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The airpods looked like pallid worms crawling into Robby’s brain. Or maybe crawling out, leaving a nest of annelids inside. His slack jaw and laugh-at-anything smile suggested the latter. His head bobbed to the music like a tzadik at the wailing wall.

“Yo, waz happenin’, bro?”

Robby looked up, grinning at Feliciano. “You happenin’, man.”

“Hey man, you wanna score some molly?”

“I’m down, man.”


Robby hopped off the low wall in front of the school and followed Feliciano to the parking lot.

“Hey, we're gonna sell Molly at the prom?”

“Yeah, man. Are you bringing someone?”

“I dunno. Brenda maybe.”

Robby’s list of prom prospects was short. A definite dork wearing a black tee with the name of a band no one knew. Glasses with thick rims and lenses that needed cleaning. A poochy midriff. A beaky nose that looked like a joke about to be told. I think I know that guy. Isn’t he on Netflix? But to the girls at school, he was a pathetic goofy misogynist of a kind as common as centipedes in bathrooms. A guaranteed status-killer if you hung around him.

Robby had an older sister who went out-of-state for college and never came back. His dad was a software engineer who made good money, enough to pay for his wife’s bad decisions. Wine and Facebook kept her happy at home, or something like it. Robby’s only obligation was to listen to his mother when she would stumble into his room to ramble. He was adept at knowing when to say ‘I love you, Mom’ and submitting to her big-breasted hugs around his neck from behind. 

Robby was a sophomore. It was all easy-peasy for him. Read a book, write a paper, solve the math problems you could.

Feliciano was the love child of a whirlwind passion. His mother was white, his father went back to Mexico. Her family had crapped on her when she had his baby. She worked as a cashier and prayed a lot in her room. Feliciano adored her and appreciated all she had done for him. He spoke only English, which pissed off a lot of Latinos. He avoided them at school. 

Feliciano was a senior. For the second time, actually. He had turned eighteen three months ago.

Feliciano knit his brows when Robby mentioned taking Brenda to the prom. 

“You know her?”

“Yeah. She’s fun. We play video games sometimes.” 

Robby looked at Feliciano’s expression and widened his grin. “I know, I know what people say about her. Who cares what she does? She’s all right.”

Brenda was poor and thin. She wore her acne like a clearance label. Marked down, some damage, as-is, no warranty. Her dating protocol was well known. Pick me up, give me a drug, tell me how you like it. Keep me out until my mother crashes. Any trick, any boy, to get away from that trailer for a few hours. And Robby was funny. He had Japanese graphic novels that excited her.

Feliciano’s yellow car had once been the hottest thing in town. The guy who previously owned it was now an assistant manager somewhere, trying to get enough sleep and keep his eleven-year-old son out of fights at school. His wife made him sell the car because she was tired of looking at it in their driveway. Feliciano loved it, especially the creak of the door hinge on the driver’s side. The car had lots of good places for stashes. 

“Let me show you something,” Feliciano said. He took Robby to his car and pulled out a large ziplock bag of pills.

“Wow! How much did that cost?”

Feliciano pretended to be offended. “Chill, man. I got money.”

“What can we get for it?”

“On the street, maybe three grand. At the prom, five.”


Feliciano shrugged. “We’re a convenience store. Things cost more. You in?”

“Dude, I am so in.”

Brenda wore jeans a size too large to the prom, and a button-front shirt. Everything easy and fun for the guys to get into. The guys wore jeans and tees. Their couture was an up-yours to the snobby crowd of jocks and princesses. The threesome of outliers danced two songs before Mr. Gilkins asked them to leave for inappropriate dress. 

They didn’t care. They had sold the drugs. They were cruising down Santa Clara Avenue.

“What do you want to do?”

“I dunno. Drive around? Get something to eat?”

“Can I drop more molly?” Brenda asked.

The boys looked over their shoulders at her. “Really?”

“Yeah. I wanna get it on.”

The boys looked at each other and shrugged.

“Pull over and let Robby get in the back with me.”

“You don’t have to pull over. I can climb over the stick shift.”

An hour later, everyone was happy. Robby was back in the front and Feliciano at the wheel. Brenda was watching the lights go by and laughing at everything. Robby was looking back at her and laughing too. 

Feliciano was smiling and relaxed. He had taken only one molly. He made Robby do the same until they both had a turn with Brenda. Now Robby wanted a second molly and another go-round with his hottie. Brenda wanted both of them, but Feliciano wouldn’t pull over. He didn’t want cops checking them out.

Feliciano’s opinion of Brenda had improved. That chick is amazing. Not so much for extraordinary performance, but for her forethought in keeping the back seat clean. She brought her own towels.

Brenda felt something warm between her legs. Oh, man, that can’t be right. It’s not that time. She put her hand in her pants. It came out bloody.

“Guys, I’m bleeding! And I’m not supposed to be!”

Robby and Feliciano, being total lunkheads about females, didn’t even produce a “huh.” Feliciano kept driving and looking straight ahead. Robby gave Brenda a blank look like he was waiting for a song to start.

Brenda’s head was spinning, but her fear produced enough clarity for her to say, “I think it’s maybe the molly!”

Long stoned silence. A “nah” moment.

“You need to take me to the doctor!”

More silence.

