Jared Lipof
| Fiction

Benny really had thought this through. Shoemaker’s Hobby Shop was a killer toy-slash-comic bookstore where he and I spent pretty much all our allowance money. I couldn’t be sure if this picture of Mark Hamill indeed existed, of what portion––if any––of Benny’s story could be corroborated later by my mother or father, though it seemed unlikely that they would cross Shoemaker’s threshold of their own volition.

Either way, Benny’s deflection worked. At the mention of anything Star Wars-related my father’s eyes glazed over.

“I’m gonna go change out of these clothes.” He left the kitchen, beer in hand, trailing fumes.

“I’ll see what I can find out from my professor,” said my mother.

Standing by the window of Ms. Hannum’s English classroom and grinding a #2 pencil in the sharpener bolted to the sill gave you a clear view across Chickering Road to our fugitive’s hideout. Benny and I spent the entire class breaking lead and alternating visits to the sharpener to see if he’d make an appearance. We’d each made three trips to the window and seen nobody, and I knew we were pushing our luck. The last time I got up Ms. Hannum said, “Mr. Zinn, you’re not carving the words, merely inscribing them onto paper.” I nodded and smiled, feigning embarrassment, knowing that the next time Benny or I got up she would lose her shit.

But then––the snap of graphite behind me.

“Yes, Mr. Al-Otabi?” said Ms. Hannum.

“My pencil has broken,” said Nader. “I request permission to make pointed the tip.”

“What sort of bargain-basement stationer is supplying you children with writing instruments?” she said. “Make it brief.”

Nader tiptoed across the room and Ms. Hannum continued a lecture on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” that had endured far too many interruptions already.

“The first word of this story is…”

Without raising his hand, Benny said, “True.”

“Very good, Mr. Silver. What do you make of this? Some-one else.”

While she scanned the room, Benny whispered to Nader on his way past.

“Psst. While you’re at the––”

At full volume Nader said, “Benjamin, you must not distract me from my errand!”

“That’s it! That’s IT! THAT’S IT!” cried Ms. Hannum. “What in blazes is so interesting by the pencil sharpener?”

She crossed the room to see for herself.

Benny shrugged and Nader held up his broken pencil.

She turned to me. “What about you, Mr. Zinn? Anything to say?”

“Well, you see, there’s this––”

Jared Lipof is a sound engineer for documentary television programs. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He lives in Tallahassee, where he is at work on a novel.

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