Jessica Bonder: Wacky Mold

A week ago today, Georgia boarded a flight to the faraway island where she is transitioning to her new life as a mermaid. I suspect it is New Zealand. She couldn’t tell me for security purposes. Too many radicals out there in reality land are not comfortable with her life choice, and after the Electric Slide flash mob protest, I don’t doubt it. It is all very top secret. Hush hush. Which is exciting, I suppose. Makes my life less boring, more movie-like, which is what everyone wants, isn’t it. But still. As much as I love my sister, as informed and well-read as I have tried to become on the subject of interspecies transitions, on the inside, it still freaks me out. As I drop Georgia off at EWR Terminal 58, the thought is all-consuming. I am, literally, watching her legs go bye-bye.

I know. It is Georgia’s life and Georgia’s body and it has nothing to do with me. The fact that it makes me uncomfortable is my own damn problem. The fact that it makes me nauseous that a healthy, intelligent girl, no, woman, would willingly get her legs amputated is my own damn problem. The fact that I feel something like anger over the fact that she couldn’t just accept herself in the body she had is my own damn problem. The fact that I had to pull over under the airport monorail to weep for fifteen minutes after she left is my own damn problem. The fact that every family member I have ever loved has abandoned me, by death or by choice, is my own damn problem.

It’s not amputation, exactly. It’s more of a reconfiguration.

The more I tell myself not to think about Georgia’s legs, the more I do. I have had nightmares about legs, Georgia’s, my father’s, mine, every night for the past week. Disembodied legs high-kicking it in the tripped out, acid-colored seedy nightclub of my subconscious. Alligators dangling dad legs out of their mouths like cigarettes. Wooden legs like driftwood along ancient coasts, or wormlike and seaweed covered, nibbled on by strange fish. In every scenario, always, there is a saw. The nightmares slingshot me into the void of 2:49 AM, drenched in sweat, Tinnitus piercing the quiet, hugging my knees, grateful. My legs are still there. The dehumidifier kicks on, its predictable hum a lullaby too-late, but still comforting, my anchor to wakefulness.

Do you get to keep your feet, like baby teeth?

The first dispatch from Dr. Seejungfer arrives, and not a moment too soon. It is a telegram, just like Georgia said it would be. Again for security: cyber delivery can’t be trusted. Too many hacks. It looks like something out of an old war movie, where there were good guys and bad guys and the good guys always won. When women in smart skirts and angel-winged glasses plugged away at telephone boards, and newspaper men wore fedoras, scribbled nubby pencils on flipped-up notebooks. When you had to wait for news like this, news about your sister, and when it arrived, it plopped on your doorstep like a muddy shoe. You held fate in your hands. I don’t know how they delivered telegrams back then but I imagine, like all the lost arts, it was somebody’s purpose.

In a Mason jar of formaldehyde, floating, like pickles?

3pm finds me napping in the basement of my ex-girlfriend Noi’s house, an activity which started as a one-off but quickly became a legit habit. Standard progression. It’s a genetic predisposition inherited from Pops, this napping business, who could snooze through a hurricane and often did. During Hurricane Thomas, I was at film school in Atlanta and called Pops to see if he was ok. He picked up after ten rings and said, “Yup. Just woke up from my nap.” When I asked if the houseboat was alright, he said, “Seems to be. Oh wait, look at that, the flag is gone.” When I asked if he wanted me to buy him a new one, he said, “Don’t bother.” He didn’t want a funeral either, or his Purple Hearts for that matter, which, I later found out from Georgia, he threw into the marina.

Thus when the Western Union drone lands, I am alone, underground, facedown on an unmade Aerobed because the sheets are in the wash. Noi is at her warehouse for three more hours. Had I not heard the cicada-like buzz, had I not heard the wee package thump against the porch above, my afternoon would have been different. Plans included a post-nap jolt of sugar (Drake’s Devil Dog), a two-step boogie with Ellen (People: Sexiest Sexagenarian Alive!), a rotation of laundry (sheets), a surreptitious visit upstairs (forbidden), a dinner stir-fried (mu shu veg) and left on the stove (ready to serve). I’m like an elf. I do chores (cook, water plants, vacuum) and disappear before anyone (Noi) sees me. It’s how I pay my ex-girlfriend rent.

