Potential Pt. 2


I lay on my unmade bed and admired all the women tacked to the wall. Over three years, I’d been adding one after another. Currently, I boasted over fifty drawings, pegged to my wall in stacked rows of ten each. Gary wasn’t being fair when he teased me about drawing the entire female faculty. I sometimes drew women that weren’t teachers. One drawing was of my mother, another of Aunt Suzanne, and another of the Hospice nurse who stayed with my grandmother during her final days. The youngest woman was still well into her thirties. Young faces never interested me. I wanted to document life, represent women flush with experience, maybe wisdom. Vanessa often asked when I would draw her. Each time, I made up lame excuses, told her she was too gorgeous.

Mrs. Simpson had seen most of these portraits. Since my freshman year, she’d encouraged me to pull my head out of my ass and think about the future. You can’t get into a decent art school with D’s and F’s, she said. I wasn’t used to a teacher being nice to me. I kept drawing, kept my eye sharp for new faces, incredible faces. Earlier this semester, she invited me back to her house along with two or three other kids to look at her “private” works, the stuff she wouldn’t bring to school. We thought maybe she painted pictures of naked people and satanic shit. I never found out because I bailed. All that scrutiny made me feel worthless. I was convinced Mrs. Simpson would one day smack her ruler and announce her patience had expired. I was a loser, a burnout, and I needed to leave the classroom before I humiliated myself.

My sketchpad rested against my thighs, my head pressed into the pillows. The practice sketch of Mrs. Simpson lay beside me. Maybe I thought it would make a good reference. Even with it right there, though, I was thinking of ways to make the picture different, better. I fantasized about giving it to Mrs. Simpson and her being so blown away, she convinced my other teachers to pass me because my talent must not be derailed by something as trivial as a letter grade.

It took me a few moments to register Natalie knocking on my window. Like Vanessa, she definitely wasn’t slim. She knew, though, how to make the most of her curves. Today she wore a cable-knit burgundy sweater over a pair of black cotton tights. The sweater’s hem dusted her knees. Her dark, shimmering hair was twisted into a French braid.

“Didn’t you hear me knocking, dummy?”

She laughed as I dashed to the window. It’s not like she planned to crawl in or anything. Actually, I think she liked our little routine of flirting through my bedroom window. It was like a scene from those dopey sitcoms she liked to watch late at night instead of studying. You haven’t stopped by lately, she said, her lips a red-stained pout. I’d never kissed her. If I did, I wouldn’t stop there. She turned twenty-one at the end of summer. She’d already promised to buy me booze whenever I wanted. I told her about detention. She playfully smacked my shoulder, sending me back a couple of steps. She was stronger than she looked. You should draw me, she said. I could give you experience with the female form. Chicks are what I draw already, I said. Natalie laughed, a throaty explosion of sass and cynicism, and informed me she meant the nude female form.

My mom called out that dinner was ready. She and my dad let me go wherever I wanted as long as I joined them for dinner every night.

“I have to go,” I said.

Natalie waggled her fingers, tossed her head as if she’d forgotten her hair wasn’t loose, and stepped away. I watched the mesmerizing twitch of her ass until I again heard my mom call for me. Vanessa had asked me to the football game to watch her perform. I had no clue why I remembered that just then or if I ever truly forgot.

Dinner was just my mom and I. My dad wasn’t due back from Dallas until Sunday and both my sisters were staying with friends for the weekend. She asked how school was going. Unlike my probation officer, she didn’t need to know what a fuck-up I was. As long as I wasn’t held back a year, she didn’t pry. While I choked down her dry meatloaf, I got a text from Donnie. He wanted to go to the game. That meant Skunk would join us, too. Gary wouldn’t have the stench of pussy in his car after all.

“I went into your room while I was cleaning,” my mom said. Her voice trailed off as if she expected me to jump in. I didn’t. “Your great-grandfather was a painter. We lost most of his work in a fire when I was a girl, but he was phenomenally talented.”

I told her I’d come home after the game, but she looked to the floor like I’d belched at Applebee’s and she didn’t want the restaurant to know I belonged to her.

