Editor’s note: The Reads beat is publishing short fiction, poetry and other creative writing pieces. Send submissions to scotts7 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
You can’t sleep because you’ve taken the generic version of Plan B, and it makes you dizzy. This is how I die, you think. It’s not, but the intensity of the thought keeps you from imagining a laughing baby.
The boy is lying next to you. He pushes the quilt off the end of his bed with his feet. Your mom doesn’t know you’re there, and his mom is working late again at the hospital.
The boy tugs at the ugly wool scarf swaddling his throat. He strokes his own cheek.
He had offered to pay for the pill. You let him. His father was a smuggler, and he left the boy some money before he died.
“I can’t be a father,” the boy says, his face contorting in the weak lamplight.
“I don’t trust myself.”
“You’re not your father,” you say, and soften your tone, because you feel like hitting him.
It was his father’s — the navy wool scarf, knotted around his neck like a noose. You’ve never told the boy, but when he wears it, he looks like your middle school band instructor who played jazz gigs on the side.
Before coming to the boy’s apartment, you walked alone to the drugstore.
Once there, you asked the clerk for Plan B. He guided you to the back, to the only aisle where the fluorescent lights seemed to flicker. An empty slot on the bottom shelf. He said the generic version worked, too. His girlfriend takes that one.
“We’ve been stupid,” the clerk said, combing his pinkie through a wisped sideburn.
You’ve been lonely, but you didn’t say that. You took the obscenely pink box and paid.
Contact Erin Stoodley at erinst20 ‘at’ stanford.edu.