It occurs to me, as I open the front door and the sunshine stings my eyes, that it doesn’t have to be this way. My Grendel-like existence, my self-banishment to this subterranean lair, my social isolation. It is completely, completely, within my power to politely decline Noi’s generous, open-ended offer of a place to stay until I get back on my feet. Just like it was within my father’s power to not get eaten by an alligator. Just like it was within my sister Georgia’s power to not risk everything, health and all, for something as dangerous and potentially fruitless as the pursuit of an authentic identity. Agency, is what it is. To put on respectable trousers the color of pigeon poop. To wear paisley socks and man shoes. To get daily reminders. To pack a nutritious lunch. To get the fuck over it.

But the telegram is here, so. First thing’s first.

I take it inside to the lovingly restored parlor and sit on Noi’s hundred-year-old couch, which fills me with fucked-up feelings. Arousal and sadness, irreconcilable bedfellows, tangled in the twisted dendrites of my neural synapses. It is a breakup I have not fully accepted, a relationship I am still holding out hope for, the possibility the love child of magical thinking and pharmaceutically-induced optimism. I like it here, upstairs, where technically I am not allowed per section 1A. of our post-breakup/landlord-tenant agreement. This couch is memories. The Saturday we first met when she took me home from the farmers market and we fucked to the point of dehydration and physical injury (me, old, frozen shoulder). The day before Georgia’s wedding, when the frothy nuptial ether dicked around with our better judgment, and we licked each other like wounded dogs. I should know better than to do this, to park my ass on this periwinkle anachronism. But part of Noi is here, part of me is here, and I’m scared and alone and this couch is all I’ve got. I slice open the padded envelope with my Swiss army knife. I cut myself. A bloody thumbprint now defiles the telegram. Which means the news is gonna be bad, obvi. I read:

FROM THE DESK OF DR. J. SEEJUNGFER, MD, PHD

GEORGIA HOWLANDER-ROSTRUM ARRIVED SAFELY

PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION UNDERWAY

PHYSICAL MODIFICATION TO COMMENCE

GEORGIA WISHES FAMILY WELL

I exhale, realize I have not been breathing. I need to work on that. Georgia’s safety realized, I reread the message, again and again, searching for clues. Georgia has a hyphenated last name, right, because she’s married now to Dennis Rostrum. Wonder how he’s doing back at Sea World. I could Skype him but. Probably doing one of his DOLPHINS ROCK! shows right about now. Anyways, I’m sure he got his own telegram. Can dolphins read? I know they’re smart. GEORGIA WISHES FAMILY WELL. That’s me. I’m FAMILY. Actually, I’m her only FAMILY, cause Pops is dead and our stepmother Alcoholic Barbara doesn’t count, and isn’t that sad. I don’t have anyone to tell the good news. Nobody at all.

Fuck it. I’m calling Noi at work.

“What’s up Marl?” Noi asks like it’s totally normal. In the background, I hear the dissonant chords of Thelonius Monk, bouncing off giselle horns and rhino feet. Her taxidermy studio is in an old warehouse by the docks. She got it for cheap years ago, after the Storm but before they built the AP Seawall. She is there ten hours a day. After a profile several years ago in American Taxidermy Quarterly, she became something of a rock star. She has a waiting list of clients. Projects booked for the next three years. She took on an assistant. He is a robot named Steve.

“Georgia is ok! ” I blurt. I sound like I am five years old.

“Good! Telegram?” Noi could speak perfect English if she wanted to, but why would she want to? She is originally from Bali, where she received a rigorous formal education at Denpasar British Academy at the insistence of her father, a Dutch diplomat, doctor and dick. I met him once. The morning of my scuba diving accident. Supposedly he saved my life. He had disturbingly blue eyes. On account of my six-week coma, that is all I can remember from our trip. His disturbingly blue eyes.

“Yeah it just came.”

“Read it!” Her grin against the receiver sounds like a soft brush on canvas. She and Georgia became good friends during the course of our relationship. They shared a love of guns. For some women, Zumba. For others, the firing range. Although now that Georgia is becoming a mermaid, how is she to go bear hunting? I guess she won’t. So much loss. I read the telegram aloud, stumble over PSYCHOLOGICAL. Jesus Mary and Joseph. Can I be normal for once?

I got blood on it. I actually got blood on my sister’s telegram.

“Good,” Noi says. “Good.” Her hand covers the phone as she yells for Steve. She probably needs something.

“So how’s work?”

