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T.B. Grennan Fiction

Cabbage Night

by T.B. Grennan

            The signs started popping up a few days after the compromise. Hard white cardboard twenty inches by twelve, supported by thin metal legs and bearing the words TAKE BACK VERMONT in plain, pine green letters. At first, there were only a handful, and though I asked around, nobody seemed quite sure what the slogan meant. Even the people who put them up wouldn’t say; if you pushed, they’d frown and look at their feet and mumble something about morality or big government.

            That summer, right around the time that the first civil unions were performed, the Vermont Republican party chose a woman named Ruth Dwyer as its candidate for governor. She accepted the nomination with a TAKE BACK VERMONT button pinned to her blazer, vowing that she’d find a way to turn back the clock, state supreme court be damned.

            And just like that, she was six points behind the incumbent. Six points and closing.

            The slogan started showing up on t-shirts and bumper stickers, on posters and cheaply-made baseball caps. Driving east on Route 15, you could see it written in three-foot-high letters beneath a mural of Governor Dean being lynched by a mob of torch-bearing voters that someone had painted on the side of a barn.

           By fall, every homophobe in my town had a sign on their lawn.

* * *

            Our anniversary fell on the last Monday in October and, to celebrate, we decided to go on our very first double date.

            That fall, Hannah and I were both seniors and had conspired to share an end-of-school free period, even though it meant gym class first period (me) and physics with the famously lecherous Mr. Phillips (Hannah). And every afternoon, we would race down the unpaved length of Plains Road in Hannah’s car, hands clasped, faces hot. Passing sign after sign after sign and trying to ignore them, what they stood for. All that hate and rage and fear. Looking past them, to the joys of Hannah’s second-story bedroom, her wailing boxspring.

            And when Hannah gasped and shivered and climbed off my face, that was it. I could let go. Surrender. Knees bent to my chest. Wrists bound with one of her father’s neckties. Hannah’s fingers traced circles on my hips, her cheek sliding along the inside of my thigh. I wiggled back against her, begging in a husky whisper. Her hands spreading me wider, her tongue slipping somewhere new. And then, just then, as I trembled right on the very edge, I heard it: the cruel bleat of Hannah’s private line.

            She took the call. “Oh, hey, Cullen,” Hannah said, plopping down on the edge of her mattress. “What? No, I’m not busy.” She gave me a salacious wink, then stepped out into the hall to talk, the phone cord shut piano-wire tight in the door. I lay there, staring at the damp oval she’d left on the sheet. Telling myself that she’d be right back, that she wouldn’t leave me like this. Not on our special day.

            Hannah had been trying to find her best friend Cullen a boyfriend since middle school. When I started hanging out with Paul, a thin, nervous junior in my third-period photo class, she had insisted on setting the boys up, certain that they would hit it off. I wasn’t so sure. “Oh, what do you know, Sonia?” Hannah teased. “You thought you were straight—for years!” Hannah had realized she was gay at the age of eight, when she’d found herself entranced by Tanya Mousekewitz in An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. I was a lesbian out of loneliness and political solidarity, though I hadn’t quite realized it yet.

            When the bedroom door finally squeaked open, I was on my hands and knees, searching for my underwear in a pile of textbooks and glossy college brochures. “Hurry up, slowpoke,” Hannah said, leaning down to kiss the corner of my mouth, then stepping down the hall toward the bathroom. “We’re picking up the boys in ten minutes.”

            “So,” I asked, coating my hands with persimmon-scented bar soap, “what’s the plan for tonight?”

            Hannah stopped brushing her tongue and shot me a self-satisfied look. “Oh, you’ll see,” she said, trying to act coquettish with a mouthful of toothpaste.

* * *

            Outside, it was just beginning to get dark. Hannah’s VW was parked haphazardly by an old stone wall, a reminder of the afternoon’s haste. And as we approached, Hannah tossed me the keys. “Do you mind?” she asked, then climbed into the passenger seat without waiting for an answer.

            Cullen was waiting on the high school’s front lawn, sitting quietly under a dying sapling. Dressed in a brown crushed-velvet jacket, his signature bowler pulled down over his eyes. Paul was standing on his screened-in porch when the three of us pulled in. He waved awkwardly, hair still wet from the shower. And as I slowly backed down Paul’s long, curving driveway, dodging potholes and bold squirrels and his little brother’s action figures, Hannah began laying out the evening ahead.

