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Fiction by Neno Perrotta





I love eggs. I love sausage and bacon. I love a good cup of coffee and a full stack of buckwheat pancakes, soaked like a wet sponge in Vermont maple syrup. And the truth is that I actually love dry toast.
What I hate is breakfast: Breakfast, the experience; breakfast, the same breakfast I used to love more than anything.
And I hate it, too, that I’m so damn obvious. It embarrasses me, because I know you know what comes next. The last time I had breakfast was also the last time I saw Amber Lynn. And go right ahead, beat me with an old coffee pot, because it was certainly my own doing.
A few months ago, when Amber and I were still eating breakfast, the only thing I hated was a dark and stormy day. It was a Wednesday; a windy, rainy and hell-of-a Wednesday. It was also the Wednesday the cook forgot to put the blueberries in my pancakes. I ate four big cakes and found three tiny and shriveled berries. I remember the exact number because each time I found one the Tornado Warning sounded over the restaurant radio.
When the twister hit the truck stop my plate was clean. “Four pancakes and three lousy blueberries,” was all I could say as the roof split into pieces and floated off like a flock of stiff crows.
When things calmed down and we crawled out from under the steam table, Amber asked me for our credit card and the keys to my car.
Still, tornadoes don’t mean a thing to me. A big wind is just a wind. A hurricane is simply a glass of spilt milk.
What can twist my arm off or slam me against a wall is nothing more than a five- minute phone call from Amber Lynn. It’s never something simple like; “Today was the worse day I ever had,” or “I’m gonna kill that friggin’ foreman the next time he puts his hands on me.”
When Amber calls, I know there’s a bomb the size of Texas headed straight for the soft spot at the base of my skull.
Last night, at four in the morning, she called to tell me she’d just sold my ’49 Mercury and bought three payphones in the middle of “Somewhere,” Nebraska.
“They have a big-time tourist attraction right outside of town,” she told me. “There’s a two thousand year-old circle of cars. They call it Carhenge.”
“It’s stones,” I told her. “It’s in England and they call it Stonehenge.”
“We can retire,” she said. “We’ll get over eight thousand dollars a year from the payphones.”
And, yes, maybe I did yell. Maybe I did swear and call her an idiot. But I was just trying to get through to her; through her fear of wind and breakfast.
“That’s tornado country,” I screamed. “You’re smack in the middle of Tornado Alley.”
“And there’s one more thing,” she said, with an eerie calmness. “No blueberries. There ain’t a blueberry in the whole state of Nebraska.”






The plan has always been: Friday we drink the beer, Saturday we cook the chicken, Sunday we shoot the guns. Except for an occasional holiday, abortion or Act of God, Linda and I have been doing these things every weekend for almost three years.
The door slammed shut. It was Linda with the Budweiser and chickens. “How’d it go today?” I yelled over the stereo.
“Good,” she yelled back. “I bought a case of Brown’s Amber for tonight.”
I didn’t understand a word she was saying. I wanted to hear about Budweiser, or maybe Miller. “What the hell are you screaming about,” I said.
“Brown’s Amber,” she said, after she turned the music down. “It’s a micro-brew. It’s something different.”
Linda has the longest, reddest hair you can imagine. And her favorite things to wear are tight jeans and tight t-shirts. When she gets close to me I can hardly think. I can barely see the world around us. I never know what I’m going to say. “Screw Brown’s Amber,” I said. “For your sake, it better be twice as good as Bud. And it better go with chicken.”
“I got salmon,” she said. “And we can drink all the Brown’s tonight because I bought wine for the fish.” Then she sat on my lap.
I was pissed, but I still wanted to kiss her. I wanted her to remember what we were. I wanted to make her forget about Brown’s Amber and New-age fish. But I couldn’t. Somehow I had gotten a mouth full of Linda’s hair.
She rolled off my lap and onto the sofa. She took her hair with her and my throat was clear. “I cleaned the rifle and the 40 caliber,” I told her. “Everything’s ready for Sunday.”
“Sunday?” she said. “Oh, yeah, Sunday.” By then she had her shirt off and her jeans around her ankles.






I usually turn out the lights around ten, never expecting that a friend might be driving by and not stop because they think I’m already in bed.
Last night I was watching HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD, almost in the dark except for the lava lamp on the TV, when something tapped on my front window. It’s been years since anything has scared me, so I didn’t even flinch. And besides that, I had a toothache that hurt like hell whenever I moved my head.
Hercules was well into one of his famous soliloquies on love; In the Haunted World he had a crush on a beautiful vampire. But I had heard that tune too many times, so I turned down the volume and put on some old Dylan. “Those Italians don’t know what they’re missing,” I said out loud, thinking that I was surely alone in my little house. Just then the tapping started up again; Not on the front or back door, but right in the middle of my big, living room window. And this time it wouldn’t stop.
I pulled open the curtains and saw two eyes looking up at me. Then, the eyes grew into Amber and she pressed her pretty face against the glass. “I saw the light,” she yelled. “Let me in.”
“Go around back,” I mouthed, pointing towards the kitchen door.
I unlocked the door and she came stumbling in. “What the hell are you supposed to be?” I asked.
“Tonight’s Halloween,” she said. “I’m a flapper, like from the ‘roaring twenties’.”
“Then why are you here?” I said. I was hoping it was just about her asshole boyfriend and not something like a flat tire or her old dog dying.
“I thought you might be lonely,” she said. “And besides that, we drank all the beer and nobody brought any pot.”
“I’m watching a movie,” I said. “I don’t have any pot and I just finished the last of the Tequila.”
“That’s okay,” she said, switching from her kiddish voice to an innocent, seductive whisper. “I’m here because I want to dance for you, like you’re always asking me to do. But first, I gotta pee.”
When she came out of the bathroom I felt like, once again, I was alone in my little house. She was wearing some goofy vampire fangs and there was obviously fake blood running from the corners of her mouth. She had put on my old black T-shirt that was lying in the bathtub. This was another tune that I had heard before; that I was more than tired off.
“I’m watching a movie,” I said, again. “If you don’t like Hercules, if you need a car, my keys are hanging by the back door.”
Amber watched the movie for a few minutes. Then she changed back into a flapper, borrowed a twenty, and took my car. Hercules drove a stake through the heart of his beautiful vampire and I went to bed, just like I do every night around twelve. I fell asleep thinking that the only thing that ever changes is my window, and maybe which tooth is driving me crazy this week.




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