I pull down a Polaroid camera, and cut into the packaging with my knife. I tear the camera free, and toss it on the floor. From the shelf I grab three packages of Polaroid film and one package of regular film. Richard's waiting in the car, but I take my time with this, not wanting to look suspicious. I shove the Polaroid film down the front of my pants, and walk to the front counter.
"Excuse me," I say to the girl who's working. I show her the 35mm film, and lift up the camera for her to examine. "Is this the right film for my camera? I've never had to buy film for it before. There was some other stuff over there that said Polaroid on it, but it was pretty expensive."
She makes a show of looking at the film, but then shakes her head. "That won't work," she says, and I nod. "You need the film that says Polaroid on the package." The Polaroid film is mostly stuck in my underwear, but one of the packages has got partway down my jeans already. I'm still smiling, though.
"Ok," I tell her. "Is it okay if I leave that film with you, then? I'm not even sure where I got it." She nods, and I'm gone, stopping just outside the door of the drug store to shake the film out of my pant leg. I pick it up off the ground and jog to Richard's car.
"What do you need a camera for?" he says, "I thought you were buying condoms?" I put the camera on his lap and I don't answer, tearing at the film package with my teeth. Richard pulls the car out onto the main road, and we're moving. The camera is simple to load, and I turn on the flash and unbutton the front of my pants. I'm rock hard.
I take his right hand in mine, and guide it to my cock. Flash. He's squeezing and pulling at me, now, and I set the camera on the dash, and reach over to pull at the zipper of his pants as he drives. His fingers leave my cock and he picks up the camera as I lower my mouth to him. Flash. People are always saying that cell phones cause accidents.
We finish one of the rolls on the drive to the school, and the single best picture is this one where I'm in the seat beside him, the Velma mask on my face and my knees up at my shoulders as I finger my asshole, three fingers on each hand. It's so lewd, and the mask is smiling so cheerfully. It belongs on the cover of a national news magazine.
I'm Velma now, and Richard is Wonder Woman. At some other school across town, Michelle and Alex are Bert and Ernie. Alex was pissed off because she already identified as a man, and so she didn't get to wear a gender inappropriate mask. We park three blocks away.
Richard pops the trunk and lifts out the box. A box of our books, fresh from a print shop where Richard's fucking someone who snuck him in after hours. Michelle and Alex have a box too. We get into the school, and Richard starts humming the national anthem under his breath.
"God," he whispers. "It's been so long since I was in a school like this. Lockers and tiled floors and coat hangers in the hall." We find a classroom on the first floor. Richard holds the book up so you can see the cover. The little boy in a dress, "Johnny's a girl sometimes." Flash. He slides it onto the shelf with the other books. Flash.
Just outside the door we stop in front of the lockers. They're padlocked, but there's a vent just big enough to shove a book into each one. I push the book into the one nearest me so that it's sticking halfway out, and turn my mask toward the camera. Flash. I give the book a little tap. It falls with a metallic thud to the bottom of the locker.
In classroom number two we put a couple books into the shelves, and then Richard lifts a thick book off a table and opens it. "Give me one of the books," he says, and he lays it inside, closes the book and puts it back.
In the hallway Richard takes my hand and leads me into a door. Inside, there's a row of sinks lit by light from the street outside, and sound echoes. The girl's washroom. "I'm really glad you decided to join the squad," Richard says, putting the box of books down, and pulling his mask off. "Most of the other girls are way too uptight about their cheers, you know. You seem like you're just in it for the fun."
He's dead serious, lifting himself up to sit on the edge of the sink, his legs dangling girlishly. "Do you have a smoke?" I say. "I've been dying for one ever since third period."
"No," Richard says. "Can you believe that I had my locker searched again today? Twice in one week. It's not legal. My dad says it's an invasion of privacy." I move closer to the sink where he's sitting, and I run my finger up the leg of his jeans.
"Do you use that shit Nair?" I say. "I can never get my legs that smooth." He shakes his head. "That's just from shaving? Wow. The only part of my body I can ever get that smooth is my pussy."
"You shave your pussy?" Richard's voice goes high pitched with a teenager's disbelief, and I almost laugh. I can see his bulge in the front of his jeans, but he's looking at me so intently that I know he wants me to keep up the act.
"David likes it," I say. "I think it's kind of gross, you know. Little girls have no pubes. Why does he want me to look like a little girl? He says he just likes the way it feels."