             We would take a drive. Halloween was tomorrow, the election a week after that. None of us were old enough to vote, but we could still do our part. Tonight was Cabbage Night. Our classmates would be out in force, crushing pumpkins with baseball bats and pulling down mailboxes. They would obscure our actions. We’d cruise around town with our windows down, grabbing every sign we saw. Maybe we couldn’t get them all. But we could get enough.

            “And then what?” Paul asked, pulling his seatbelt tighter. “What do we do with all those signs?”

            “Then,” Cullen said with a grin, lifting a chrome canister of lighter fluid from his jacket pocket, “we have ourselves a little Dwyer fire.”

* * *

            The first time I met Cullen, I thought—somehow—that he was Hannah’s boyfriend. We were waiting on his freezing doorstep when he suddenly burst forth. And all I could do was stare, overcome. His purple faux-fur bathrobe. His cat’s-eye reading glasses. (“The doctor says I only need them for watching soap operas.”) His highball glass of chocolate milk.

            He led us inside, a host’s arm around my shoulders, calling me “Sara” and “Sandra” and “Sally” with a smile that made it hard to tell if he was joking. From an armchair, I watched the two of them reenact the minute-long promo for the series premiere of Dawson’s Creek; Cullen did all the girls’ parts in a note-true falsetto, while Hannah growled her way enthusiastically through the boys.

            I was jealous. Of their closeness, of their thoughtless, two-person ease. Well, I thought diplomatically, as they cuddled in front of the TV, that’s love. And was startled the next day when Hannah hooted at my mention of her boyfriend. Not that Cullen wasn’t my rival. He was. But it wasn’t much of a contest. I tried to count my blessings, to tell myself it wasn’t so bad being someone’s second-best friend.

            And then a miracle happened. Cullen greeted us one Dawson’s Tuesday in a red-and-cream private school uniform that clung to him like paint. “You are aware,” Hannah asked sharply as Cullen happily walked us through the brochure, all those classes and quadrangles and somber little chapels, “that this isn’t an all-boys school, right?” Cullen shook his head and insisted that it was, refusing to see the girl in the background of the cover photo no matter how many times Hannah pointed.

            The two of them drifted apart. Hannah complained that he never called, that all he talked about was his stupid new school and stupid new friends. A year later, he was back, having either failed scripture (his story) or been caught blowing the choirmaster (which was what everybody else said). But by then, I’d taken his place. Maybe I didn’t have his sharp charm, his history with Hannah, but I’d slowly realized I had something else, something he just couldn’t compete with.

            A second X-chromosome.

* * *

            I piloted the VW down Packard, aware we’d started too early, that there were still too many cars on the road. Grownups commuting home from the hospital, from downtown and IBM. Teenagers trickling back from friends’ houses and secluded fields. I turned down a side road, knowing we needed somewhere dark and quiet.

            In the passenger seat, Cullen was showing off. Rubbing his hands together. Bragging about his unparalleled gift for roadside theft, honed, he said, by years of pre-Halloween mischief.

            “Your parents must be so proud,” Paul said.

            “You’re skeptical. I understand,” Cullen told him, as a breeze blew pine needles across the windshield. “Well, I’ll show you. Driver!” he shouted, one arm extended. “To your right!”

            And there it was: a lone sign, poised on the edge of a darkened lawn. I slowed the car, veering gently toward the grass. Cullen sighed at this condescension, then reached suddenly out the open window, sweeping the sign out of the dirt and into his arms in a single fluid motion.

            Hannah clapped excitedly. Then glanced over at Paul, her eyes suggesting that really he should be clapping, too. Paul frowned and mustered a few seconds of half-hearted applause. Gazing ahead, I had a sudden flash of the anniversary I would be having if I were dating a boy—the cloth-napkin dinner two towns over, the fumbling words of affection, the necklace his sister helped him pick out at Claire’s. The forceful kiss and lingering hug, his heart thumping against my ear.

            “You are gay, aren’t you?” Cullen asked Paul suddenly, sounding hurt. “This isn’t one of those situations where Sonia found out you were a great fan of bodybuilding or modern opera and just assumed, is it?”

            Paul shook his head and quietly affirmed that, yes, he was gay.

            Cullen smiled. “Wonderful! I don’t know if you’re aware, but I happen to be gay myself.”

            I giggled softly.

