Johnny America


Lot­ta Grows Up



Lot­ta didn’t think to hide her kite. She kept it next her bed, next to her lacrosse stick, which in the off sea­son was re­duced to a stand­by weapon, al­though it did­n’t do her much good now, did it? Why didn’t the bur­glar take that too and look for­ward to a spring filled with sports and leisure?

The kite was giv­en to her by her step grand­fa­ther whom she thought had no oblig­a­tion to re­mem­ber her name, let alone give her gifts worth steal­ing. It was shaped like a but­ter­fly, hand paint­ed by hip­pies some­where in Mon­tana. At least Lot­ta hoped they were hip­pies as they were just her fa­vorite. At the start of high school she thought they would be her best bet at join­ing a clique. Hip­pies love every­one! she thought. Turns out they al­so love jam bands and pot, two things poor Lot­ta could nev­er get be­hind. Still, she loved her kite; its ab­sence re­mind­ed her of her fail­ure at be­ing free-spir­it­ed and she want­ed it back.


There were two wit­ness­es but they weren’t talking.

The first was Alex Tre­bec. She had a framed au­to­graph of him that hung above her bed that she kissed for luck each morn­ing. “To make me smart,” she would say and then cor­rect her­self and say, “what is to make me smart?” and wink at his per­fect mustache.

When she was younger she wrote him and asked him how he got so smart but all he wrote on his eight-by-ten was, “Stay in school!” which was a vague yet di­rect an­swer. Her moth­er let it slip one day that he had the an­swers all along and Lot­ta was as sad as the Christ­mas Eve she found her fa­ther eat­ing Santa’s cook­ies with a Hitler-es­que milk mus­tache. She got over it but kept the pho­to hang­ing to re­mind her how pre­cious she once was.

“Nos­tal­gia at the age of fif­teen is a sad thing,” her moth­er would say when she caught Lot­ta mid-kiss.

“Oh can it, moth­er,” she said but not out loud be­cause she had a lot of wish­es for her life but a death wish wasn’t one of them.

The oth­er was Zap­pers who used to be her ham­ster but now was a pa­per­weight. While most vis­i­tors to her room found this creepy, the thought of Zap­pers watch­ing her do her home­work, as he al­ways did, made Lot­ta more pro­duc­tive. He was so still that it caused Lot­ta to do jump­ing jacks, run laps around her room: just to prove she could. For the record, the stuff­ing part was a gift. Her aunt was sleep­ing with the lo­cal taxi­der­mist be­cause well, every fam­i­ly comes with a quirky aunt and she hap­pened to be hers. She al­so had the clichéd drunk un­cle but he had gone to re­hab and now drinks or­ange Kool-Aid at bar­be­ques in­stead. Lot­ta tried to spike his drink once be­cause she missed the twin­kle in his eye but she felt bad and switched their drinks and spent the rest of the af­ter­noon with her head in the toilet


“Why are you mop­ing around?” her moth­er asked.

“Some­body stole my kite,” she said.

“No­body stole your kite,” her moth­er said.

“Well it’s gone,” Lot­ta said and start­ed to cry. Lotta’s mom took her hand and pulled her close. “I’m sor­ry I’m act­ing like a ba­by,” Lot­ta whimpered.

“You’re my lit­tle ba­by,” her moth­er said and it looked as if she was go­ing to lift Lot­ta and at­tempt to cra­dle her in her arms.

“Oh, Mom­my,” Lot­ta said and she won­dered why they were talk­ing like this. This sym­pa­thy and ba­by talk was un­usu­al for her moth­er. It was com­mon for Lot­ta to ask her a sim­ple ques­tion and be met with a stern look that more of­ten than not just con­fused her.

“Well it didn’t grow legs and walk away,” her moth­er said.

Lot­ta pic­tured her kite with skin­ny flamin­go legs sneak­ing past her while she slept. She then pic­tured Zap­pers with dou­ble the ham­ster legs and Alex Tre­bek with triple the Cana­di­an legs and soon she was in a liv­ing night­mare and couldn’t look at any­thing with­out imag­in­ing it had quadru­ple, quin­tu­ple the legs. Her moth­er looked like some kind of in­sect on the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel that ate its young.

“I have to go,” Lot­ta said. She was close to tak­ing off her shoe and pound­ing her moth­er over the head with it.

“It’ll turn up,” her moth­er said like her kite might be buried un­der a stack of text books.

“I hope so,” Lot­ta said and turned to leave.


“Ah, Lot­ta the spy,” Ron said as he ap­proached her crouch­ing by the pool.

