The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Walking the Line

Jeanne Holtzman

Even though she lives right next-door, I haven’t been inside Krissy’s house for six years. Not since fifth grade when she started looking like a Playboy centerfold. But every morning from middle school until I got my car I waited with her at the bus stop, acting like she was still the flat-chested tomboy I used to hunt salamanders with. Like I was different than all the other guys. Like I didn’t go straight to my room after sitting next to her on the ride home, and jerk off.

Now all of a sudden she calls and asks me to bring over our Chemistry book.

Her mom answers the door, looking haggard. She doesn’t offer me lemonade or comment on how big I’ve grown. She just gives me a defeated smile and tells me I can bring the book up to Krissy’s room.

Krissy is sitting on her bed with her laptop. I close the door behind me. Standing over her, I can see right down her shirt. I hand her the book. She tosses it on the floor.

“Do you have to leave right away? You’re the only person my mom will let me see. I’m grounded for like, ever.”

“No. Uh. Yeah. I can hang out.”

She pats the bed beside her. I sit.

“It’s been so long. Remember when we were kids?”

She lays her hand on my bare arm, and says she’s into poetry now. Had I read Robert Frost, she wants to know.

I can’t believe my luck. He’s the only poet I’ve read since Dr. Seuss.

“I like the one about the stone wall.” I say, hoping to sound deep, literary.

“Oooh, Mending Wall, my favorite.”

I watch Krissy’s fingers fly over the keyboard. I move closer.

Huddling over the screen, our faces almost touch. My chest is against her back and I feel her breathing change. I peek at the door and listen for the sound of footsteps. I put my arm around her shoulder.

She leans against me. She is so hot. She reads the poem out loud. Two dudes replace the boulders in a collapsing wall. The one dude wonders why the wall is so important. Before Krissy can finish reading, I press my mouth on hers. She opens her lips, her teeth.

Then she pulls away. “No,” she says. “I can’t.” She squeezes my thigh.

“What? No. Yes, you can.” I want to yell – You do it with everyone else. Why not with me?

“My mom’s making me see a shrink. She says I’m a slut. The shrink says I need boundaries.”

“Boundaries? You don’t need boundaries with me. We’re old friends.”

“I can’t, Jimmy.” Her lips form a perfect pout. “Good fences make good neighbors,” she says with a sad giggle.

“But, but, it says right here…” I pick up the computer that had slid off her lap and point at the screen. “‘Something there is that does not love a wall.'” I rub the curve between her waist and her hips. “Krissy. Please.”

She shakes her head, says she’s sorry.

I look at Krissy’s lips and imagine all the boys she’s been with. Remember how she cried when she found her salamander dead in its glass bowl.

I want to throw her down on the bed and fuck her. I want to build a wall so tall around her, it will protect her from everyone, including me.

About the author

Jeanne Holtzman is an aging hippie, writer and health care practitioner, not necessarily in that order. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Night Train, The Los Angeles Review, Annalemma, elimae and others. You may reach Jeanne at