Carly E. Husick
Samantha Berger hates going to Hebrew school. She feels out of place there, one of only three girls in the seventh grade whose name is not Jessica something. Samantha’s mother must have missed the memo, sitting eight months pregnant on the couch next to her father, combing through the baby naming book, skipping right past the Js. Samantha is named after her father’s Great Aunt Sarah who died in a boating accident off the coast of Florida the summer Samantha’s parents got married. It was a great tragedy and sometimes Samantha wonders if the S in her name makes her father sad, a soft and sullen reminder of the aunt he lost.
Samantha Berger particularly hates going to Hebrew school today. Today is the field trip to the Matzah factory and Samantha Berger hates Matzah almost as much as she hates Hebrew school. Matzah, she thinks, tastes like cardboard and it always makes her stomach hurt when she eats too much of it.
“You’ll have fun,” Samantha’s mother says when she drops her daughter off in front of the synagogue on the morning of the trip. “It’s all your friends, you’ll have fun.”
Samantha nods and climbs out of the car, she doesn’t have the heart to tell her mother that just by virtue of being a Samantha instead of a Jessica, Samantha doesn’t have friends. The Jessica’s are only friends with other Jessica’s.
On the school bus that is driving them to the Matzah factory the Jessica’s clump together at the front, their golden brown – professionally highlighted hair – flat ironed straight, their juicy couture charm bracelets jangling as they weigh down their pencil-thin wrists. Samantha sits at the back of the bus with her knees pressed into the seat in front of her and pretends to read. She is imagining that she is a Jessica there at the front of the bus. She is imagining waking up at six AM to spend two hours flat ironing her hair until all of the curls have been tamped down. She is imagining the weight of a jangling bracelet with a clumsy rose-gold heart at its center hitting up against her hand. Maybe, she thinks, she could be Jessica Berger. Maybe then, she thinks, when she has her Bat Mitzvah in May, when she lights the candle on her big cake reserved for friends she’ll have a cluster of girls around her, Jessica’s linking arms behind her back, leaning forward together to press flame to wick and they’ll sway together to the You’ve Got a Friend song from Toy Story.
The bus pulls up to the Matzah Factory. Samantha stands up with the Jessica’s, still in a tight group at the front of the bus. They clomp down the steps, cluster around their teacher, and Samantha trails behind them, her name like a weight, holding her back.
About the Author: Carly E. Husick is a first year MFA student at the University of New Hampshire studying fiction. She has most recently been published in Rivercraft and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.