“Sorry Marlin, I have to go.”

“Oh ok.”

“You ok?”

“Yeah, I was just.” Say anything. “I cut myself.”

“Oh no! Bad?”

“No, not too bad.”

“Bandaids in my bathroom, if you need.” Permission granted. I consider the offer. Noi’s bathroom on the second floor. Everything ecru, handmade soap seahorses, eucalyptus sprays, lavender oil, Noi’s hair in the drain. Her leftover scent on a hand towel. “Hey Marl, don’t worry. Dr. See is the best.”

“Really?” I know very little about Dr. Seejungfer a.k.a. (unbeknownst to me) Dr. See. Should I have asked Georgia more about him before I let her board that plane? Due diligence or whatever? Fuck.

“Sure. Did a mount for him few years ago. A yeti. Good guy.”

See? Dr. See is a good guy and the good guys always win.

Or was she referring to the yeti?

“Wow. Well. That’s good to hear.”

“Go easy. Easy. OK?”

“OK Noi.”

“You go to therapy today right?”

Shit. I completely forgot. Noi hangs up on me, abrupt but warranted, as she is paying for my sessions, but also, it was just my Tracfone going dead. There is no gas in the Civic. I don’t have time. Or money. A skateboard will have to do. I arrive five minutes late, which means half my Ten Minute Power Session is already over. Dr. N. acts annoyed in that way that therapists pretend not to be: with a gracious smile and an adjustment of blinds.

“Why do I have nightmares about legs?” I am flop-sweat in a crew neck. I can smell myself from here.

“You’re mourning the death of your father,” Dr. N. says, clinically efficient. He waters an orchid, which he started from seed.

“Still?” I reach for a butterscotch candy. Dr. N. sits.

“Tell me what your grieving process was like.”

“Process?” If white-knuckling the steering wheel of a p.o.s. car with a near-feral cat on my face, my life imploded after an alligator consumed my father in front of my very eyes, nothing but a pulse to my name when I turned up nearly DOA in Jersey, counts as a process, then yes. I went through a process. “There’s not much to say.”

“Take me through what happened again. Keep it brief.” In a Ten Minute Power Session, there is no time for bumbling around in the Jungian thicket. In this shitty global economy? Well, it’s just not economical.

“Pops died on July 4th. His will stipulated that he wanted no memorial upon his death. When I got back to Fort Lauderdale, the houseboat was sold and Alcoholic Barbara went missing. I bought a used Honda Civic and drove up here to be with my sister Georgia who, coincidentally, got married to a dolphin last month and is in the process of becoming a mermaid. She’s fine, by the way.”

“How old were you at the time?”

“39.” Sometimes I wonder if Dr. N. really keeps notes or just does Sudoku. Is he even a real doctor?

“So there was no funeral for your father.”

“No.”

“So you never had a chance to say goodbye.”

“I watched an alligator rip him in two. Didn’t seem befitting at the time.” I start weeding through the bowl of generic hard candy. Are the butterscotches all gone? Why, Starlight Mints, are you so abundant? You taste like toothpaste and btw, this isn’t a diner.

“Your father’s death came suddenly, without warning. Your fight-or-flight response kicked in. You flew. And now, with your sister experiencing the ‘death’” – Dr. N. bunny-ears his fingers – “of her legs, all the unresolved grief over your father is bubbling to the surface.”

“I wouldn’t call it ‘bubbling,’ Dr. N. It’s more like a game of Whack-A-Mole.”

“What is ‘wacky mold’? I am not familiar.”

“Whack-a-Mole? It’s this awful game at the Boardwalk arcade. You get this Nerfy foam mallet and there are all these holes. The game starts up and the moles begin popping in and out of the holes and you have to whack them to earn points. You don’t know where they’re going to pop up next. Totally random. As soon as you hit one, another one appears. Essentially you never win.” Dr. N. nods. “Torture, this game is. I played it once when I was, like, ten. Never again.”

“Are the moles real?”

“No. They’re plastic phoneys.” Did Dr. N. think, even for a second, that I would beat an animal? That I was a misanimalist?

“I see.” Dr. N. looks at the mini hour glass. Our sand is exhausted. Time to assign homework. I take out my memo pad, still in my cargo pocket from last week. Flip to a clean page. Last week’s assignment was Get a house plant. Done. The ficus is kicking ass.