“What are you talk­ing about?,” she said as she tried to ca­su­al­ly shove her binoc­u­lars down her pants.

“Well ei­ther you are hav­ing some gen­der iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is­sues or it looks like somebody’s play­ing detective.”

“I’m too old to play any­thing,” Lot­ta said.

“Meh, you’re just a baby.”

Lot­ta won­dered if her pale pink tee shirt was rem­i­nis­cent of a ba­by blan­ket be­cause it was ridicu­lous to have been called a ba­by by both of her par­ents in the last twen­ty minutes.

“Well, don’t do any­thing I wouldn’t do,” he said as if she might drop acid or streak, even though he had done both.

“Okay, Dad,” she said. Ron was her step­fa­ther but un­like most chil­dren of di­vorce, she liked him more than her bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther. On their wed­ding day Lot­ta even start­ed call­ing him Dad even though she was thir­teen and a lit­tle old for start­ing over.

“Well, Mar­cia Brady was like thir­teen,” she said af­ter the ceremony.

“Yeah, but her re­al fa­ther was dead or some­thing,” her step­broth­er Ty said.

“Well, it’s not my fault Tom is alive now, is it?” she said be­cause she al­so start­ed call­ing her re­al fa­ther by his first name.

“You’re just go­ing to have to kill him then,” Ty said.

“If on­ly to le­git­imize my Mar­cia Brady anal­o­gy,” she said and he laughed.

You see, Tom had left her moth­er in the mid­dle of the night.

“If we were in a TV movie it would’ve been called ‘Def­i­nite­ly with­out my Daugh­ter’,” Lot­ta al­ways joked.

He still tried to main­tain a re­la­tion­ship with Lot­ta but she had seen that sit­com about hav­ing two fa­thers and it all seemed too com­pli­cat­ed for Lotta’s taste.

“One fa­ther will suf­fice,” she would say when she tore up her an­nu­al birth­day check from Tom, won­der­ing how ex­act­ly he thought six­ty dol­lars was enough to buy back his title.


Lot­ta didn’t tell any­one that, while it bummed her out her kite was miss­ing, that wasn’t why she was fish­ing an un­com­fort­able bulge out of her crotch at the moment.

Ron was her moth­er’s third hus­band and Lot­ta is afraid num­ber four is lurk­ing some­where be­hind their hy­drangea bush­es. Mr. Caprezzi lives be­hind them and is trim­ming his top­i­aries with a fixed eye on their house. In the sec­ond win­dow, her moth­er is boil­ing wa­ter, no doubt in a very sexy way.

Mr. Caprezzi’s first name is Bernar­do and Lotta’s mom says his name with this ac­cent, oh this accent!

“Bear-nahr-do!,” she would shout as he walked his wiener dog past their house.

“Miss Kren­shaw!,’ he would shout back at them, con­ve­nient­ly for­get­ting that she had got­ten mar­ried again.

“God, why don’t you ever cor­rect him,” Lot­ta would say.

“Oh Lot­ta, he’s for­eign, leave him alone,” she al­ways responded.

“Ex­cusez-moi,” Lot­ta would say and then fake barf in­to the sink.

The thing was, Lot­ta liked her new fam­i­ly. Ty was pop­u­lar at school, he put his hands on her in the halls, a friend­ly shove or a se­cret hand­shake that was re­al­ly just a reg­u­lar hand­shake that end­ed with a thumb war. Oth­er kids would see this and smile at Lot­ta and give Ty a quizzi­cal look, like, “her, re­al­ly? Okay, boss.”

Lot­ta wasn’t sure what star­ing at Mr. Caprezzi star­ing at her moth­er would ac­com­plish but she couldn’t look away. He was at­trac­tive in that Mediter­ranean sort of way, like he could gut a fish and take you danc­ing with the same amount of flair. Lot­ta found her­self mem­o­riz­ing his face, the way his thick side­burns were so pre­cise, it seemed he had used a protractor.

Why not me, she thought. I am, if noth­ing else, a younger, pret­ti­er ver­sion of my moth­er. Has he not seen me swim­ming?, she won­dered. For Pete’s sake, she has even caught her step­broth­er study­ing where her tan be­gan and ended.

Lot­ta was well-hid­den by the gi­ant blue blos­soms but as soon as she saw him put down his shears she knew it was all over.

“Miss Kren­shaw!” he shout­ed. He was mo­tion­ing for her to come clos­er with his arms. Even his mus­tache seemed to draw her out from her hid­ing spot.

“Ah, Bear-nahr-do,” she said and stomped on the weeds be­neath her, her feet pro­pelling her to­wards him.

Filed under Fiction on December 21st, 2007

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