So I found out today that I again did not win the weekly short fiction contest. So here is my latest short fiction piece. It is based on the prompt, “You are spring cleaning and find something you had forgotten about completely.” Warning, there is some somewhat adult content at the end. Read at your own peril. 🙂
Memories of Manny and Moving Forward
I looked down and saw Marisol’s name on my caller I.D. It had been forever since I had heard from Marisol and I let the call go to voicemail She was the twin sister of my best friend Manny. Well, former best friend. The Army’s official statement was that “SPC Manuel Sanchez died from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated underneath his transport vehicle while on a routine patrol.”
That was seven years ago. I had tried to stay close with his family. Marisol and I had been almost as close as Manny and I at one point. To be honest, we probably would have dated in high school if he hadn’t been my best friend. There’s an unwritten rule there though. You just don’t date your best friends sister, especially his twin sister. It would have been like dating him in a way.
However close we had been though, we slowly drifted apart into Facebook acquaintances over the years. I had moved to Chicago for a my job and just kind of lost touch with them all. Marisol had moved away to Charleston to pursue her painting career. It made me sad to think about it so I just tried not to.
Whenever I came home I would stop by and see Manny’s family. We would go to mass together then stop by his grave and pray. My family was decidedly Irish and very Catholic. His abuelo and abuela had come to the United States from Mexico sometime in the 1950s and his family was equally Catholic. Manny and I, though different types of Catholic, had found some connection in our faith.
We initially met playing soccer, another staple of both Irish and Mexican culture. We played for the same travel team starting in 5th grade. He had played left mid and I played right mid. We had hit it off instantly and quickly become best friends. Soccer is what started our friendship and we played together all through high school, but we were friends for so much more than that. That’s why Marisol was calling.
“Hey Patrick. It’s Marisol. My abuelo and abuela are moving into an assisted living facility next week. We were going through some of the closets in the house and found something. If you can make it home this weekend it would be great to see you. Really. It would be great. Call me.”
I don’t know why I hadn’t picked up. Like I said, she and I had been almost as close as Manny and I. Maybe I felt guilty for not trying harder to stay in touch since Manny had died. Or maybe because there had always been some kind of attraction there that we’d always just ignored like it wasn’t. I waited until I was on the road calling home from work and called her back.
They had found this box of trinkets that Manny and I had collected over the years. Each piece in it was a memory of him. Marisol and I sat on the couch in the family’s living room. She pulled out a detention slip signed by Mrs. Buckloh. “Oh I remember this!” She exclaimed. “This is from that fight with you and Sean!”
The “fight” hadn’t really been much of a fight. In eighth grade, Manny had gotten an A on his test in Spanish class. This other kid named Sean had failed the test and had knocked Manny’s books out of his hands and called him a racial slur. I had basically turned and cold cocked him right in the mouth. The teacher, Mrs. Buckloh, although not disagreeing with my motives, had still rightfully given me a detention and Manny had stayed after with me. Most of the time that wouldn’t have been allowed but she thought the circumstances warranted an exception this time.
“I didn’t know he kept that.” I said. “My fist hurt for a week. They make it look so easy and painless in the movies.”
“Have you ever been in a fight aside from that?” she asked.
I laughed out loud at the thought. “Gosh no.” I said. “Not even close. I still can’t believe I did that. He was just such a douche and I lost it.”
“You were our family’s hero.” She said. “If my parents find this slip they’re going to frame it for sure.”
She reached into the box and pulled out a plastic scepter that was painted to look golden. I was encrusted with fake jewels and topped with a miniature crown.
“Ah. The cherished and highly sought after Mr. Granville Award.” I said. “The most prestigious of all senior class awards.”
“The inaugural Mr. Granville Award.” She corrected.
“Manny always said that no matter who else won it in later years, no one else would ever be able to win the inaugural one.” I replied laughing. “He kept that just to taunt me.”
“Well, Mrs. C did say that it was the closest race in history.” Her tone was a teasing one full of fake sympathy.
“You mock my pain.” I said, quoting The Princess Bride, one of our favorite movies.
She countered with the correct, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” We both laughed and continued our foray into the box.
