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know that!" she shot back. "Did you think I was going to take off
my clothes?" She spoke to me as if I were an imbecile. She spoke
as if she had known the truth all along and could've and would've
stopped the game at the drop of a pin. She was hostile; I'd meant
to be conciliatory. I let it go.
idea," I said. There. What more could I do? Slowly we began talking
again, about what I don't remember. I know that when Mother came
to take Mary Beth home I was still worried she was upset with me.
But as she stepped out the door, she looked back and said, "Thank
you for getting me out of the house." She was sincere, so much so
that when Mother came in and called her a brat, I retorted loud
and clear, "You don't know."
untying her soiled apron, sighed. She bunched it in her hands and
let it fall on the table by the dinner plates. Gross, I thought.
would have guessed what that night would bring? I didn't, not at
first. Mary Beth and I were in trouble. Neither of us had completed
our homework; our maps were full of blank spaces.
are you going to know which countries are communist?" our teacher
Mrs. Tomlinson barked in front of the entire class.
during the noon recess we found ourselves benched, me unable to
play volleyball, Mary Beth with someone to talk to. "I don't give
a damn," she said, her eyes on the girls playing ball.
surprised me, egghead that she was, that she suddenly didn't care
about her schoolwork and, of all things, the word "damn." She sat
close to me, and though we weren't supposed to talk, confided from
the side of her mouth a world of gossip: Our teacher, Mrs. Tomlinson,
didn't have a husband who died in the Korean War; he found another
woman before he came home. And Mrs. Kennedy, who we would have next
year in seventh grade and whose baby died before it was born, went
with Allison Witherow's father to a movie, and Mrs. Witherow said
Mrs. Kennedy would never be any teacher of Allison's. There was
more, and I saw as much when the bell rang and Mary Beth shook my
hand as if we'd made a silent pact we were partners in crime. Communists.