From “Historic Tree Nurseries”
They dropped their bags off and went across the street to Outback Steakhouse. Peanut ordered a baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits. Frances ordered a full steak dinner. She had always been able to eat heartily under stress and Peanut found this unattractive, too warlike.
Peanut slouched, letting her long brown hair fall over one eye. Lewd tawny light lit the exposed half of her face. “So you’re not going to talk to me?” she asked, pissed to be the first to speak.
“You aren’t saying anything either,” Frances said impassively.
“Well, I don’t know what to say to you when you act like this.”
“What, like mean?”
“More like heartless. Like a piece of statuary.” Peanut stared at Frances. “It’s like you’re autistic.”
Frances smiled like a wolf. “Do you know what that means? To be autistic?”
“Of course I do. Don’t quiz me.”
“Just tell me what you think it means.”
“It means someone who can, you know, rattle off all the prime numbers, but not, like, say hello.”
Frances chewed her steak and swallowed. “I’m like that?”
Frances was surprised by how much this hurt her feelings. She continued to eat and wanted to cry.
“I just wish you would speak,” said Peanut. “You could say anything.”
“No,” Frances snapped. She set her fork and knife down. “You want me to say something specific. You want to have a conversation where you write both sides, like a play.”
Peanut looked at her potato and wanted to shriek. It was true that she often staged conversations with the hope of eliciting particular responses from Frances, but for this she felt no remorse. It seemed to Peanut that Frances didn’t know how to talk to people. She could be unduly frank, accidentally mean. She needed help.
Leopoldine Core attended Hunter College. In 2012 she was a Center for Fiction Emerging Writers Fellow and a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. Veronica Bench, her poetry collection, will be published this year by Coconut Books. Her story collection will be published by Penguin in 2016. She lives in New York.