“Now this…” She held up two tickets to our Senior Prom. “Best night of my life.”
I blushed. It had been the only high school dance I’d ever gone to. Manny, ever the suave sweet talker that he was, had convinced me to go with him and his date and had further convinced me to take Marisol.
“Come on man.” He’d said. “You’ve never been to a dance before and I’d way rather have you take her than some of these other jerks around here.”
I had relented and gone. To call me awkward with girls in high school would be a compliment to what I actually was and that translated to the dance floor. The first time a slow song came on, I had made the bathroom excuse. The second time I had gone for water. The third time, Marisol had just shook her head with an emphatic no and pulled me in. We had kissed and that had been the end of it. I’m not sure to this day if Manny had seen but if he had, he hadn’t said anything. To be honest I don’t think he would have cared. I just thought it would have made things weird. Marisol and I had never talked about it in true high school fashion but we both knew there had been something there.
“That was a great night.” I said and looked back down at my feet.
“Oh come on.” She laughed. “We kissed, it was great, and that’s all. You don’t have to be awkward about it.”
“Oh it was great huh?” Now she looked a little bit sheepish and dug quickly into the box again.
“Here we go.” She said, holding up a photo. In the photo was a picture of me and Manny standing in front of a cast iron gate.
“You really saved our asses that night.” I said laughing.
“Oh I know it.” She responded.
Manny had gotten this idea in his head that it would be a good idea to cannonball into our principal’s swimming pool at 1:00 in the morning. We had both failed our driver’s certification test the first time we took it and had walked nearly two miles to her house. We had brashly scaled the fence and jumped in without really thinking about any kind of an exit strategy. We had also just naturally assumed for some reason that high school principals were all the kind of people who were in bed by 10:00, even on a Saturday night. Both were huge oversights on our part.
As soon as we hit the water, the kitchen lights came on. We found scaling the fence to be exponentially more difficult when dripping wet and shivering. We had barely made it to the street with our backpacks before the gate came flying open behind us and our principal’s husband came charging out with a baseball bat. By some miracle, (that turned out to be Manny telling her our plan beforehand) Marisol had pulled up just in time for us to dive into the back seat of her 1999 Toyota Camry and escape the wrath that the Louisville Slugger promised. Why Manny had taken a picture beforehand I’ll never know.
“You were so cute all cold and shivering in my back seat.” She said as she reached into the box.
“What’s this?” Marisol asked as she held up the empty wrapper of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
“That?…Well that’s…” I had no words. “That’s a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.”
“No kidding.” She replied dryly. “But what is it? As in why is it in here.”
Oh boy. This was going to be truly embarrassing.
“Well…that was from Lent our sophomore year.” I answered.
“What? you guys gave up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?” She enquired. “What’s the big deal there?”
“Not exactly” I replied.
I paused. Then just blurted it out. “We actually gave up masturbating.” I halfway yelled.
The silence was deafening and she let me wallow in it before bursting out in uproarious laughter. It was a solid minute before she could get out words.
“So why a Reese’s wrapper?” She had me. I had to tell her the whole thing and she knew it. So I just spilled it all.
“Well. So I don’t know why, but that’s just what we chose to give up. The problem is that people ask you what you gave up each year. Your mom asked us. We couldn’t tell her what we really gave up so we both lied. Manny yelled out “Chocolate.” and I said “Peanut Butter.” So we kind of looked at each other and Manny said “Reese’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. It was the worst.”
“Why was it the worst?” She asked. “I mean she never knew right.”
“Well no.” I said. “But since we told her we gave up Reese’s we couldn’t eat those either. So we actually ended up giving up two things that year. Masturbating and Reese’s.”
She burst out laughing again and leaned a little closer to me with a twinkle in her eye. “So what did you give up this year?”
I was stuck again because this year I actually had given up chocolate.
“Chocolate.” I said with my most sincere face.
“Oh yeah?” She said with a grin and a wink that made me glad it was really what I had given up this year. “Cross your heart and hope to die.”
“As you wish.” I said, again quoting our favorite movie. I winked back, scooted closer, and said, “Now let’s see what other memories we can find.”