“For next session, that’s what I want you to do. Go to the arcade and play the game. That is your assignment.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. Not kidding. One round.” Fine, he’s not kidding. I’ll just lie and say I did it. “To hold you accountable, I want to see a picture of you at the machine.” Fine, I will Photoshop one. “It has to be taken and sent by the cell phone of another person, in real time.” Shit.

“Like a friend?”

“If you have one.” Ass. “Or it can be a total stranger. An arcade employee. It doesn’t matter.” Reasonable. “But you need to be accountable. This is the one thing, the one thing, you have to do this week. Play one round of Wacky Mold and you’ll never have to play it again.”

“It’s Whack-a-Mole.”

Dr. N. doesn’t give two scoops what it’s called.

My shoulder aches. My skin itches. My buttcrack sweats anew. I want to throw myself into the ocean.

“Why do I have to do this?”

“Just get me the photo, Marlin.”

“But why?”

“Tell ‘why’ to fuck off.”

“Excuse me?”

“See you next week.” Dr. N. polishes his monocle with a pocket square.

On the brink of dissolution, the sugar disc bides its time on my tongue. Death row for lozenges. Why so slow, saliva? As I leave therapy, I chomp down. A zing shoots up my back molar, the poor cuspid that nightly bears the brunt of my TMJ. I can’t handle it right now, the dental drama. I grab my skateboard and hit the pavement, freezing. I forgot to wear a coat. It’s hard to believe that a mental health professional would prescribe gambling. But I’ll do it. Later. After my tooth stops throbbing. Or tomorrow. When I feel better. Like, in general.

After six more nocturnal tangos with phantom legs, I stand outside the mouth of hell, that psychotic blinging cave of masochistic recreation, the FUN TIME ARCADE. For moral support, I bring along Osgood, the once-feral cat who is now my charge following an act of animal abandonment/vehicular vandalism. Some asshole threw him into the Civic when I left it unlocked (unintentionally) in a need-to-pee panic shortly after pulling into the Molly Pitcher Rest Stop on the Garden State Parkway. Osgood was the punchline of a sadistic joke. Thus I felt bad and kept him, but also, I could not get him off my grill. It was a hell of a ride to Asbury Park. Today his crate is strapped to my skateboard with bungee cords and covered with an old army blanket. I pull it along with a rope, Sailor’s Tie. Oz hates the ocean, even at a distance, hates the Boardwalk even more because people. But therapy is therapy. Plus he owes me one for saving his life.

It is a December Monday on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. Feels like a failed suicide. I am shocked the FUN TIME is even open but Open Year Round! protests a sign, bitch-slapping my preconceptions. With a heave ho I go, enter the deathtrap, tugging the Osgooded skateboard over the precipice. I pass a kid in a striped red vest. He looks like the bastard child of a barbershop quartet. He chews gum (tobacco?) and doesn’t look up from his phone when I ask him where the Whack-a-Mole is. He just points, like a politically incorrect smoke shop Indian. Which is good, fine, ignore me, because I’ve got a cat and under Barbershop’s kiosk is yet another sign: Service Dogs Only. Do people work anymore or is it just signs and robots? Talk about last-century prejudice. Service Dogs Only? Isn’t that just slightly bass ackwards? A gross disrespect to all other animals of service? What about service cats? Have you considered service exotic birds, i.e. African Greys? They can learn up to a hundred words, you know, cognitive abilities of a preschooler. God, we are all so behind, have so far to go! When does the madness stop? Huh? I’ll tell you when. It stops with me, right here, right now. I am taking down this sign.

“Sir, do not touch the sign.”

“Sorry.” I might need this kid later to take the photo. Best not to burn bridges. Onward to Whack-a-Mole.

Rows and rows of screaming machines, pretending to be games, harassing passers-by into submission. Cars that go nowhere. Basketball shots that count for nothing. Ducks that pop back to life two seconds after you ping them down with a plastic rifle. Along a back wall is a prize station whose rewards would take years, perhaps decades, to obtain. 5,000 points for a pencil. 10,000 for a notepad. Escalating to obscenities like 100,000 for a Pink Panther doll. 500,000 for a remote control car. Have they even changed the stock? It all rushes back like burped-up orange soda, the acid reflux of childhood frustration. The agitation of seeing what you want (the R/C Jeep!) and knowing, deep down, that it is unwinnable. Settling for a rough-edged plastic spider ring. A misaligned snap bracelet. A corvette eraser that doesn’t erase at all, smudges loose leaf or worse, tears it.

