My first taste of beer. I think I was eleven or twelve. I might have been younger – that’s not the part that’s clear and my Dad passed away so I can’t ask him. It was spring and he was watching the Dodgers on the television with a friend. I think, or an uncle. I was on the street playing some type of game. Whiffle ball or tag. Our neighborhood was always full of kids. We were always getting into something. That day it was hot. One of the kids waved me over. I think he was a few years older. Yeah he was older now that I think about it. He said, “You want to see a naked girl?” I didn’t answer. I froze up, but I wasn’t about to say no because there was another kid there and he looked at me like, what do you say chicken? I had never seen a naked girl. No my Mom. Not anyone. I came close once. My cousins came out from Florida once, and stayed with us. Three girls. It excited me to have three girls in the house even though they were cousins. About day five of their visit, I walked into a bedroom and one of them was naked from the waist up. She covered herself up with her trainer. Lighting quick. She didn’t talk to me the rest of the week, and one of them stared at me like I done something wrong, but the oldest took me aside and said, “you didn’t do nothing wrong. That sister of mine is a prima-donna.” I never heard that word before. I thought about that episode when the older boy said, “pssst…come over here.” He led me to the back of his house and whipped out a Playboy magazine. He opened it up and an extra page rolled out. Holy shit! The girl had kinked hair and a rose in her mouth and she was reclining with one hand behind her head and she was looking straight at me and her name was April. But that’s not the part I remember most. I felt all hot inside and out of breath. The older boys studied my expression and seemed satisfied. Then they folded it back up and told me not to tell anyone, or they’d never show me another picture again. I returned to the street but I was still shaking from my encounter with April. I didn’t want to play hide ‘n seek no more, or whatever the kids were playing that day. I walked back to my house calling out for my mom. “Mom!” There was no answer but the TV was on in the den. So I walked into the den. My Dad was watching the game with someone. He wore cut off shorts and mismatched socks. He looked as relaxed as I’d ever seen him. He held a can of Hamms beer in his hand. There was a bear on the can – I remember that alright . Uh-huh. He took a long meaningful swig and reset the can back down on his leg even though the coffee table was practically hitting his knees. He studied me closely and said, “You want a sip of this beer?” He spoke loudly like he was in a room full of people. “You look like you could use a sip.” I looked at the other guy sitting next to my Dad. I wish I could remember who that was. I didn’t freeze this time. I grabbed the wet beer can and tilted my head back. My mouth filled up with Hamms. I coughed up some on the carpet and felt all cold inside. He patted me on the back and the other man laughed, but my Dad didn’t laugh he just looked at me like I done good. I took another slug and this time I held it down, if my recollection serves me. Then my Dad grabbed the can before I could rest it on the table. Moved by a new desire, I went back out into the street. I looked for the two older boys with the Playboy but I couldn’t find them and all the other kids returned to wherever they came from. And this is the part I remember with precision. My Mom drove down the street in her white station wagon and when she saw me she stopped and rolled down the window. She didn’t say anything to me – she just looked at me. It was like her lips were crazy glued shut, because normally she was real talkative, but she just looked at me, waiting for me to say something now that I think about it. Looked at me like she didn’t know who I was. Like I was just some orphan on the street.
Bio: This year Sean’s work has appeared in Spelk, Jellyfish Review, The Incubator, Dime Show Review, Sicklit Magazine, The Drabble and others. He lives in Ojai CA.