Donnie watched Skunk attempt a trick on his skateboard to reverse direction without busting his ass. Skunk, as always, fucked it up. Donnie wailed with laughter, barely noticing me as I pulled into the driveway. Donnie slid into the passenger seat, but Skunk couldn’t open the door to the backseat.

“That means you’re not invited, dipshit,” Donnie yelled. “This car is faggot-proof!”

I laughed because Donnie needed people to think he was funny. I clicked a button and Skunk climbed into the backseat. On our way to the stadium next to campus, Donnie and Skunk bet which girls they’d convince to suck their dicks behind the concession stand. These dumb fucks were still virgins. They admired me. They never asked to see my drawings.

When we turned onto the street leading into the school parking lot, Donnie asked why we weren’t parking at the stadium instead. I jammed the brakes in alarm. Really, I’d intended to drive to the stadium. After all, I’d promised Vanessa. I’d made a rule never to disappoint her in little things. Maybe it wouldn’t sting when I disappointed her over something major. Skunk grunted, laughed like a jackass, and dared Donnie and me to slash some tires.

“I know which cars belong to which teachers,” Skunk added.

‘It would be nice to fuck with Coach Elliott’s world,’ I thought.

“We don’t have anything sharp,” Donnie said.

Instantly, Skunk whipped out his pocketknife and produced the blade. “Always be prepared,” he said. “I learned that in Boy Scouts.”

We parked underneath a massive oak at the far edge of the lot. The three of us targeted cars with obnoxious bumper stickers: LET GO AND LET GOD. IT’S A CHILD, NOT A CHOICE. HE’S NOT MY PRESIDENT. Each time, the luxuriant hiss of air escaping the tire soothed me. I was good at this. My friends agreed. I was doing something most assholes just fantasize about. Skunk pointed out a burnt orange Escort, muttered that the bitch had it coming, and marched forward. I dashed ahead of him and blocked his path. Skunk’s lip curled into a sneer and his eyes narrowed to slits.

“You fucking that bitch?” he asked.

I told him that car was off-limits. Slash any other tires in the lot. I didn’t give a shit. Not the Escort, though. No fucking way. Skunk was always a pussy. He backed off right away. The three of us kept slashing until a harsh, booming voice ordered us to stop immediately. The police were on their way.

Donnie and Skunk booked it as the man screamed after them. It took me a moment to identify him. It was twilight, but the lights had yet to switch on. Fucking Coach Elliott. That bastard was everywhere all at once. My friends were long gone. A thick forest of pines bordered the west end of the lot and it absently swallowed both of them. I hadn’t moved an inch from the last car we slashed. I had a rule about that. When you’re caught, you’re caught. Own your damage like it’s a drawing, like it’s the most fantastic face you’ve ever seen. Coach Elliott stomped up and grabbed my arm, shook me, demanded to know what I was thinking.

“Always pulling shit like this,” he shouted, spittle flying.

I didn’t look at him. I stared directly at Mrs. Simpson.

While Coach Elliott cussed me out, I gazed at Mrs. Simpson watching me from the entrance of the band hall, her face like a spoiled surprise. I thought about the picture I’d started on my sketchpad before dinner. I’d planned to finish it after the game, after putting in a token appearance for Vanessa. My gut churned, I felt short of breath. Would Mrs. Simpson even want to see it now? I’d been looking forward to showing her, like a kid waiting for Santa. Coach Elliott demanded I stay with him until the police arrived. He finally let go of my arm, but I didn’t move. Mrs. Simpson crossed the lot to her burnt orange Escort, unlocked the door, and climbed in. She eased through the lot and left campus. That’s the look I’d give her in the drawing, the look she gave me as Coach Elliott shook me senseless. I’d start from scratch. I owed Mrs. Simpson my best.


Thomas Kearnes holds an MA in Screenwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. His two collections are “Pretend I’m Not Here” (Musa Publishing) and “Promiscuous” (JMS Publishing). His fiction has appeared in Litro, The Adroit Journal, The Ampersand Review, PANK, Word Riot, Eclectica, SmokeLong Quarterly, Johnny America, Five Quarterly, wigleaf, Storyglossia, Sundog Lit, A cappella Zoo, Spork, The Pedestal, Digital Americana Magazine and elsewhere. His work has also appeared in several LGBT venues. He is studying to become a drug dependency counselor. He lives near Houston.

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