sidebrow

Queenie

My name began with cookies.

Shortbread pinwheels sandwiched with lemon filling.

I stuffed the pinwheels into my coat pockets at the end of my shift at Teak’s. Six pinwheels per pocket. There are some things you don’t get tired of.

We weren’t supposed to take whole cookies, and especially not the pinwheels. Peter the boss said they used real lemon zest and zest doesn’t come cheap. He kept a cleaned-out paint tub with cookie duds in the break room. Duds are broken, cracked, misshapen, or unfilled cookies. The three old Greek women brought plastic sacks to work and filled them with duds. I can’t eat pinwheels broken and rubbed up with other broken cookies.

“The cookies end up mixed together anyway,” the old Greek women say, “plop, brown cookie torpedoes,” they snicker and bring their long white hair to their faces like veils.

Peter caught me with my pockets full one day.

He pulled me by the collar into his office, keeping me close like he had a gun. A river smell to Peter, green water and rope.

Peter’s office was lit by small gold restaurant lamps with red fringe. The lamps matched the Persian rug Peter bought at the Alladdin close-out sale. The world is meaner, the old Greek women say, without the Alladdin’s kibi and butter beans with chili mango pickle.

“Empty them,” Peter said, gun finger pointing at my pockets.

“But they’ll break,” I said in a little girl voice, innocence worth a try. If I hadn’t been late that morning my hair would have been in braids which I could have swung behind me.

“That’s the whole point,” Peter said, “get it? The whole point?” Hands now on hips, Wranglers 28W, dark brown with leather trim.

I turned my purple satin coat pockets inside out and let the pinwheels fall. Out came the condom I stole from the men’s bathroom. The kicked-in machine gives you condoms without paying so we all have sex more.

“Well, what do you know,” Peter said, “another infraction,” and bent down for the condom slim as a stick. He stepped on a pinwheel that hadn’t broken, the pinwheel snapping loud beneath the tip of his tan snakeskin boot like it was plastic.

“Drop the coat too,” he said and I let it fall. The coat from the Hasbeen thrift store, bought because of the deep pockets. Purple plaid wool that’s not really my style. Jim Hasbeen insisted the purple made me look wan and Victorian.

Peter set the condom on a long wood dining table piled with papers. Papers held down by geodes from his camping trips. Some girls leave his office with geodes in their fists. They display them afterwards face out in their work cubbies. Pink, blue, white, ivory or violet crystals inside ordinary brown rock. Some girls have more than one.

“Their hooties are same as pretty rock hooties,” the old Greek women say, wagging their wet tongues so their spit falls on the floor.

My hootie, though I prefer puss, is ordinary brown.

I held out my arms, not all the way but halfway to let Peter know I was ready for the pat-down. Hootie girls say his pat-downs are better than anything their boyfriends do. No boy has spent much time on me. Get in and get out.

My heart beat the way that it does around Hush. Just being close to sex.

Hannah said Peter touched her boobs for like an hour. He won’t do that with me. Flat mounds that never rose. All because I didn’t do the chest exercises Mom swears gave her a D cup. Not even wearing a bra today. Boys like the surprise of that. Like seeing themselves but smoother.

“Okay, now let me check you out,” Peter said. No question he was looking at my nipples that weren’t hidden by pockets, worn especially for Hush. “Arms up for a minute,” he said, “might be cookies under your shirt.”

Hurt to raise my arms, lifting boxes of shortening and sacks of flour all week. A sweat smell to me but also the perfume from Daria’s purse, musk and melon, sure to capture Hush.

Peter opened and closed his hands like counting to one hundred and then cracked each knuckle.

I stepped towards him, make the reach shorter, suspense in my throat.

He warmed his hands in front of the electric heater under the table, red coiled and crackling like a campfire.

“Lower the arms,” he said, and I lowered them slow like being at the doctor’s. The pat-down will make me well. My breath came out like blood or spit, anything fluid we can’t stop.

His hands went first to my face, the pads of his fingers warm. He drew a slow trail—hard to explain, those girls said, and now I know—trailing over my neck, shoulders, back, my muscles resting under his touch like a hot bath and the whole time he’s breathing full like he’s outdoors on one of his hikes.

I closed my eyes and watched wildflowers in Hen canyon. The wildflowers Dad showed me the week before he died. Red, yellow, and purple flowers. Wind jiggling thin petals and stems, hardier than you think. Hen canyon named after a golden beak of rock.

Peter finished his trail at my ankles. Every part of me sang, hot and eerie. Didn’t take an hour but I can say it did.