Had it been thirty years? Thirty years since Pops took me here on my birthday, turned me loose with a Ziploc bag of quarters, telling me to have fun? Thirty years since Pops and I sat side-by-side in simulated go-karts, whipping around virtual tracks, racing toward a pixelated checkerboard flag? Thirty years since Pops proved himself a Skee-ball wizard, his gentle lobbing technique racking up points, prize tickets snaking into my hands? Thirty years since I stood paralyzed at a machine called Whack-a-Mole, choked up and distraught over my misfires, my lack of intuition, my slowness, my inadequacy, taunted by the evil laugh of Satanic rodents who just didn’t quit? Thirty years since Pops came over, car keys ready, saying I think it’s time to go home?

The last time I was here, Pops was still alive.

I push on to find the machine, down the aisle of electronica, putting one foot in front of the other. Then, like violins striking up in a melodrama, Osgood starts mewing. Christ. What now. I halt. Squat down. Lift a corner of the army blanket. Look at him through the grid of the crate. He squints at me, pissed.

“Listen, I know you hate the noise, I do too. But I’ve got to do this. It’s for therapy.”

Mew, goes Osgood. Mew mew mew. Kind of remarkable that he is even audible next to the Basketball Free Throw, which blasts through its repertoire of sound effects. A pre-recorded crowd cheers. Generic Announcer Voice barks Wild shot! and Alley oop! and No good! Chaser lights zip around the backboard. No one is playing.

“Dude, I saved your life. Just. Come on. Man up.”

He finds a paw to clean and settles down, distracted. Not exactly encouragement. But he’s here for me, and that counts for something. At least he’s not peeing.

I come around the bend and there it is. The Whack-a-Mole. I look down at it, look back, look around. Is this it? Huh. There’s only five holes? Somehow I remember there being more. Like double that. At least ten. And this is clearly a game for a tyke: primary colored – red yellow blue – and two feet tall. I will have to kneel to play it. The graphics are ridiculous – they look like fat Alvin and the Chipmunks. The mallet? It’s massive, the size of my head, a black foam joke on a stick. It can easily cover two holes at once, possibly three, if angled correctly. This Fisher Price monstrosity is what laid waste to my childhood psyche? Paved the way for a lifetime of generalized anxiety disorder, dysthymia, low self-esteem, paranoia, catastrophization, overgeneralization and carb addiction?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

Let’s do this shit!

But then I remember what Dr. N. said about accountability. I need someone to snap a photo of me at the WAM. Barbershop Vest? Probably not. I mean, I could but, kind of embarrassing after my attempt at signage theft. No one else is here but me and Osgood. Wait, no. Me and a man in a red suit. He is at the end of the aisle, flask in hand, taking a chance on The Claw. I know this guy.

“Sir?”

“Shhhhh.” Whisky spittle. He’s in a drunken trance, that state of fixation found at many a slot machine in Atlantic City. I remember it well, that look in Alcoholic Barbara’s eyes as I held her bucket of coins. It confirms what I suspected all along.

Santa is a gambler. And a drinker. I can empathize, and also, I should have known. Who else but me, my geriatric cat and Old St. Nick himself would be in the FUN TIME ARCADE on a Monday afternoon in December? It is a lot of pressure, for sure, when your entire self-worth is wrapped up in the success of a single day. All the build-up, the planning, the expectations. The management of elves who complain about the company health care plan, blow up popcorn in the staffroom microwave, flick cigarette butts into the reindeer corral. The kids who are, let’s face it, spoiled brats. The parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who expect you, Santa Claus, to magically heal their rotten families with the dance of an Elmo, the roar of a robotic T-Rex, the taking a piss of a latex Cutesy Suzie. You’d have to be a saint or a nihilist or both to sign on as CEO of Christmas Inc (stock symbol: XMAS). To voluntarily be the face of the “holiday” for which we bust our collective asses and put ourselves in debt and still, for the life of us, can’t explain why. Thus, I do not blame him, do not judge, for his wanting to blow off steam. The FUN TIME ARCADE on the Asbury Park Boardwalk is as good a place as any.

