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Bozo Nose
Sarah Gina Jones

Lily picked the black beans from the barbed wires of her braces. It was hard to be a vegetarian in high school. She went home for lunch to avoid the cafeteria’s oily slop and the greasy veneer of social hierarchy. Just one more year, Lily thought to herself, and then she’d be done with 732 classmates who were hopelessly immature.

Lily took one last look in the mirror. She studied the contours of her face, the bony nose that had never quite healed properly and the avalanche of teeth. She relaxed her lips and attempted to close them together over a toothy overbite festooned in hardware. Her prominent buckers had been the butt of many jokes. Nicknames, coined by her big sister Chase, such as: Bucky, Snaggletoof, the Fang, Lil’Beaver, Tusk and so forth.

The sisters looked nothing alike. Chase was small, dark and neatly proportioned while Lily had big bones, limbs like long skinny branches that the rest of her body had not yet grown into, a blond shell of wiry hair and arctic blue eyes. Even with six months of braces her overbite still took up the front row of her face.

With a brown canvas backpack hitched over one shoulder, Lily shuffled across railroad tracks on her way back to school. She packed one hard green bud into the bowl of a pipe and began counting down the weeks until summer. Only three weeks of detention left, six weeks of school and Chase would be home tomorrow. She exhaled a skunky stream of smoke that lingered behind her like an afterthought. Together, she conspired; they could rescue her best friend Mandy from rehab in Wisconsin. Poor Mandy, Lily sighed, rummaging in her back pocket for the envelope with bubbly handwriting. Mandy’s desperate letters trickled in like runaway tears. She lamented grievances to Lily about the facilities efforts to brainwash her into swapping drugs for Jesus. How no one seemed to care that noxious fumes from the neighboring paper mill were poisoning all of them. To make matters worse, Mandy’s parents conveniently blamed Lily’s friendship, as the spiral-plunging catalyst to their daughter’s descent into drugs and alcohol. Her two remaining girlfriends were a year older than her, and therefore graduating at the end of the year and getting the hell out of LaGrange Illinois.

Lily tucked the pipe into her backpack and popped a piece of mint gum into her mouth before entering the brick fortress of LT High School. Mr. Muncher, the beady-eyed Narc, was patrolling the hallway, "Nice to see you, Ms. Gottcent. You have 30 seconds until the tardy bell," he said, tapping his watch. Lily nodded and continued at a stoners pace up the speckled stairs. Mr. Muncher was a recently tamed robot ever since his elderly mother fell ill and was hospitalized under the care of Dr. Gottcent, Lily’s father. The old fart really changed his tune from a quota driven detention monger to a temperate troll. No more yellow tickets plucked off his official notepad that hung in a holster on his belt; it was like sudden immunity.

As Lily breezed by History of Civilizations class, she noticed Mr. Pinkerton handing out exams. "Fuck," she groaned, scooting past the doorway nonchalantly, making a detour to the nurse.

"But Lily, you were in her two weeks ago for cramps" Nurse Linda said, scrutinizing Lily’s hunched posture.

"Yeah, but that was ovu-la-tion, this is the real deal" she said, gripping her ovaries.

"Well, it’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s just...suspicious," the nurse placed her hands on her hips authoritatively.

"I’ll get a note from my father, it’s a condition, called um, endo...endo..."

"Endometriosis?" The nurse exclaimed. Lily nodded her head gravely.

Before dinner Lily made a sweep through her fathers office for a blank prescription pad. She peeled off three sheets, snatched a Prozac pen from the top drawer and organized the knick-knacks on his desk. The brass tennis racket paperweight was supposed to go on top of the papers not underneath, and her framed school picture required better visual placement.

"Din-ner!" Mrs. Gottcent announced from the downstairs hallway. Lily had lost track of time practicing the slanted scratch of her fathers’ lucrative signature. She was improving indeed, and had already managed to liberate herself from gym class on Mondays with the Aerobics Nazi.

Mrs. G removed three steaming Chicken Kiev’s from the oven. "Are you sure you don’t want one?" she asked Lily.

"Mom, we go through this every night" Lily said, exasperated, "No. Chicken is meat."

"You’re a teenager, for Chrissake, you need protein," she argued.

"I’ll eat tofu, or beans instead of dead flesh!" She winced at the breaded carcass in the Pyrex dish coffin. "You know In India they have all sorts of vegetarian dishes that are the main course."

"But the spices stink." Mrs. G declared matter of fact.

"How’s school?" Her father asked, sipping at a glass of burgundy wine.

"Great, pops, I just love it. You should see how nice Mr. Muncher acts now that his dear mum is in the hospital. You gotta keep her in there for just one more year."

A gentle smile crept across Dr. G.’s face, "Lil’, I’m not sure she’ll make it that long, " he said in a versed physician’s voice.

"Gene, did you talk to Dr. Scooble about taking on Lily?" Mrs. G. asked.

"No, I’ll have to call him tomorrow," he said, removing his glasses to rub his watery eyes.

"Wait a second, why? I like Dr. Kathy just fine." Lily protested.

"Dr. Kathy is a pediadontist," Mrs. G declared. "It was a temporary solution when Dr. Phillips died, but you need an adult orthodontist."

"No I don’t," Lily disputed. "That’s not fair, I’m under eighteen."

"I don’t know why you like going there" Mrs. G said, buttering her bread, "That place is like Romper Room."

Chase rolled in around dinnertime Thursday night with her ruby Subaru station wagon loaded down with her possessions. She talked in jagged spasms about leaving campus. Lily watched her sister pick at her eggplant Parmesan with chopsticks while responding to her parents by their first names. This was a custom Chase started at the onset of college to promote her own independence. "Gloria," Chase’s mother was not a fan of her shenanigans and she continued to ignore it, in hopes that it was a phase that she would outgrow.