            Cullen was the closest thing Mount Mansfield had to an openly gay student; he’d never come out officially, but the Burlington Free Press had run a photograph of his top-hat-and-rhinestone-codpiece ensemble at last year’s Pride Parade that had effectively settled the issue. Paul, on the other hand, had only recently mustered the courage to confide in me about his sexuality over a bulky black photo enlarger—and I had every reason to think this was his first time out with another boy.

            Up ahead—draped in store-bought cobwebs, nuzzled next to a pink flamingo with drawn-on fangs—was another sign, this one on Paul’s side of the car. I caught his eyes in the rearview; he nodded. The car slid across the far lane. Paul swallowed hard and went for it, his whole upper body disappearing out the window, arms swinging wildly.

            He got it on the next pass.

            We drove on, the streets ahead growing empty. Cullen gave instruction on the finer points of sign-grabbing (“It’s like paddling a canoe—pull and lift, pull and lift. Easy!”) while Paul frowned and nodded. Next to him, Hannah worked frantically, grabbing all the signs Cullen was too preoccupied to notice. By the time we rounded the hairpin curve at the center of Pinehurst and returned to Packard, the pile on the backseat had begun to flow onto the floor.

            We were pulling into Jericho East when Cullen suggested that we split up. He and Hannah would case the yards near Route 15 while Paul and I drove around the development’s far edge. We’d meet at the veterinary hospital in fifteen minutes. I asked if he was sure, if he wouldn’t rather pair up with Paul. And Cullen said in a stage whisper that he was counting on me to talk him up.

            “Oh,” I said. “Got it.”

            As Cullen preened in the headlights and stretched his calves, Hannah leaned through my open window and stroked my hair. “Are you doing all right?” she asked. I was sticking to the crotch of my underwear and when Paul left to shift the pile of signs from backseat to trunk, I said as much. “You’re welcome,” she said flirtatiously, then kissed me quick.

            “Have you two been dating long?” Paul asked as Cullen and Hannah dropped out of sight behind us.

            “I guess so,” I said, still seething.

            Paul nodded. Tried again: “So, Hannah seems nice.”

            “Well,” I told him, as we sped over cracked pavement, “she can be.”

            We rode on in silence. Paul leaned his head out the passenger window and as I watched the wind blow the ash-blond bangs from his forehead, I wondered what he really thought of Cullen. When things eventually fell apart between the two boys, I wasn’t surprised—but right then, I caught myself wishing that the match would stick, if only so Paul wouldn’t make it kiss-less to seventeen.

            “Does your mom know?” Paul asked as Route 15 rose in the distance.

            I nodded. “Our apartment’s too small to keep secrets.”

            “And she’s okay with it?”

            I pictured the bible my mother had pressed on Hannah after catching the two of us kissing, and then the matching bracelets she’d bought for our six-month anniversary. “More or less.”

            We idled for a while by the veterinary hospital before impatience got the best of me and I shifted back into gear. Hannah and Cullen were running side by side a few hundred yards back, happy as kids. He plucked signs from the nearby lawns, piling them in Hannah’s arms until the stack grew so high that she couldn’t see, until she was laughing and cursing and swerving like the drunkest driver.

* * *

            The two of them had grown up together, part of a clique of rich, selfish children you’d always see clogging the hallways at school. Showing off Tamagotchis and Gameboys, talking about vacations to Aspen and Hilton Head. Snickering at lower-caste classmates as they walked miserably by. I saw Hannah and Cullen all the time back then, but they never stood out; there were a dozen other kids just like them.

            Then puberty came and everything changed. Hannah arrived at school one morning in a boy’s v-neck and cargo pants, flowing blonde locks chopped to spikes, and watched her friends scatter. Cullen returned from basketball practice with a black eye and declared that he was done with team sports, that there was something far nobler in the stride of the solitary runner.

            Sophomore year, I was Hannah’s lab partner. She was smart and sly and exceedingly lazy, so I ended up doing all the actual work, which was nothing new for me. The strange thing was how much Hannah seemed to appreciate it. Thank-yous became hugs in the hallway, became deep, quiet conversations about her life, about mine. When we were together, I felt alternately dazed and annoyed by her gale-force personality, by the way she teased and mentored me. I’d never had a friend like her. But then I’d never really had a friend.

* * *

            We were leaving Jericho East, signs stowed away in the trunk, when Hannah gasped and swore and squeezed my arm. I glanced up, startled, and watched in the rearview mirror as a police car slid out of a nearby driveway, its headlights dim. I’d never been pulled over before and just the thought of it—the blinding glare of the police flashlight, my hands sifting desperately through Hannah’s disastrous glove compartment—sent a terrified shiver down my back.

