The Northville Review
an online literary journal

Kenneth Pobo

Try to be a good girl and don’t bother me.

Mom said this often. I was a good girl. Factories in my head produced beautiful things that could be cheaply purchased in dime stores. You could wear the clothes to church and not stand out. Early on I learned not to stand out. Excellence made you stand out in school. I got 100s in spelling so the kids hated me. I got 100s in History so the kids hated me. I wouldn’t surrender spelling since I liked it, but in History I faked stupidity. “What happen in 1865, Dindi?” “Eli Whitney invented the phonograph.” The pursed lips. It didn’t get me popular, but the heat was off.

Mom said this often. She was a very good girl who swept her virginity under my door and said I should make of it what I will. I put it with my dolls. When I got older and wanted to have sex, I took her virginity off the shelf. A deft strategist, she had intended for me to do this. I carried it in my purse the way boys carried condoms in wallets. At eighteen, I made a “slip.” That’s what happens when you’re a good girl not bothering anyone but you have oops sex. Like calamari, I didn’t much care for it at first. Now I get cravings.

My first boyfriend Mel said this often. A hairy little guy, sweet in a way, sour when it came to controlling me, he often brought me flowers. That I liked. Mel said, “I’m old fashioned. I believe in courting, and Dindi, you can consider yourself courted.” I guess he meant that I was pinned. Mom said, “I like him. You could do worse.” I hadn’t expected such high praise. I could have done worse. Later on, I did. Much worse. Mel was like a hibiscus in winter. He had a hard time opening up. So did I. We kept our bodies open just enough to keep ourselves clam-tight shut.

My first girlfriend Mel said this often. Tiny tornados bolted out of her eyes. Early on, I found this fascinating, but got tired of cleaning up the carnage that could come in under a minute or two. Mel was tall, thin, and no-nonsense. “Dindi, I’m a no-nonsense woman.” It sounded like a threat and it was. For all her strictness, Mom wasn’t always no-nonsense. Not wearing a hat made of bottle caps. Nor was Mel (the hairy little guy). I tried to be a good girl and not get in her no-nonsense way. The Weather Channel and I never could predict her storms. We parted, as they say, as friends.

Try to be. A good girl. And don’t bother me. It’s trying to try, so I’ve stopped trying. I bother people either way. They usually don’t say so, but I catch it in a glance, a gesture. I stayed behind curtains for too long. I’ve burnt them. The sun comes in without knocking. I’m not bothered.

About the author

Kenneth Pobo has one partner, three cats, ten orchids, and does one radio show on Saturdays. He's currently reading THE BLOODY CHAMBER by Angela Carter. And listening to the 5 Stairsteps 1969 album, now on CD.