By Emily Costa
The boys were six and sitting on the trampoline. Jonah was explaining the rules of the trampoline to Bobby. Bobby was ripping up the little helicopter seeds that had fallen and chucking them into the long grass.
Are you listening? Jonah asked Bobby.
Their moms sat in lawn chairs, drinking glasses of orange juice mixed with a little bit of vodka. Their moms were doing this playdate because of a natural escalation in school pick-up small-talk.
Lucy said, how’s Jonah doing in class? Bobby is really progressing in math. Multiplication, even.
Marie said, oh, Jonah’s reading chapter books now. Crazy how time flies.
Jonah and Bobby were jumping high, trying to hit the maple branch hanging over the trampoline. The cicadas were doing their long, wind-up buzz.
Lucy said, Bobby reads a chapter book a night.
Marie said, same with Jonah. We have to rotate the books. He gets bored. We’re thinking he might need to skip a grade.
Bobby tucked his arms in, landed heavy in a sit. Jonah bounced too high and hit the metal frame coming down. He landed on his arm.
Lucy said, oh, did Mrs. Cavallo talk to you about that? She mentioned it to me during parent-teacher night. Said maybe we needed to think about a special program, too.
A special program? Marie asked. Like an advanced program?
Bobby was calling Jonah a baby. Did you hurt your arm, little baby?
Yeah, like a talented and gifted program, Lucy said.
Marie cleared her throat. We—yeah, we had that in preschool, she said. Jonah started reading so early, we didn’t know what to do with him.
Jonah rubbed his arm. The boys climbed off the trampoline. I’m not a baby, Jonah said. He stood in front of Bobby, fist at his side.
Really? Lucy said. I didn’t know they even offered those classes that young.
Yeah, Marie said. It’s a very rare thing.
You are a baby, baby, Bobby said. He threw a stick at Jonah’s head and missed.
Lucy got up.
Marie got up, too.
Jonah pulled a big rock out of the dirt with two hands, but Bobby moved close to block it, wrestled it from his grip.
Lucy and Marie looked at each other, turned away when their eyes met. They moved toward the boys. Lucy paused. Marie stopped, too.
Bobby pushed Jonah. Jonah lost his balance, regained it, and pushed Bobby.
Marie felt Lucy watching her. Felt a heat. Laser-vision. One of those evil powers Jonah always gave the villains he sketched. The power to melt. The power to destroy. She kept her eyes on Jonah and Bobby. She took a sip of her drink. She imagined she had skin of impenetrable metal. Some undiscovered element from some undiscovered planet.
Bobby was bigger than Jonah, stocky and strong. But Marie remembered the way Jonah had made her nipples bleed when she’d nursed him his first year, the way he sometimes killed small animals—frogs, butterflies. She remembered the time he hit the dog.
The boys locked up, fell onto the grass. Bobby on top. He yanked a clump of Jonah’s hair. Jonah made a high-pitched yodeling sound, but he didn’t cry. Marie dug her nails into her palms. Lucy crossed her arms. She’d left her drink on the grass near her seat. A helicopter seed twirled toward it but missed.
Jonah clawed at Bobby’s eyes. Bobby covered his face. Jonah got up and kicked Bobby in his soft stomach. Lucy made a sucking-in sound, bent down, hands on her thighs.
Jonah said, get up, fat boy. Marie bit her lip.
Bobby got up and socked Jonah in the gut. He doubled over. Bobby hit him in the face. Jonah fell.
Get up, Marie said through clenched teeth. C’mon. Get up get up get up.
Emily Costa is the author of Until It Feels Right (Autofocus Books). Her work can be found in X-R-A-Y, Hobart, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter @emilylauracosta.