“You can take the pinwheelies now,” Peter said, and pointed to the floor. His johnnie strained the cloth of his pants, skinny like an English cucumber not all the way grown. He handed me a lunch bag, shook it to shoo my eyes off his pants, an apple still in the bag. Peter’s mom packs his breakfast and lunch. Every morning, two sacks. B and M. Lots of jokes about that.

“No one eats the apples,” I said, and rolled the apple out of the sack.

Peter kicked the apple but missed. “She means well,” he said.

I went down on my hands and knees and picked up the pinwheels. Lucky for me I inherited a round ass like Dad. He showed it off too. Tight seats Mom had to mend.

Cold floorboards the heater didn’t reach and dirt from Peter’s hiking boots, little brown V’s I had to ditch. The pat-down song wearing off.

My ass covered in red stretchy velvet. McQueen pants that took months to buy on layaway from Shores department store. Red velvet too good for work but the pants fit me like the skin of an apple. I wore them for Hush, who ended up switching shifts to be with Hannah.

“Looks like you need some help down there,” Peter said, and he got on all fours himself. “Cute little zipper,” he said, “a teardrop,” and unzipped the back of my pants slowly, another trail, giving me time to say stop.

Sound of the zipper, the metal teeth parting, the teardrop at the base of my ass. I don’t have to do this but I do.

Hannah on TV one on the upper wall of the office. Doing what I’d just left off doing. Squirting eyes on cupcakes. Frosted turkeys on pumpkin cupcakes for Thanksgiving, hundreds of them. Hush on TV one, too. Bent over Hannah while she squirted.

“McQueen?” Peter said, the label in my pants stitched in gold thread on black, a crown with a tiny bunny beside it. Peter, called Eagle-Eyes by the owner of Teak’s. The owner gave him a real eagle he shot by accident. Had it stuffed on the QT by the guy who fills the holiday breads, crushed walnuts with orange and rosewater.

Peter peeled off my McQueen’s.

“So white, your skin,” he said, and blew on my ass like I’d powdered it.

My white skin came out of nowhere, Mom said. Everyone else ruddy.

Peter unbuckled his too long for him belt, a second prick the girls say.

The old Greek women laughed on TV two as if they could see us, their mouths black.

“Would you hand me that?” Peter said, meaning the condom on the table, and I reached for it, stretching my torso lean, no fat in my waist like Hannah. “You ever see Steve McQueen in Bullitt?” Peter said, fiddling with the condom, not what I thought he’d say but I’m all for casual. He felt for my puss like he couldn’t see, didn’t want to get the wrong place.

He pushed his johnnie into me while the youngest old Greek woman shimmied her loose boobs in her greek gown.

I needed the fuck.

Wet all week imagining me and Hush in the broom closet. All those handles and Hush so large.

A field trip of kids on the TV three. The woman teacher looking through the hole of a wedding ring cookie at the man teacher with her, the man teacher already married. That glued and can’t get unstuck look to him.

Peter fucked me in time with the stamper on TV four, bee-ta, bee-ta, bam, bee-ta, bee-ta, bam, pinwheel crumbs digging into my hands and Peter’s legs sweating, kind of icky but the taken-over feeling of being fucked worth a million crumbs. Hannah not on TV one, just Hush smoothing his hands together, a nervous habit.

Bee-ta, bee-ta, bam, and Peter stopped, threw his body over mine like a log on a campfire and came.

The old Greek women as if they could see us, their black-hole eyes, the oldest wiping spit off her chin.

“Damn hags,” Peter said, and rolled his body off mine. He grabbed a box of cotton gloves, the closest thing, and mopped up. “Here, let me give you a hand,” he said and laughed, what he’s done and said before.

I mopped up while Peter swept the rest of the broken pinwheels under the table, the janitor his brother.

Peter gave me a geode with ivory crystals that looked like teeth. No cubby geode has teeth. He also gave me four packages of mint marvels—the most expensive cookie, real mint and real Swiss chocolate. Mint marvels for my suitcase, emergency food to go with my emergency clothes. I’m prepared to leave at any time, I tell Mom.

The next day at Teak’s I stuffed the pockets of my purple plaid Victorian coat with pinwheels and the same thing happened.

When Peter held my hips that time he called me Queenie.

Queenie.

Peter wanted to name a new cookie queens. Shortbread filled with raspberry cream and dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. Kings is what they ended up being called, after the owner’s dog. Peter later got fired for pulling the wrong kind of girl into his office. A virgin, the old Greek women say.

If that virgin hadn’t squealed, those cookies would be named after me.