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January 13, 2014

Boy Smoke
By Leesa Cross-Smith

My big sister Tula says her boyfriend Jake and his best friend Kahlil want us to go for a ride with them. I have a secret crush on Jake. Jake is a senior and quarterback-tall. He got suspended from the football team last week—weed and four D's on his report card. His dad is the pastor of our church. Whenever I smell communion wafers and baptism pools, I think of Jacob Grand.
“Kahlil likes you. That's why he wants you to come with us,” Tula says. We're at the end of our driveway waiting for the boys to pick us up. She puts on sugar-raspberry lip gloss and hands it to me so I can put it on too.
“He's a'ight,” I say after I rub my lips together.
“Here they come,” she says, pointing.
Kahlil drives a dark green Subaru Outback and stops it in front of our house so we can get in the back. He and Jake turn around and say Hey. Jake reaches back and holds Tula's hand for a second. I stare at the side of Kahlil's face to see if I can tell if he likes me or not. I come up empty.
Jake wants to ride past Coach Smith's house. They promise they aren't gonna do anything to it.
“I'm in enough trouble with my parents,” he says, lighting a cigarette and rolling down the window.
“And if we egged his shit, he'd know it was us anyway,” Kahlil adds.
“Ruby, do you smoke?” Kahlil asks me.
“Cigarettes?” I ask, all flirty, hoping it will ricochet and wound Jake with bloody love for me.
“She's never smoked anything,” Tula says, splitting her hair and pulling it to make her ponytail tighter. Jake hands her his cigarette.
“That's cool,” Jake says, turning to smile at me through the tiny crack between the headrest and the car door. I want the sharp, dark tobacco taste of his mouth; I want to sleep in his soft t-shirts like Tula does. He gave her a pearl ring she only takes off for tennis practice. That's when I put it on, pretend like he gave it to me.
Coach Smith's front door is wide open and Kahlil slows down. Jake tells him to stop.
“What the?” Kahlil says.
The porch bulb casts spaceship-light on the night grass. Coach is gathering a pile of clothes in his arms.
“Damn. His wife is throwing all his shit out,” Jake says, opening his door.
Coach's wife comes outside. She has a baby on her hip. I get a hot, itchy feeling in my gut thinking about how scared that baby must be.
“Go back in the house!” Coach hollers to her.
“You can't tell me shit anymore!” his wife hollers back.
“Coach?” Jake says, standing in the swimmy milk of the headlights.
I look over at Tula, watch her toss the cigarette. I chew on my thumb.
“What are you doing here?” Coach asks Jake.
Kahlil kills the engine and lights, gets out of the car. The boys start picking up stuff in the yard.
Coach's wife walks over to us. She leans her head through the driver's side window.
“You girls shouldn't be here,” she says like a mom.
“I'm sorry,” I say.
“We just came out for a ride,” Tula says.
“I don't know what to do,” his wife says, shaking her head. Her face looks like a country song. Mascara tears, red wine teeth.
“Do you want a cigarette? We can hold the baby in here so y'know...he doesn't smell the smoke,” Tula says, pointing to Jake's pack of cigarettes on the passenger seat.
Coach's wife reaches in and gets one. Tula opens her door and holds her arms out for the baby. She puts him on her lap, gently pets his head. I smile at him, let him grab my fingers.
“What are your names?” I ask.
“He's Max and I'm Nina,” Coach's wife says. 
Nina says Thanks to us and smokes, standing at the front of the car. We watch the boys clean up the yard. They look like animals.

Leesa Cross-Smith is a Kentucky girl, a homemaker. She is a co-founder/editor of a literary magazine called WhiskeyPaper. Her work has appeared in places like SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Carve Magazine, Word Riot, and Little Fiction, among others.
Find more at LeesaCrossSmith.com

"Graffiti Flame" by Claire Ibarra © Claire Ibarra 2014

Claire Ibarra is a writer, poet, and photographer residing in Miami, Florida. Her photographs have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Blue Fifth Review, Poetics Pinup Revue, and Microw. A series of Claire's photographs is forthcoming in Lummox 2. 
You can see more of her photographs at www.claireibarra.com 

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