"I got a free farewell falafel from my buddy at Lenny's Mediterranean, God, I'm gonna miss that place" Chase reflected, looking at no one in particular.

"What's a falafel?" Dr. G asked.

"Well Gene, it's like a Middle Eastern sandwich," Chase started to explain as if holding a phantom falafel.

"It's vegetarian!" Lily proclaimed.

After the dishes were done and car was unpacked, Lily pulled Chase into her bedroom for a private retreat from Gloria and Gene.

"Shut the door" Lily ordered Chase, opening the window and pulling out a pipe.

"Jesus, Lil', time for a nightcap? How much do you smoke?"

"As needed" she croaked, passing her sister the marble bowl that had once been hers.

"So, what's going on with you? Are you bummed to be home, or did something happen?" Lily inquired.

"Is it that obvious?" Chase asked.

Lily nodded her head and blew her hit out the window.

"Oh, it's all so fucked up" Chase grieved. "And, I feel like I'm carrying around this big secret that's going to crush Gloria when she finds out."
"Are you pregnant?" Lily asked.

"No." Chase laughed sardonically, falling onto the unmade bed, "No bun in the oven here" she said, slapping her beer gut and ripping a four-star belch.

"Are love?" Lily tried again.

"Ah, you are getting very hot, sis -- now think, flaming..."

"You're gay!" Lily shouted with excitement, "I knew it, I swear to God, I knew it!"

"I think you just won a fruitcake," Chase said, raising her palm up for a high-five.

"That' s so fantastic!" Lily gushed.

"No it's not Lil', it sucks ass. Gloria is going to try to send me to Christian reform boot camp."

Lily's smile was an explosion across her face.

"What the fuck are you so happy about? Huh? Why do you look like your sitting on the goddamn Pope's face?" Chase snapped, whacking her with a pillow.

"It’s just s-o-o-o perfect. Let me take care of it, I can talk to mom."

"Don’t you dare," Chase threatened. "I can take care of myself thank you very little."

"No, you see, I'll tell mom that we are queer. I'm gay too!" Lily announced.

"What? You are not!"

"Uh huh. Fuck the patriarchy! I love women," Lily declared, raising her fist in solidarity.

"Whoa, wait a sec., when did you figure out that you were a lesbian, Lil?"

"Just recently."

"I thought that you had a boyfriend, Mr. dealer guy with dreadlocks?"

"I do...but, it's just a front," she said defensively.

"Have you ever been with a woman?"

"No, but..."

"Okay, that's fine" Chase said, pulling at her ear lobe pondering. "Just do me a favor, don't say anything to mom yet, okay?"

Mrs. G woke Chase at eight o'clock in the morning, rambling on about cleaning and tennis and meetings and grocery shopping and Lily's orthodontist appointment. Chase attempted to hide under a pillow to savor dissolving moments of her sex dream with her sixth grade teacher Miss Belshaw, whose breasts were as soft as cupcakes under her form fitting dress.

"Okay, mom. Yes, I'll take Lily to her appointment" Chase promised.

Chase picked up Lily in her mom's Lincoln Continental, blaring P-Funk from the crappy speakers. For a moment, the anxiety of seeing her old high school crept up her spine like a venomous spider. She witnessed teenagers of all shapes; sizes and colors spill out of the enormous twin doors. Memories seeped into her with needle sharp precision. Where was Gretchen now? What ever happened to Will?

"Let’s get out of here," Lily said, heaving her backpack onto the passenger seat next to her.

"Oh man, I forgot to brush" Lily moaned, looking at her braces in the car mirror, "Do you got any gum?" Chase opened the console where half a pack of Gloria’s Trident was stashed.

"So you’re still seeing the kiddy orthodontist?" Chase smiled smugly.

"Yeah, she’s such a hook-up" Lily said, smacking her gum. "I look forward to my appointments."

Chase pulled the car over at the curb in front of Dr. Kathy’s office. Neon light bulbs of balloons glowed in the window.

"Are you sure you don’t want to come in? Lily asked, leaning into the door, "You could read Highlights..."

Inside Dr. Kathy’s office, adorned with rainbow and unicorn wallpaper, Lily sat on the dotted couch waiting for the show to begin.

A sock monkey hand puppet appeared around the corner, "Are you ready for your appointment Lily?" a squeaky voice asked. Lily knew the routine and followed her messenger to the back.

Stretched out on the dentist chair with a big blue bib, Lily surveyed Dr. Kathy and Freddy her sidekick/helper arrange the tools with comic precision.

"Ready Freddy?" Dr Kathy trilled.

"Y-o-o-o-u bet!" Freddy replied from the sock monkey as he wheeled the nitrous machine next to the chair.

It was hard for Lily to refrain from clapping her hands when she was showered with this type of attention. She knew that it was special treatment for regular braces tightening. Lily wiggled her toes in anticipation as she waited for the magical question to descend.

"Do you want the Bozo nose or Smurf nose today?" Dr. Kathy chirped inquisitively, holding a red sponge nose in one hand and a blue one in the other.

"Bozo nose! Bozo nose!" Lily shrieked with excitement.

Dr. Kathy placed the plastic mask ornamented with a red ball over Lily’s mouth and nose. Lily inhaled deeply and twitched in delight. Her eyes swam lovingly around the festive room. Everything was amusing, and the bozo nose was like the cherry on top. Lily closed her eyes. All situations in life had a perfect order and a perfect time to be revealed.




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