Continuing our reprint series for Short Story Month, we are proud to add Diane Cook’s phenomenal “Girl on Girl.” First published in Man V. Nature, Cook’s debut collection, “Girl on Girl” offers a new take on an old coming-of-age story. “I didn’t think I was mean,” Gabrielle says. “I thought Marni was mean. Were we mean together? And if we used to be mean together, why couldn’t we still be? I want to be meanest with her.”
For a moment I think she’s going to smile, rub a smudge from my cheek, kiss me. But then, finally, her fist meets my face. I hear the crack, and now it’s the floor reaching for me. I see their smiles as I go.
Freshman year starts, and somehow everyone is someone else, someone older, someone interested in the faraway future life. Everyone except me. I’m back from a summer at my dad’s divorce condo–decorated to seem remote and armed–and no one cares. I’m watching my old clique grind into boys on the dance floor while the male coaches-slash-civics-teachers roughly separate them, swipe at inappropriate girl parts, and get away with it in the authoritative heat of the moment. I’m watching it all, cringing, but I wish I were in the scrum.
I want to be fondled. I want someone to press me somewhere too hard. I’m hot with shame. The good kind.
I turn to Clara. She never talks because her parents are professors. She still wears girls’ undershirts, and she can’t quit horses. She looks about as far away from the dance as a dead star.
“What do you think Mr. Ryan tastes like?”
Clara turns red. I do too.
My math teacher is breaking up a couple by getting in between them, his groin brushing a junior in a glitter skirt. He has a chestnut beard and glassy eyes. Sharp shoulders. I’m imagining inspecting the pale skin under those fine dark hairs of his forearm as he leans over my desk to tell me what x is. He must taste like just-dug rocks. My mouth waters. His calculus fingers wiggle toward me. He says I’m a ripe pear. He is very close. My ears ring. Pears are rotten.
I smack my head to stop my dirty movie.
That’s when I spot Marni tossing her hair around the way women do on daytime talk shows. She’s screaming at her boyfriend, Mack. She’s louder than the music, and it sounds like one long wee. Marni is attractive and fat, with an unnaturally narrow waist and unnaturally big boobs and ass. Her cheeks and lips are plump, but somehow her jaw is sharp, and she looks like a sexy Victorian porcelain doll. She wears her hair big and together it all works to make her seem normal-sized with a lot to grab. But I’ve seen her getting into her pajamas and I’ve seen her gullet a whole pizza at a birthday party, and there is nothing normal-sized about her. She is a magnificent cow. She was my best friend. I wrote her twenty-six letters this summer and she wrote me none. We haven’t talked since middle school.
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From the book MAN V. NATURE: Stories by Diane Cook. Copyright © 2014 by Diane Cook. Reprinted by permission of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.