            “What should I do?” I whispered.

            “How should I know?” Hannah whispered back. “Slow down?”

            The cruiser followed us out of Jericho East, down Packard, and onto Route 15. Lights still low, always at least two full car-lengths behind. I drove a mile under the speed limit the whole way, foot trembling on the gas. We were turning onto Cilley Hill Road when Paul cleared his throat: “I have a thought.”

            “Really?” Hannah said, skeptical.

            “Really?” Cullen said, intrigued.

            Paul pointed out a darkened driveway up ahead. “Turn in there.” Then, off my nervous look: “Trust me. This is going to work.”

            I nodded. Put on my blinker. Slowly turned the wheel. Then rolled to a stop at the back of the gravel drive, next to a sailboat draped in a vinyl sheet. The police car slowed but didn’t stop, and a moment later it had passed us and continued on out of sight.

            Cullen clapped Paul on the shoulder. “Quick thinking!”

            Their eyes met. Paul took a long, slow breath. Cullen just stared, like he was waiting for something. A motion. A signal. Hannah looked over, confused, and asked if they were both all right. Embarrassed, Cullen pulled his hand back and said, “Fine, fine,” blaming everything on static electricity. Paul just nodded, his mouth tight.

            I’d seen that exact expression once before, in a picture of me taken at my first—and only—high school party. The photo was snapped just moments before I expelled a tar-black stomachful of Midori and half-digested Oreos behind the coat tree in the Bryants’ mudroom, my features marked by that classically adolescent mixture of queasiness and elation.

* * *

            The signs were thick on Cilley Hill. We rolled on, passing four-bedroom mock-farmhouses and pastures that housed cows or sheep or alpacas. I drove in diagonals, swooping gently from one side of the road to the other, allowing Hannah and Cullen to pick the yards clean.

            Then I turned onto Hanley Lane. The two roads were almost parallel, but where Cilley Hill carved through farmland, Hanley Lane ran deep into the woods. The street was a wreck—it was clear that we weren’t the night’s first teenage carload. Decapitated mailboxes. Pumpkins stuffed with trash. A raised ranch garlanded with toilet paper. A walkway stripped of its stones.

            Something was going on with Cullen. He was gazing shyly at Paul, his expression borderline thoughtful—though every time I caught his eye, he’d pretend to be fixing his part or adjusting the placement of his bowler. Paul, on the other hand, just stared out the window, oblivious.

            “This street is so tiny,” Hannah said, squinting into the dark.

            “It used to be a logging road,” I told her, unsure the moment after I said it whether that was true.

* * *

            We entered Griswold at a crawl, stuck behind a puttering station wagon with a TAKE BACK VERMONT sticker on its back window. The development and its procession of 1960s bungalows surrounded the whole eastern edge of the elementary school, connected here and there via unofficial footpaths cut by two generations of children. And as we rounded the road’s first big curve, I glanced through a gap in the towering oaks to the school’s quiet playground and empty parking lot, to the cluster of one-blueprint, Reagan-era homes lying just beyond.

            To Sunnyview, Griswold’s fraternal twin.

            When I was little, I’d envied the kids in these developments, so close to the monkey bars and to each other. The apartment building where I lived with my mother had no other children, just retired couples and divorced men slinking into middle age. I begged and begged my mother to move closer to school, too young to understand why we lived in three small rooms when other families had whole houses.

* * *

            “It’s too quiet,” Hannah said as we drove past the darkened high school, her nose pressed against the glass. “Isn’t it really quiet tonight?”

            “Well,” Paul offered, “Jericho’s usually pretty quiet.”

            Hannah scrunched her nose. “I meant,” she clarified archly, “that it’s quiet for Cabbage Night. Didn’t someone set a treehouse on fire last year?”

            Cullen said that it was still early, that he and his brothers had always waited until midnight to begin their reign of terror. Which led Hannah to pick an exhausting fight about whether Cabbage Night was still technically Cabbage Night after 11:59 p.m.; at one point, she attempted to coin the name “Cabbage Morning,” to Cullen’s hooting disdain.

            While they argued, I felt a gentle tap on the shoulder. I turned my head toward Paul, trying to look as apologetic as I felt. “Up there,” he said, pointing ahead, to where a sign blazed white in our high-beams.

