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Flash Fiction by Mary Corinne Powers

Nando's mamma leaves pots simmering on the stove all day. She'd go out early in the morning, in the winter before daylight even, because she had to take two buses out to the shopping-mall suburb where she cooks and cleans for a rich Anglo couple who has pink marble in their foyer and a real swimming pool. She leaves the flame so low you'd swear the burner wasn't even on unless you walked right up to it and put your face down low to check. But by noon if I cut my fifth period class and go around the football field and under the bridge where the War Loony sits with his crack pipe and his shopping cart, and up Nando's back stoop to knock one-two-three and then once more, you could smell beans and garlic and chorizo cooking before he even got the door open, with no shirt on and his chest hard and fine, his pants low around his hips like a gunslinger. That's why sex and beans get so mixed up for me, I guess. I guess I'm about the only crazy girl in the crazy world gets horny in Taco Bell.

Nando had the best weed walking distance from Escalante Junior High, and a boy in my homeroom told me he was cool, wouldn't short me or any shit like that. He told me how to knock, one-two-three and one more, and to say this boy, Damien, sent me, says I was all right. When I done it like that the first time I felt like some kind of secret agent, sneaking up the back way and doing that corny special knock, but ooh, when Nando opened up that door and painted my body with his big sleepy eyes, I forgot all that and more besides.

First I was all cool, just told him I was Damien's friend, and just like Damien said he hooked me up no problem. I said how bout we smoke some right now and he was all nah, I don't think. But I rubbed up close to him and said come on, and he's like damn, you're maybe fourteen, right? Told me I was a child, he wasn't into that, said that's not right, and besides my butt was too flat. But I have some ways.

Now me and Nando are tight. I can't see him every day because the attendance officer is all up in my grill and calls my house every fucking class I miss. I been lucky so far beating Mommy home to erase the messages, but I don't like to risk it too much because Val says if your ma don't call back sometimes they send a registered letter. That's messed up.

Lots of girls around my way are jealous of me and Nando. They call me strawberry and hootchie mama, spread stories about how I trade my body for crack. It ain't like that at all. Me and Nando are in love. I come up that stoop and smell those beans and by the time I'm knocking one-two-three and one more I'm already wet inside. Sometimes Nando lays me down right there on his Mamma's kitchen table and starts pushing my shirt up, kissing my belly and my titties and pushing up inside me, and with my eyes closed I hear the big pot bubbling on the stove behind me.

Nando says he loves me and I can tell he do because you know, we really talk and shit. Like after we do it he just wants to hang with me, he gives me a beer or a soda pop and we sit on the big grey couch watching those crazy talk shows on T.V., Rickie and Maury and Jerry Springer. Well, sometimes he's real busy with people coming to the door all the time, one-two-three and one more, and then he tells me I got to go home, but usually he wants me to stay.

He said we're chill, just don't get pregnant baby girl. Matter of fact he keeps bugging me to go on the pill, but I heard that could give you cancer plus it makes you fat. We're cool anyway, because I never let Nando do it when I'm on my period. Besides, every time we do it I go home and right away I take some of Mommy’s black cohosh and blue cohosh both. Mommy say a witch from Mexico told her take that and she never get pregnant again, and it's worked for her for six years so far, so it’s working pretty good.

That's why I say even though I'm late, I couldn't be pregnant. We never once did it when I was on my period, and Val says she knows definitely for a fact that's the only time you could get in trouble, because that's what her big sister Daline told her, and Daline once went with a hospital orderly. It's not like I'm regular all the time anyway.

If I was pregnant, I can tell you Nando would be sweet about it. Even though he says don't get pregnant, don't get pregnant, he don't mean it because he loves me. And even though he don't love either of his babies' mothers, he gives them money sometimes, like for Pampers or something. So if I were pregnant, right, he'd do way more for me, because he loves me.

But I can't be. I took blue cohosh and black cohosh both. And I haven’t even thrown up once, although truth be told the beans smell does make me feel kind of sketchy these days. But I'm just late.

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Mary Corinne Powers has recently published fiction in Night Train, Literary Potpourri, The Story Garden, and Vestal Review. Her creative non-fiction won a 2003 Utah Arts Council Award. She shares her home in Utah with three brilliant sons, two breathtakingly moronic Labradors, three pathetically affectionate cats, an assortment of mostly dead houseplants and, most improbably of all, a turtle. They are all right in the middle of living happily ever after.

Reprinted from Ink Pot #7; available now

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