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Fiction #146
(published August 7, 2003)
Getting Paid
by Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
As the bus nears my stop, I press my face against the cool window. My breath fogs the glass but wiping it, I smile. J'son's there! I'd missed the bus I had to catch to get me here at the time we said, but I took the next one, thinking if he was gone, I'd just ride. I wasn't going back to school, I'd probably head on home, but he waited! I yank the cord so the bus'll stop, and as it slows, J'son searches the windows, catches my face, and waves. I wave back. When the bus is still, I hop off my seat, skip down the steps and leap into J'son's waiting arms.

He grins his gold-rimmed smile and he don't care about the people crowding the sidewalk, slipping his hands under my sweater, and slipping his tongue between my lips. His mouth is warm; his hands, aren't. I squirm out of his reach, just to mess with his head, though all morning I'd been dreaming about being in his arms.

J'son apologizes, rubs his hands together, then gives me one. Fingers knotted, we start down the street like we got somewhere to go.

My stomach rumbles loud enough to hear and I glance over at J'son, not embarrassed, just hopeful he might offer to buy me something to eat. But he shrugs and says, "I ain't got nothing."

We continue to walk; the smells of the bakery and the deli and the coffeehouse taunting us.

"I'm so fucking tired of being broke," I mutter.

J'son usually echoes my feelings of frustration—we're always in need of what we ain't got—but he's quiet, thinking on something as we walk.

"I know where we could get some money," he says after awhile.

My belly jumps at the thought, but I'm wondering what he's scheming now. "Where?" I ask.

"Leroy's," he says, dropping my hand and jogging toward the street that'll take us to his cousin's crib.

"Crackhead Leroy?" I say. I race to catch up with J'son. I don't know what's he got planned but I ain't getting involved in no drug mess and since Leroy ain't got nothing worth taking, ripping him off ain't gonna happen either.


All I got to do is sit here. That's all. Here in the middle of Leroy's bed, which is really a stained old mattress thrown across a piece of plywood sitting on some concrete blocks. There ain't even a sheet. My jacket is under me cause the mattress is filthy nasty and I don't want no bugs crawling up my butt.

My bra is on the floor. My shirt, open so Leroy can see my boobs. My jeans are undone, pushed down to my ankles; my panties, too. My legs are bent, but open as much as the shackles of my pants will allow.

There ain't nothing on the walls for me to look at, so I start messing with my braids.

"You real pretty, Belinda," Leroy says. He's slouched against a faded blue easy chair, his pants open, his dick in hand.

"Uh-huh," I say, looking in his direction, but not at him. The city pays Leroy's heat bill and he keeps it roaring, so I don't know why I'm shivering.

"How old you say you are?"

I wish he'd shut up and just do his business. I tell him again: I'm thirteen.

"Damn," he mutters. His dick flops to his lap as he lifts his hands to his chest, cups them. "You stacked." He picks himself up again. "Real pretty," he whispers, but I don't think he's still talking to me cause he leans back deep in the chair, his eyes closed, his hand pumping up and down. J'son said Leroy ain't been laid in a long time.

I look past him, at the closed door and wonder what J'son is doing on the other side. I want Leroy to hurry cause J'son said he'd use the money to take me to a movie.

"Hey," Leroy says in a soft voice, his eyes on me again. "Open your lips a little."

I grin.

Leroy chuckles. "I'mo have to remember you just a kid," he says, and then he tells me, "Not those lips."


Later at the theater, standing in line to buy tickets for the matinee, I'm bouncing in place.

"You gotta pee?" J'son asks.

I shake my head. Sure everybody's eyes are on me, I'm anxious for the darkness. I run my hands up and down my arms; it's like something's on my skin, although Leroy didn't touch me. I wouldn't ever let him cause I'm J'son's girl, even though he ain't took my hand since we first met up today.

In the building, we head straight for the refreshment stand. J'son orders a large popcorn and a large soda. The clerk turns to me, but J'son says, "That's it."

My eyes don't want to leave the glistening hot dogs rolling on the grill, but they do—to glare at him.

"We can share," he says, handing over a ten-dollar bill and then shoving the change deep into his pocket.

"There's at least six dollars left," I argue. More than enough for a dollar-fifty hot dog. But J'son starts dogging me, so I shut up.

He gets the bag of yellowed corn, the soda and two straws, heads for the theater seats. While we're waiting for the movie to start, we pass the refreshments between us in silence. Lifting my hand to my mouth, I smell my fingertips and my stomach turns. I drop the handful of popcorn on my lap, and as I stand, the kernels fall to the floor, crunch beneath my tennie shoes.

In the restroom, I wash my hands, scrub beneath my nails. I lather and lather until the smell of Leroy is gone.

I touched him cause he asked me to rub that stuff into his skin. It's just like lotion, he said. When I first told him no, he offered me twenty bucks. I was zipping up my pants and I grunted. Let him know that I wasn't worried about getting paid cause he dropped that bill before I unbuttoned.

"But I didn't drop it on you," he told me.

My hands dripping, I reach into my pocket and pull out the bill Leroy shoved into my hand just before I joined J'son in the living room. He'd scribbled his phone number on it.

Just in case, he'd whispered, although I'd told him and J'son right off that there'd only be this one time.

And I only did it so me and J'son could have a nice afternoon together, but my stomach grumbles, reminding me that J'son's pissed me off. How's he gonna tell me no when I worked for that money?

Staring at this Jackson, I decide I need to change him into some Washingtons. It'll be easier to hide that way and if my mother snoops in my stuff, I'd rather lose a couple of bucks, not the whole twenty.

Wiping my hands on my pants, I avoid the face in the mirror, leave the restroom and head for the refreshment stand.

I lay the bill on the counter, run my hand across it. The scribbled blue numbers, smeared and running, stare up at me. The girl behind the counter asks me what I want and I know I'm gonna order a hot dog with extra mustard and some nachos, a soda—for myself—but first I grab a napkin and ask to borrow a pen.

The story "Getting Paid" first appeared in One Paycheck Away, an anthology from Main Street Rag Press

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