            The car slid left, crossing double lines. Cullen and Hannah looked up, startled, as Paul reached out the window, his hand dipping low, the sign seeming to rise into his fingers. He fell back into his seat, breathing hard, the white cardboard pulled against his chest. “You know,” he said, thoughtfully, “it really is kind of like paddling a canoe.”

            Cullen beamed. “Right?”

            And then Hannah turned her head, blinked twice, and ruined everything. “Throw it back,” she said. Paul looked at her, confused, then down at the sign. It was the right size, the right shape. But the words were all wrong: ELECT BUSH/CHENEY. “Come on,” Hannah hissed, impatient. “Ditch it. That’s somebody else’s problem.” Paul sighed. Then, looking a little sad, he slid the sign back through the open window and let go, watching as it blew out of sight behind us.

            “So,” I said when the silence finally got to be too much, “where to?” Clark’s Truck Center rose slowly on our left—its rows and rows of vehicles, its endless lawn, its massive digital sign blinking CLARKS TRK CNTR and 61°F and 8:51PM. Hannah looked at me, considering. Then pointed left. Toward Mountain High Pizza Pie. Jericho’s finest restaurant. Jericho’s only restaurant.

            Oh, I thought, touched. She remembered.

* * *

            It was a year ago, right here in the parking lot. A year ago exactly.

            Just a kiss, a moment’s boldness on the way out of the car, one hand on the door handle, the other trapped suddenly beneath hers. I’d never thought about girls before, not like that. Not until Hannah confessed how she was and what she liked. But it wasn’t so hard to imagine once I put my mind to it. I’d seen people kissing. You could do that, I thought. And it was true—I could. I did.

            But Hannah hadn’t been content with a peck, a few panting moments, a hand slid into my dingy bra. She called me her girlfriend. Girlfriend. Me. I wondered what people at school would think—but then, it wasn’t like they’d ever thought anything nice. So I said it back and a kiss became a week, became a month, became a frantic moon-lit encounter in her car’s backseat. Became a year, which was decades in high-school time. Eons.

            I got used to it. Her arm around my waist when no one could see, the wet kisses behind my ear. And, sure, it was boys I pictured when my mind wandered, when I had the shower nozzle angled just so, but what did that mean, anyway? It was habit, just habit. I was happy. We were happy. And I was naive enough then to think that was all that mattered.

* * *

            Inside Mountain High, they called our number. Hannah shot up, grumbling under her breath about the wait time as she raced toward the counter. I was staring after her—already picturing my first slice, the red-yellow grease dripping down my fingers—when I caught sight of Tom Bloom, all-state lacrosse and my eight-day sixth-grade boyfriend. He was hidden away by the ovens, wearing a red apron and tight jeans, his forehead dappled with sweat you could almost taste.

            He didn’t return my wave.

            Hannah turned away from the counter, carrying our pizza, and crashed right into a well-dressed man with a little girl wrapped around his leg. His name was Trevor Bissell; he was running for the Vermont State Senate as a Republican. I recognized his thin, hard face from pamphlets I’d seen in my mother’s trash. His daughter wore a bright green dress and looked to be about four.

            The pizza tray slammed into Hannah’s shoulder and struck Bissell square in the chest. She grunted in pain and fell backward; Bissell toppled sideways, his eyes wide, his arms swinging desperately in all directions. And in the instant before he reached out and caught himself on the counter, only his daughter’s presence kept me from hoping he would fall.

            The pizza somehow survived intact. Hannah and Bissell exchanged quick, heated apologies and went their separate ways. Back at our table, Paul and Cullen dug in while I dabbed at a spot of sauce on Hannah’s forehead with a balled-up napkin.

            Over by the counter, Bissell’s daughter—fully recovered from her big scare—started begging her father for bacon pizza and a chocolate creemee with rainbow sprinkles. Bissell teased his daughter, telling her that all sprinkles tasted the same. She violently shook her head. It was charming; I found myself a little charmed. But as Bissell lifted his daughter into his arms, I had a sudden flash of the signs we’d left in the back of Hannah’s car, a mass of damning evidence obscured only by Cullen’s tossed-aside coat.

            The newspaper headlines came with ease. Gay Vandals Indicted and AG Promises to ‘Make Example’ of Teens and, finally, Sonia Butler, 17, Knifed in Juvie.