"I'll bet," Richard says, reaching out to take my hair in his fingers. "Can I play with your hair?" I turn my back, and lean against the sink, between his legs.
"I found some porn on his computer though," I say. "Of like, girls who look our age, kissing each other. I guess it's not illegal if he's sixteen too, though. That's what he said. I didn't ask him about the ones that had women crying and stuff. Mostly it was just girls kissing each other, though. Hundreds of pictures."
"You looked at them all?" Richard's hands are playing with my hair, but every once in a while they run down to touch my earlobe. I can feel his cock pressing against my back. "Did you...?" His fingers run down the side of my neck and down my shoulders, avoiding my breasts and moving to my cock.
"What if someone from the team comes in?" I say, but already I'm turning and running my hands up under Richard's shirt, childishly pawing for breasts that aren't there.
"Let them," Richard whispers, and he leans close to kiss me and a voice out in the hallway says "I'm just going to do one more sweep." And there's the sound of a walkie talkie hissing static. Richard's eyes have gone wide. There's another burst of static, and a voice says something I can't hear.
I undo the front of Richard's pants, and he's frozen with fear. I run my tongue up the length of him, and the man outside the bathroom coughs and says "What was that again?" as I take Richard as deep as I can. I don't know if it's the fear or the role playing, but he comes.
I'm so startled that I almost cough out loud, and I pull off of him while he's still flexing. Come lands on my face, and then the floor between us as I move backwards. He's still sitting on the sink, and his legs are spread out for balance, with his cock glistening in the streetlight. My cheerleader.
We get back to the car, and we're laughing about it. "We weren't really in any danger," I say, throwing the Polaroids on the back seat with the camera. "He would have walked in, and what? Arrested two hot high school lesbians in the middle of fucking? It would have been a dream come true."
"Dear Penthouse," Richard says, as we begin to move. "I never believed that something like this could ever happen to me, but I was working security at the elementary school the other night, and I walked in on this hot lesbian cheerleader eating out her friend's shaved pussy." On the right we're coming up on the school, and I can see the little security car, with two men standing beside it. They don't look up as we cruise past. "I don't know why they were in an elementary school at night," Richard says, "but I've never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth."
Alex and Michelle are waiting at Michelle's house, holding hands. The place stinks of lesbian sex, and I hope that Richard doesn't want to stay here tonight. The smell seems to be bothering him, too, or the fact that they're holding hands.
"How'd it go?" Richard says to Alex, and she shrugs, looking sidelong at Michelle. The two of them laugh, and Richard turns to me. "We were almost caught," he says. "There was a security guard on duty."
"I hope there wasn't a security guard on duty at our school," Alex says, and Michelle rolls her eyes. Richard's trying to smile, but not doing a very good job of it.
"Were you a guy or a girl when you fucked her?" he says, and Alex shrugs again. I wonder if I shrugged that much when I was seventeen. Did everyone want to throttle me constantly?
"Not really any of your business, is it?" Alex says.
"We'll give you a call in the morning," I say to Michelle, and she nods and walks us to the door. We leave the box of remaining books by the shoes. In the car Richard is quiet. He doesn't say anything until we're standing in his living room. "You can take the bed if you want," he says. "I feel like sleeping on the couch."
His bed is comfortable, and I don't mind sleeping alone. I take his cell phone with me, and sitting on the edge of his bed, I punch in Mrs. Hubert's number. It's almost three in the morning. She answers on the first ring.
"Good morning Mrs. Hubert," I say. "I was just wondering if I could ask you a couple more questions for my survey."
"Okay?" she says, sounding groggy. "Questions?"
"I punched a girl in the stomach," I say. "At the mall. I did it because I was angry, and I don't know if it was right or not. I don't think it was." I pause, and I can hear her husband saying "who is it?" in the background. "I don't mean because she was a girl," I say. "I'm not sure exactly what the differences are between a man and a woman. I wish I knew more. I know that I'm much bigger than her, and that her boyfriend was much bigger than me."
"Did he hit you?" she says, and I nod.
"Yeah, but I knew that he would. I just couldn't control myself. For that couple of minutes she symbolized everything that is wrong with how we perceive beauty as a society, she was the store bought ideal that drives girls to bulimia and anorexia. She was the skinny thinspiration that helps thirteen year olds put off eating for just one more day, and so I walked over and punched her."