“Guys, I’m really bleeding! Take me to the hospital!”

“Where’s a hospital?” mumbled Feliciano.

“I don’t know! Where are we?”

“Passing Walmart,” Robby offered.

“Turn around, turn around! There’s one near that Catholic church past the school!”

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that one,” Feliciano said, as if the hospital was an old movie.

They reached the hospital. “There! Over there!” said Robby. “That’s the emergency door.”

“That’s for ambulances. I need to park my car.”

Feliciano found a spot at the far end of the lot. They got out and pulled the passenger seat forward.

“Come on, Brenda. We’re here.”

She didn’t move.

“Hey, come on! We’re here!”

“Dude, I think she passed out.”

They dragged her out of the car. They saw blood all over the back of her jeans and the seat.

“Oh, no, man. This is bad. This is really bad.”

They supported her arms and got her inside the hospital. Nurses came running and lifted her onto a gurney. A doctor approached, a slender young woman.

“What’s her blood pressure?”

“95 over 43.”

“Get her on fluids and do a full blood panel.”

The doctor turned to Feliciano and Robby.

“You brought her in?”

“Yes ma’am,” Feliciano said.

“Has she taken anything?”

“Uh, what do you mean?”

Don’t play dumb with me, kid. “Drugs. This is prom night, isn’t it?”

“I guess. I don’t know.”

I’m wasting time. I’ll let the cops deal with him.

She turned to a nurse. “Get as much information as you can about the patient from these young men and call the police.”

Feliciano and Robby turned pale. The doctor caught it. “We have to notify her parents.”

“Uh, yeah, sure,” Feliciano said. “She lives in a trailer park behind Value Foods.”

“Okay.” She returned to Brenda. 

Two nurses were cutting Brenda’s clothes away with bandage scissors. They removed the clothing and draped Brenda. The doctor examined her vulva.

Blood flowing from the urethra. I need to look at the bladder and kidneys.

“Send her for an abdominal MRI.”

A male nurse said to Feliciano and Robby, “You can wait over there, guys.” 

He pointed them to couches and chairs just beyond the reception desk. A nurse approached with a clipboard to get information about Brenda. The boys couldn’t supply much, but the nurse hoped it would be enough for the cops to find Brenda’s mother. She also asked them for their information, and noticed they were uneasy about giving it.

As the orderlies were taking Brenda out of the ER, Robby stood up.

“Excuse me. Could I ask a question?”

They kept moving Brenda. The nurse said, “What’s your question?”

“Uh, is she bleeding from her . . . you know . . .”

“Vagina? No. It’s her urethra.”

“Her what?”

“Her pee hole.”

Robby turned red. “Oh. Okay. Thank you.” 

He sat down and turned to Feliciano. “It’s her pee hole.”

“Yeah, I heard.”

“You think Molly did it?”

Feliciano was clearly worried. “I don’t know how. Molly doesn’t make you bleed.”

“But what if there was something else in it? Then we would be bleeding too, right?”

“It might have been a mixed bag. That many pills might have come from more than one source.”

A boy walked in the ER. He was wearing a tuxedo and holding his crotch. He looked scared and in pain. Two girls in formal dresses and another boy in a tux followed him.

One of the girls went to the desk and said, “He’s bleeding down there really bad!” She noticed Feliciano and Robby. A look of recognition passed between them.

Soon another prom couple came and another, along with three well-dressed women, obviously parents. One mother’s sharp eyes went directly to Feliciano and Robby. Within thirty minutes, a dozen kids from the prom were bleeding in the ER.

Mr. Gilkins came in. He asked to speak to the doctor. He whispered to her intensely. She glanced at the boys. Feliciano rose and approached her, ignoring Gilkins’s glare.

“Ma’am, we need to go. Our parents will be worried.”

“I need you to stay a little longer,” she said firmly. He walked back to Robby and sat down. He saw the doctor pull out her cell phone and step into the hall.

Moments later, four policemen came in. The doctor and Gilkins spoke to the sergeant, who kept his eye on the boys. As he approached, Feliciano put his hands on the arms of the chair and started to rise.

“If you’re thinking about running, don’t even try,” the sergeant said. “We’re going out to your car.”

Four years later, Feliciano Robles walked through the chain-link gate of the Riverside State Correctional Facility. Forty yards away, an old station wagon was the only car in the lot. Behind the wheel was Feliciano’s uncle.

“Hey, man.”


Feliciano threw his small bag in the back and got in. They drove away.

“How are you doing?” the uncle asked.

“I’m okay.”

They drove in silence until Feliciano spoke.

“Do you know anything about Robby?”

“That kid who got busted when you did? He’s still around. He did six months in juvie. He’s living with his mom. His father left.”

“Hmm. You know anything about a girl named Brenda living in the trailer park behind Value Foods?”

“Nah. I got a lady friend in that park. I go there all the time. I ain’t seen or heard nothing about no Brenda.”

They rode in silence. It was summer, and the car’s windows were open.

“Well, I hope you learned something there,” the uncle said.

Feliciano put his hand out to feel the wind.

“Yeah. I learned a lot.”

“Where do you wanna go?”

Feliciano looked at the brown dry hills.

“A tattoo shop.”

Bio: I am a retired postal worker. I enjoy reading and writing.


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