What I don’t understand is why Santa, who has access to so many toys, would be playing a game to win a stuffed animal. Or a doll. In this case, the object of his desire is a naked Barbie. She is wedged in the back corner, between a Tweety Bird and Papa Smurf, blonde haired and indecent. He presses his forehead against the plexiglass, watery eyes focused, his right hand on the joystick that moves the mechanical claw. He slides it right, back, forward, back, a little left, a little right, no, a little left. Then the claw drops. It closes in on Barbie, grasps at her ponytail, teases her synthetic locks upward. But no dice. Her body stays put, the claw returns to start position, drops nothing into the chute. Santa swigs from his flask, reaches into a black velvet pouch, pulls out a quarter. Begins again.

Would now be a bad time to ask for a photo?

“Sir, uh, excuse me, Santa?”

“I said shush.”

“I know, really sorry to bother you but do you think you could take a photo?”

“Kid, I’m off the clock. Go home.”

“No, I don’t mean – you don’t have to be in it, I just need someone to take a photo of me at the Whack-a-Mole.”

“What’s in the box?” Santa keeps playing, mumbles a shit under his breath as Nude Barbie eludes again. At what point did he see my crate? Must be Santa’s intuition.

“It’s my cat, Osgood.”

“You know it’s service dogs only.”

“It’s also an alcohol-free, family-friendly establishment.” I poke at his belly. When did I get the balls to poke at Santa’s belly?

“Touché.” Santa stops playing, turns to look at me. “How old are you, son?”

“40, Santa. I’m 40.”

“What are you doing here?”

“It’s been a tough year. My father died. My sister is gone and -” I can’t believe it. I am crying in front of Santa. “TLDR, I’m in therapy and this is part of it.” Santa passes me his flask and I take a grateful swig. Wild Turkey. Goddamn, Santa. How did you know?

“I hear ya. It’s been a rough one for me, too. The Chinese Market is killing me,” Santa says, suddenly conversational. “After that crash in August? I’m getting raped up the ass by the cost of raw materials.”

“Sorry to hear,” I say, and hand him back his flask.

“You do what you can, right?” He puts his hand on my shoulder and I can’t stop myself. I am now hugging Santa. He is hot and sweaty, his suit feels like an old bathrobe, moist after a shower. I press my head against his moobs. He lets me do it, like a dad would. Then, also like a dad, he pats me three times on my back, signalling the end, before it gets weird.

“Sorry, Santa. I just, God I am such a mess.”

“Hey, now. What was it you needed?”

“I need you to take a photo of me at the Whack-a-Mole and send it to my therapist. It’s for accountability. To prove that I played it. Put the past behind me.”

“Ugh, the A word. Believe me, kid, I know all about it. Accountability? It’s, like, my job.” Now we are walking, side by side, me and Santa. He’s a cool dude. We get to the Whack-a-Mole and Santa digs around in his pouch, hands me a coin. “Here. This one’s on me.” He takes out his cell, a Motorola flip-phone circa 2008. Yikes. Times were bad. He backs up a little to frame the shot.

“Ready when you are.”

I plunk in the coin and off I go. The WAM lights up and they all start, those plastic rodent bastards. But I am ready, boy am I ready. These fuckers don’t stand a chance. My technique is flawless, effortless. Like a ninja’s. Barely out of their holes and they’re already knocked down. They don’t even know what hit them. It’s me, Moles. That’s who hit you. Me. The scoreboard flashes, red digital numbers climb higher and higher, the sound effects can’t keep pace. Tickets are spitting out, non-stop, spiraling into a heap on the gum-stained carpet. I’m in the flow. My flow is easy. I now know, truly, what rappers are talking about. A tiny trumpet blasts and the game is over. I turn to Santa and his camera flash goes off. He takes a second photo, this one with the stack of tickets between my teeth,  arms above my head, fingers V-ing for Victory. Then a serious one, arms crossed, the badass. Then me next to Osgood, flash off because Oz hates it. Then me and Santa, selfie style, just because why not.

“What’s your therapist’s phone number?” he asks, ready to send. I give him the digits, memorized, and it’s done.  I finished my homework. Man it feels good. “You really killed it!” he adds, heading back to The Claw.

“Thanks, Kris,” I say. He turns back, shakes his head no. We had a moment, but calling him Kris is a bridge too far.

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Jessica Bonder is an actor and writer based out of New York City. She holds a BA in English and Art History from the University of Pennsylvania. “Wacky Mold” is Jessica’s first published story. Her acting website is www.jessicabonder.com.

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