Honorable Mention, 2nd Annual Writers Contest (2014)
By Charles B Kramer
For once, I was ready: I had copped.
When I was 7 and T-Ann was 7 I went to her house with the secret thrilling knowledge that in my pocket was a full pack of matches. It was the cheap paper kind you tear off and strike, but it weighed in my pocket as heavily as a gun.
Every afternoon back then, after school, T-Ann asked me: did you cop? and I had to admit “no.” Both my parents smoked, so copping matches should have been easy. But I was a good kid . I got into fights at school, and was noisy at night driving submarines with a flashlight deep under the covers, but I was not a killer of frogs in summer camp.
And ‑‑ previously ‑‑ not a matchbook thief.
On the day I copped T-Ann led me outside to the backyard. We sat below the kitchen window, too low to be seen.
“Did you cop?” she demanded.
“One,” I said, showing proudly.
She produced two, and kept them and took mine. I followed her down the cracked blacktop driveway to Murdock Avenue. I was terrified, as though an ear-twisting teacher might materialize and shriek at us reminders about posture and good citizenship.
“Kids yelled at me today,” T-Ann confided. “They said I’m your girlfriend!”
Not knowing what to say, I said nothing.
“So I just told them,” T-Ann added, “So what? I’m a girl, and I’m his friend.”
That was okay with me, but a long time ago: before T-Ann’s gang consisted of my sister and not me, before the twitching started and doctors changed her prescription each time the last one didn’t work, before she had to give up her plan to teach school.
T-Ann knelt on the sidewalk in front of a house on the block. She said she was going to show me, then she did: first you rip a match, careful not to break it, then strike. We watched it flare and burn out.
“You try,” she said.
I tried, but each time I struck a match it broke without lighting.
I don’t remember much more, except much later T-Ann got what everyone thought was a bad flu only it wasn’t flu and I didn’t visit her and now I can’t.
But I remember this: T-Ann stole matches and I stole matches and we both walked to the end of Murdock Avenue, the edge of our 7 year-old universe. We knelt together in front of a house, and T‑Ann, showing me, lit a match from one pack, and it sizzled, and she touched it to the second pack of matches and they all sizzled: a sudden violent bloom of orange light and smoke.
An old lady came out of the house, screaming from her steps: “you crazy kids! you crazy kids! you crazy kids!”
And we ran, thrilled, running real fast, and kept running….
Copyright 2014 Charles B Kramer