Lucky Break – Karen Uffelman
“Give me a break,” said Arthur as he turned to his tormentor.
“Give me a break!” she squeaked back, mimicking his breaking voice, “Give me a break!”
Emily pushed him hard in the chest, and he fell back toward the fence, even though he was expecting the attack.
“I’m really sorry about whatever I’ve done to make you hate me so much. I’m just a person. I don’t wake up in the morning and think ‘what can I do to irritate Emily Atterly.’ I just don’t, okay?”
His satchel was now caught on the fence and some of the stitching had come loose. He fingered the seam nervously while he tried to stare Emily down. Some Pokemon cards fell through the ripped seam of the satchel and spilled out onto the ground. They were overstock at the toy store, and even though he didn’t play with Pokemon cards anymore he couldn’t seem to turn them down when Cricket said he could take them home. And then, incongruously, a tattered condom packet fell out, landing on top of Psyduck.
“What – Is – That?”
“I don’t know. What? They’re Pokemon cards. They’re for my little sister and her pet Robin.”
“I’m not talking about the Pokemon cards, ass hat, and you don’t even have a sister.”
Emily looked around, as if hoping to recruit an audience for the spectacle in front of her, but the sidewalk was empty. Arthur didn’t know whether to be relieved or more afraid.
If he hadn’t made the dumb, dumb mistake of mentioning his idea to her, none of this would have happened. OF COURSE she had no interest in hanging out in front of the toy store where he worked, dressed up as Maid Marian. She’d rather burn her eyeballs with lit cigarettes and stuff. That was her response. Even after he told her that Cricket was willing to pay her $4.80/hour. And then Emily said she couldn’t believe he had the *fucking* gall to talk to her in the first place. And then she pushed him.
It’s just that sometimes when she was mean to him, when she called him farting faggot to her friends or flipped him off when he nodded in her direction, he thought maybe it was because she actually liked him. Even now, with one arm clutching his satchel and the other crossed defensively across his body, he thought she might secretly be attracted to him. She was definitely eying the condom.
“You are a giant freak, Arthur Blakely.”
He wasn’t sure how the condom had ended up in his satchel. He’d found it two or three years ago rummaging around in the back of his mom’s bedside table, when she was out shopping and he was bored. He’d been looking for money, or candy, or at least gum, but the condom packet was an unexpected treasure. Confusing, in many ways, to find it mixed in with the Kleenex and eye drops and book of crossword puzzles. He knew what it was, kind of, and it seemed bizarre that his mother would have one. At first he wasn’t brave enough to take it. He’d go and check on it when his mom was out, or, sometimes, when he wanted to court danger, when she was taking a shower. Finally, he couldn’t resist taking it – he was pretty sure his mom wouldn’t miss it.
For the next few months, he obsessed over the condom packet, wanting desperately to open it but at the same time wanting to preserve it. It was like the promise of some future excitement. Many of his masturbation fantasies were centered around the condom packet during that time, doubtless leading to its present sad condition. But then he found a Cosmo magazine left outside by the neighbor, which turned out to be way more satisfying for his particular purpose than the mangled condom packet. And then he kind of lost track of the condom. And now it was smothering Psyduck. Poor Psyduck.
“I’m not a freak. I’m sorry if you are offended by a condom. I happen to be very pro-safe sex. In case you were wondering,” Arthur scooped up the Pokemon cards and managed to grab the condom packet with the same hand.
“SHUT UP! What is wrong with you?! You walk around with that crazy cape, and your goofy big belt, and your Lord of the Rings bag, and then you talk to me like we’re friends. We’re not friends, okay? ”
“I’m sorry Emily, I’ve detained you too long,” he gave her a wide berth as he scooted around her, far enough away that she couldn’t push or trip him.
“I mean it, don’t talk to me anymore!”
He thought he detected a slight edge of affection in her voice. It must have been the condom. What a lucky break!