It was the day of the Lincolnville Middle School Class Trip Car Wash. They were set up in front of his dad‘s tire store off Route 26. Georgie didn’t have anything to do. His father was running around the parking lot directing teenage girls in tiny tank tops towards their waiting customers. Most of the boys were just enjoying the view. Georgie looked in the same direction. He tried, not for the first time, to see what they saw and failed.
“You just gonna stand there with your dick in your hand for the next two hours? Huh?” His father’s face flooded his vision, blocking his view of Laurel Brolhouse, who, God bless her, wasn’t wearing her training bra.
“Be a fucking man and help make some money.” With George Mitchell Sr.’s words came the slap of cardboard against Georgie’s bony chest.
CAR WASH $5.00
The sign was lined with blue and yellow paint, and the girls had covered the yellow lines in glitter, making them shine like gold. He walked out to the curb on the far end of the Mitchell’s Tires parking lot. The light at the small intersection was red. His audience was captive, if only for a moment or two.
His body acted on its own, hands gripping the edge of the sign for a second before swinging it into the air, glitter flying everywhere. The sparkle clung to everything, working its way into his hair and sticking to the sweat on his arms. He could hear Rory Keener mutter something about him looking like a “fucking fairy,” but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
The sign flipped through the air, coming back to his hands every time. With every throw, glitter joined the yellow pollen covering the cars closest to him. He was Midas, turning their fenders into gold. With disgruntled sighs, bejeweled drivers pulled into the parking lot, where the girls relieved them of their shining messes.
As the sign spun in the humid afternoon air, Georgie threw his body back, legs leaving the ground, gravity ceasing to exist. It was only Georgie and the sign and the glitter that was now filling his eyes so that everything he looked at shimmered in the 3 PM sunshine.
He walked along the cracked pavement, sending smiles to his adoring fans. The marching band began to play, spit valves filling and being emptied with such speed that a puddle formed beneath them, saliva spreading through the black tar capillaries of the Mitchell’s Tires parking lot, mixing with the water and soap bubbles dripping from the line of sensible sedans and sudsy eighth graders.
Georgie twirled the sign with the beat of the drums, the roar of the trumpets, the stomping of feet, and the clapping of hands. The light had long since turned green, but aside from the glitter-covered cars pulling into the lot, no one moved.
Mrs. Johansen, the organist at Mission Baptist Church, climbed out of her husband’s pickup and into the truck bed. She pulled the bobby pins out of her tight updo, waved her scarf over her head, and yelled for the whole crowd to hear.
“Yes darlin’! Show ‘em what you’re made of!” She was greeted with a fresh shower of glitter in her direction.
By now Rory had grabbed George Sr., who had been busy flirting with Mrs. Thompson, and turned him around to see the show.
George Sr. was not a very rational man. Georgie’s mother, Elaine, had divorced Senior when their son was four years old. Senior had come home and found Georgie dancing in his bedroom, his tiny feet in his mother’s bright red pumps. When Elaine returned from the grocery store, the babysitter was on the front porch, holding a sobbing Georgie, and George Mitchell Sr. was standing in the backyard in front of a bonfire. The crackling flame was fueled by every pair of heels Elaine owned.
The fight lasted for two weeks, but the bonfire that sparked it has been the last straw for Elaine. Since then, there’s been no trace of a feminine touch in the Mitchell house. What Elaine had left behind was burned in the same way her heels were. Georgie managed to save one photograph and a small diamond pendant necklace that had fallen out of her jewelry box in her rush to pack. He wore it under the football T-shirts his father bought him.
Senior put his son on the football team at age 7. Georgie was actually very good at the sport. And he didn’t much mind the short cropped haircut his father forced on him. His curls were unruly after all. And he liked being a Boy Scout and doing wilderness training and working in the tire store on Saturdays. But none of it mattered. The other guys would always see it. Whatever it was, Georgie didn’t quite know. But they saw it and his father saw it and he’s pretty sure his mother had seen it too.
And his father saw him in the parking lot covered in glitter, diamond pendant in full view. Mrs. Johansen had wrapped her scarf around Georgie’s neck, her husband put his Gamecocks ballcap on the boy’s head, Mr. Jordan from Glensbury Farm had taken off his cowboy boots and put them on Georgie’s feet, and Miss Brown had wrapped her crocheted shawl around his shoulders. Some kids from the local high school were sitting on top of their cars, and they threw dollar bills as Georgie danced into the middle of the intersection, his father storming behind him, fighting through a tornado of gold dust to get to his son.
The sheriff and the deputy pulled up to see what all the ruckus was about and found Georgie swinging upside down from one of the cables suspending the traffic light above the street. George Sr. was jumping up and down beneath him, veins bulging and curses flying. His son was just out of reach.
Mary Anne Bordonaro is a creative writing teacher, writer, and traveler from South Carolina. She graduated in 2018 with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Since then, she has taught ESL, Literature, and Creative Writing in France and American Samoa. She has been published in Heavy Feather Review, The Roddey-McMillan Record, Taco Bell Quarterly, she has work forthcoming in BULL Magazine and The Poetry Question.