Tonight is the Night I Break Jimmy Taylor’s Poor, Silly Heart – Francine Witte

Under a hush of moon. In the cool of his brother’s Chevy. It’s August and why bother with makeup that’s gonna slide right off? My mother calls it the pitch-hot mouth of the devil, and serves us cold tuna for supper. Daddy slams it away and heads down to Harlow’s for a beer.

My mother calls me a boytrap. 15 and got my breasts too young. She says I have responsibility now. I have to watch out for the wrong boys and not hurt the nice ones. Jimmy Taylor, I guess, is one of the nice ones. Works at his father’s hardware store. He only has a car because Jake, his older brother, went off to the army.

In my head, I see all the boys in the world as dancing in one big gymnasium. Crush of paper streamers all around, something wah-wah from the bandstand. It’s all frug or Watutsi. Nothing like Astaire.

I first saw Jimmy Taylor last April. Star of cool in the sky outside. He was dancing and grooving with Lauren Matthews, who by the way, was the one who told our math teacher it was me who stole the answer key.

Jimmy Taylor wasn’t hard to lure off. He was swinging his hips around to some kind of Santana, and Lauren, still flat-chested and not enough lip gloss, not at all a boytrap like me.

Every night since then, me and Jimmy Taylor, back of his brother’s Chevy, Jimmy never even tried more than kissing, his damp nervous hands over my blouse

But at the last dance of the school year – this was a real dance, not the dance in only my head – I saw Larry O’Brien in the middle of it all, dipping just right to the music, all of the girls on the sidelines probably wishing he was theirs. I flashed him my big-tooth smile. Just the kind of thing my mother would not want me to do.

In the meantime, there’s Jimmy. Another night in the cool hum of his brother’s car. Tonight when he goes to kiss me, when he goes to unbutton my blouse I will just tell him it’s over.

Then, I will go home and wait, as I have all summer, for Larry to call me. And lord knows, I better be ready when he finally does.

Francine WitteFrancine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal.Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) was published by ELJ Editions in September, 2021. She lives in NYC.