jacket to rub her tongue.

He doesn’t ever buy his own weed. He doesn’t know what weed does what to him. Is this a sativa? An indica? What the fuck do those words even mean?

But his cheeks and lips are buzzing, like they’re about to fall asleep. He smacks his lips together a few times, and she must have noticed, because she asks if he’s thirsty, and gets up to go inside.

He closes his eyes, feels the sun burn down on his eyelids, faintly pats beads of sweat off his forehead. He hears the screen door squeak open and bang shut. She nudges his shoulder. He opens his eyes and looks up to find her offering him a sweating glass of water.

They smoke a cigarette together, each sip from glasses of cold water.

She stands up and balances on the edge of the firepit, looking around.

“It’s so nice you guys have a garden.”

He grunts. “Yeah, I don’t really use it, but my roommate plants stuff. I think he’s got herbs or something along the fence over there.”

“Oh, really?”

She hops down and prances over to the fence he points at. She crouches down. The garden is so overgrown that she disappears completely for a second.

He hears her shuffling around on her haunches.

“Oo! This smells so good!!”

She emerges, rubbing her thumb and fingers together, pressing them to her nose and breathing deeply.

“Mm, mint smells so good.”

“I don’t think Chris was growing mint on purpose. That might just be a weed.”

“Mint weeds. Very good. Natural.”

She searches along the perimeter of the fence.

“What else is this? Is this a fruit tree?”

“Which one?”

She grabs hold of a branch and shakes a limby tree free of the overgrown canopy of vines that reaches over from the neighbor’s yard.

“This one, this one. Do you guys ever get fruit on it?”

“I think it’s dead.”

“No way. There’s no way this is dead.”

“I haven’t seen any leaves on it since I moved here.”

She doesn’t respond. She inspects the tree (which is indeed, bare) and snaps off one of the branches.

She holds the switch in her hands, looking into the broken point like a telescope, and walks back to Crane.

“Be careful! You’re gonna lose an eye.”

She whacks him with the switch.

“Bad boy! Okay, okay.”

She takes her seat on the stump next to him again and scratches his shoulder with the stick.

“This tree’s not dead. Lookit – still green.”

She holds the stick still and sticks her neck forward, raises her eyebrows. He leans forward and looks at the stick. She’s right. It’s green all the way through.

She taps him gently on the top of his head, takes the branch back in both hands and plays with it.

“You know, my mom had this peach tree in the front of our house when I was growing up. And I used to eat these hard ass crunchy little peaches all the time as a little kid. And one year, it just stopped fruiting. No leaves, no nothing. And I thought the tree was dead, too. But my mom said we had to wait and see what happened the year after. So we wait. And the next year, the tree still doesn’t have any leaves or fruit. Nothing. But my mom insists that the tree isn’t dead and says don’t worry we’re gonna have peaches again this year. And so the next year, my Mom goes out there into the front yard in the middle of the day, and she has a broomstick in her hands. And I go out there with her and I have no idea what she’s doing. Sometimes she sweeps leaves and stuff, but it’s like 1 PM and sweeping is like a 6 AM thing. And my mom takes this broomstick in her hands and unscrews the broomy part from it and holds the stick like a bat and starts to beat the shit out of this poor tree. And I’m there like Mom! What are you doing!! I have no idea. And she’s so matter-of-fact just like, we gotta beat the tree to make it have fruit again. And I remember thinking my mom is fucking crazy. Like, just nonsense. And then she puts the broom back together and just goes on with her day. And I kinda forget about it. It’s just one of those weird things Mom did. And then would you fucking believe it—the next year? Fucking peaches. The tree fucking flowers and fruits, and we get to eat peaches that year.”

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Categories: Fiction

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