"Why?" Mrs. Hubert says, and she doesn't sound angry or irritated, she just sounds confused. "Do you think that solved anything?"
"I don't know what to do," I say. "I say that society's beauty standards are killing young girls, but I don't have a solution to that. Any beauty ideal we create will be exclusive, almost by definition. And the concept of beauty itself wouldn't withstand an all encompassing tact. If everyone is beautiful, then nothing is. It's so frustrating. I punched her hard, and she went down, but I have no idea who she is. I can't find out anything about her, can I? She was just some stranger in the mall. What if she's done nothing to deserve it? What if she's the nicest girl you've ever met?"
"You can't do anything to fix it," Mrs. Hubert says. "All you can really do is learn from your mistakes. Anger doesn't solve anything," she says.
"I don't know if I believe that," I say. "We can't just push our anger down."
"Are you the boy who keeps calling here?" she says, and I hang up. It hasn't helped.
Richard's standing in the doorway when I turn around, and it's clear from his face that he's heard the whole thing. He looks like he wants to say something. I smile as best I can and say "The best way to approach someone with a difficult new concept is to coach that concept in a discourse pattern that they're already familiar with. In this case I chose the motherly paradigm. In order to open her mind to issues of personal responsibility and gender role confusion, I approached her as a troubled son might, looking for answers from his mother."
He's still making the face, and I cut him off before he speaks. "I won't use your phone for it anymore," I say. "That was irresponsible of me. Goodnight." I turn off the light and roll over to face the window. The moon is out, and for a while I can hear him breathing behind me. I don't notice when it stops, but I am suddenly aware that it's much quieter, and when I turn to look again he's gone.
I realize that I'm dreaming when the elephant turns her head to look at me, and she lifts the trunk and words flow out like music. "No flyers please, no flyers please, no flyers please." And suddenly I'm floating in the air above the street, and I can see a long line of elephants, words coming out of their mouths in speech balloons.
"No parking, no flyers please, absolutely no loitering, wash your hands, wash your hands." I can't hear the words, only read them, but I cover my ears anyway, and then Alex is floating beside me, naked, but her breasts are made of something wrong. I look closer and they're maggots, shaping her breasts and now they crawl down her body and form a flaccid penis. Her chest is flat, and she's stirring down there.
Richard is behind me, but he has Bert's face, like the mask, but it opens when he talks, and the tongue hangs out.
"Let's all go to the counter," he says. "Let's all go to the counter, and get ourselves some snacks." I shake my head, confused, and when I try to speak, what I say comes out all wrong.
"This is not a threat," I say. "You are violating housing laws, and if you do not vacate the building immediately, we will see your actions as a sign of aggression and we will use tear gas. This will be a response to your violent action and it is not a violent action on our part. We are here for peace. Please surrender your violence. Please surrender your violence." And there's a brief flash and I'm cowering in an abandoned apartment building and holding a sign that says "no war means no peace."
I open my eyes slowly, and try and establish where I am. As Richard's bedroom comes into focus, the dream fades. My memories of the last few days are still weak in my head. Did Alex really have a cock made out of maggots? Are her breasts real or not? Did I sleep with her?
I throw off the covers and out in the kitchen Richard is watching the TV. Dr. Verge is on again, holding his wife's hand, and carrying his son in the other arm. "This is a family," he says. "This is what a family should look like." The boy is smiling because he has to. You can tell because it's so perfect, immutable.
Smile for the thousands of people, son. We're protecting family values. I sit down at the kitchen table beside Richard, and I wonder where the boy goes to school. Richard pours me a cup of coffee. "Sorry about last night," he says. "I don't know why I got upset."
"Don't worry about it," I tell him. There's no sense telling him that he got too close to her, and believed what he wanted to believe. "What are we doing today?" He's wearing his button up shirt, though, and a pair of dark pants.
"I've got work in a half hour," Richard says. "Michelle might be stopping by with the books in a bit, and I think she said Alex went to school." I take a sip of the coffee.
"I'll watch TV for a while, maybe." I say. Richard leaves, and Dr. Verge is still talking on the television. I walk to the front door and pull my boots on. Then I come back in here and sit and wait for him to say "family" one more time. I won't have to wait long. When he says it, I'm going to put my boot through his face.