            As I squirmed in my chair, imagining my mother’s tearful eulogy, Cullen turned to Paul and asked, “Say, are you having a good time?”

            Paul frowned and set down his slice on a grease-saturated paper plate. “You know what?” he said, finally. “I think I am.”

            I looked over at Hannah, expecting to see a triumphant grin. Instead, she nodded slowly in Bissell’s direction, her eyes bright with mischief. Then, before I could speak or shake my head or even frown, Hannah reached over and cupped my chin with her hands, her fingertips pressing gently against my throat. And as she leaned in to kiss me, I wondered if she could feel my pulse jump.

            That August, I’d worked myself into a frenzy over whether to come out at school. Wanting to be proud and strong, but terrified of the backlash, the whispering, of suspicious eyes in the girls’ locker room. Hannah had talked me down, reminding me we’d be gone in months, saying that it just wasn’t worth it. But now, if Tom happened to glance up, we’d be out.

            That was Hannah. Theft, not petitions. Spite, not activism.

            Hannah pressed her mouth hard against mine, overpowering me with a wet, one-sided kiss. Paul blushed and looked down. Cullen checked his watch. Tom slid another pizza into the oven. And over by the counter, Bissell reached down to cover his daughter’s eyes.

            We left quickly.

* * *

            On Hannah’s orders, we made our way toward Foothill.

Cabbage Night had rocked the neighborhood the previous year, with nearly every house losing something valuable: a $200 mailbox, a custom-cut picture window, an imported Belgian garden gnome. I expected to find Foothill in tatters—vandals, in my experience, delight in smashing expensive things—but everything there seemed strangely whole. I was in the middle of saying as much when the first egg hit Hannah’s car.

            It struck the windshield on the passenger side; if not for the glass, it would have landed square in Cullen’s lap. Hannah jumped at the impact, at the sound the shell made as it blew apart. I slammed on the brakes and even though we were only going fifteen miles per hour, the car fishtailed.

            Then the rain of projectiles began. Eggs struck the hood and roof. Wads of soaking toilet paper slammed one after another against the side of the car. My instinct was to flatten the gas pedal and race away, but our tormentors were too close and I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t hit someone.

            Paul and Hannah fumbled with their locks as I pressed my elbow against the horn and frantically rolled up my window. As the footfalls grew louder and the crowd closed in, I felt a brief, sickening flash of fear—was this a hate crime? (Then sense returned and I realized how very straight we must look, just two boy-girl couples out for a drive.)

            All around us, there were shouts and squawks and mocking laughter. Something struck the back window. Someone smacked the roof of the car with a large stick. Paul curled up in a ball, his seatbelt’s shoulder strap running diagonally across his back. It was only as the crowd began to shake the car that I noticed Cullen’s door was unlocked. “I want to see how this plays out,” he told me. (Even now, I’m not sure if he was joking.)

            “Ideas?” Hannah shouted as the car rocked up and down. “Anyone?”

* * *

            Today Hannah is happily married and lives down in Pittsfield. Our high school squabbles are mostly forgotten, and every year my boyfriend Eric and I go down to Massachusetts for Labor Day Weekend. Sometimes, late in the evening, the four of us will sit out on Hannah and Molly’s front porch with a six-pack and talk about Cabbage Night.

            “Thank God for those fucking cops,” Hannah always says, laughing, and the two of us are off, describing the battle-ready police unit stationed on Foothill, our nervous escape back to Route 15, the way Paul trembled in the rearview mirror. From there, Hannah always skips ahead, milking laughs out of the epic fight the two of us had while hosing off her car. And every time, I sit there, nursing my beer and thinking about everything she’s leaving out.

            When I remember that night, I picture myself stewing in the driver’s seat as Hannah and Cullen unload the signs onto the lawn of Clark’s Truck Center. Hannah leans against my window as the boys soak the pile with lighter fluid. Cullen sparks a match. Paul wraps a hand around the other boy’s neck and gives him a rough, lingering kiss. The match drops from Cullen’s fingers. The fire ignites.


T.B. Grennan was born in Vermont, lives in Brooklyn, and once read the entirety of Shirley Hazzard’s, The Transit of Venus, while stuck on a delayed plane. His writing has appeared in The Indiana Review, The Seventh Wave, TIMBER, and “Spaces We Have Known,” an anthology of LGBT+ fiction.

The Writing Disorder is a quarterly literary journal. We publish exceptional new works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and art. We also feature interviews with writers and artists, as well as reviews.



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