Somehow, I Never Realized
We are telling stories of the pranks we’ve pulled—alarm clocks under desks, loose tops to salt shakers, mashed potatoes disguised as cheesecake. The crank calls that have never been traced back to us. The liquor bottles we’ve drained and refilled with water or unsweet tea. Eventually, I tell the one from first grade. Not a prank, strictly speaking, but a trick, some sleight of hand, so I decide it qualifies.
It happened on the playground, I tell them, one evening while the PTA met inside. Will called me over from the jungle gym. I remember his hair, so blonde it was almost transparent, and his button-down shirt. He’d given me a present that Valentine’s Day, a rose made of satin and stuffed with potpourri. My mother made me give it back. Too intimate, she explained, though I didn’t know the word yet. “A gift for a more mature woman,” she said.
I ran to meet Will in the breezeway, eager for another present—maybe contraband Skittles, or a caterpillar he’d dug from the creek. Instead he held out a palm-sized action figure I didn’t recognize. His dad had given it to him, he said, which confused me because I knew his mom and sister. I knew he didn’t have a dad. He just held it there, waiting for me to say something, so I asked if I could hold it. I remember the mismatched seams of plastic, the arms and legs that didn’t move. Without deciding to, I tell them, I took a few steps back and threw the toy onto the roof.
Their faces gape back at me, not laughing. Their mouths, their open speechless eyes.
About the Author: Anne Corbitt received her MFA in Fiction from the University of Mississippi on the John and Renée Grisham Fellowship. Her work has appeared in One Story, The Greensboro Review, Fifth Wednesday, Fourth River, and others. She lives in Atlanta, where she created and writes the interactive mystery series ATL Mysteries, and teaches writing at Kennesaw State University. Her first novel, Rules for Lying, was released by Southeast Missouri State University Press in 2016, as the winner of the Nilsen Literary Prize, and was the finalist for the 2017 Georgia Author of the Year Award for a First Novel.