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Please Be Careful

Story by Wendy Elizabeth Wallace (Read author interview) June 19, 2023

Art by Evie Shaffer

My girlfriend finds the PogoFlyer tucked at the back of the garage of our new house, nestled behind the brown-crusted mower left by the previous owner. “Remember these?” she asks, pulling the PogoFlyer out, running her palm to remove the dust from its swooped metal surface, revealing its blue gleam, the clear cylinder that exposes its coils. Those coils had been the problem – some proprietary NASA tech that could house nearly impossible amounts of potential energy, for nearly impossible bounces. I remember the ads from my childhood. I remember the lawsuits and recalls, too, when children cleared the tops of trees, then lost control or their nerve and came flailing down, their bodies breaking on impact with sidewalks and driveways and car hoods.

“I always wanted one,” my girlfriend says. “Didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I say, and I want to mean it, but I’m thinking about the ten-year-old who crashed into a neighbor’s flower bed, how the pointed cap of a garden gnome had punched a hole in her chest. How, before my mom flipped the channel, the news program showed B-roll of a gnome and its sweet painted smile. Secretly dangerous, like everything.

“Let’s try it,” my girlfriend says, and I trail her, making small protests that seem to ping off the thing’s shine, and then she’s astride, taking her first experimental hop.

“Please be careful,” I say to her. She, the first person who wanted to own a thing with me. She, who affirmed this again and again today on the piles of paperwork we filled out in the law office that smelled like raisins, our signing hands – my left, her right – getting sore from making the same loops, our other hands stuck together with ecstatic sweat under the table.

And then we’d walked into it together, this house that’s officially ours – walked, because one of us carrying the other over the threshold was a fucked-up ancient Roman ritual, which I didn’t know but she did since she’s always putting on fact-filled podcasts even when popping out for dish soap. We took off our shoes and socks and felt the floor under our feet, explored it all with our bare skin.

The first time we’d had sex felt like this – like stepping through a place that I couldn’t believe was mine. That night, two years ago in her bed lit by the one flickering streetlight, she kissed me like she’d lost something in the dark and then she found it, and it was me, and after, she ran her fingers through my hair, working out every tangle we’d put into it. No one had ever been so careful with me, and I’d tried not to cry because that was weird and embarrassing but I did anyway and when she asked why, I told her that I was afraid that any minute she’d change her mind about me and go. And she’d laughed, like how silly to fear. How ridiculous to not be certain, like she always was, and I’ve been trying.

She’s laughing now, as she flies three feet into the air, six. “You have to try this,” she gasps, as the rubber tip hits the ground and pitches her back into another surge of height. She’s soaring – if she reaches far enough she could brush the shingles of the roof. Our roof. Her dark braid thrashes through the air.

“Come down,” I say, but there’s a question mark on the edge of it, and she’s happily shaking her head. Saying, “One more,” as she goes, compressing into a small silhouette against the sky.

She could go higher. She will. She’s already on her way, her knees bracing for the next flight, and I brace myself, too, for all the worst things she never believes could be possible. Her elegant legs splitting for white bone, her tight stomach bursting open like a dropped box of leftovers, her what’s-that-smell? nose cracking inwards. Or her body giving up on gravity altogether, leaving her suspended in hang time, her ecstatic whoop stretching infinitely at the crest of a final wave that will never release her back to me.

About the Author

Wendy Elizabeth Wallace (she/they) is a queer disabled writer. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and has landed in Connecticut by way of Pennsylvania, Berlin, Heidelberg, and Indiana. They are the editor-in-chief of Peatsmoke Journal and the co-manager of social media and marketing for Split Lip Magazine. Their work has appeared  in The Rumpus, ZYZZYVA, Pithead Chapel, Brevity, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Purdue University. Find her on Twitter @WendyEWallace1 

About the Artist

Evie Shaffer is an award-winning photographer and visual artist passionate about creating beauty with a purpose.

This story appeared in Issue Eighty of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Eighty

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