Alison McCabe


We sit, legs crossed, arms limp, palms open and resting on k­­­­nees, in the jungle. Or not the jungle, but on the rooftop of FAO Schwartz. There's a thirty-foot polyurethane talking tree below us, with stuffed teddy bears and lions and frogs lining every shelf. Mosquitoes are also out. And when Bart undoes his ponytail, he looks like Tarzan in a North Face fleece.

Tonight is the night we are to join our inner jujugoo. That's what Lucy calls it. And everyone agrees because no one can think up a better name.

We hum, but we're otherwise quiet. Below, people eat, shop, walk, and up top, Lewis burps and, at that, everyone loses it. A cloud of tuna wafts through the air like a fat, sweaty ghost.

A police car flashes its lights and we see it, but not at us. On the rooftop, we know we're free to do anything. And maybe we will.

Lucy speaks first. She says we should make it official, our crew, by cutting the tips of each other's fingers or sealing the deal with a kiss. Lucy says, once in, there's no getting out.

But no one wants to kiss Terrance, and Bart fainted last time he saw blood.

'We could take off our shirts,' I say, 'and do a massage train.'

I want to take my shirt off because Melanie is here, and I've been doing sit-ups for eighteen days straight.

I want to take my shirt off because Melanie is here, and I've been doing sit-ups for eighteen days straight.

Some like the idea, but Lucy says the stakes need to be much higher in order for the meaning to stick. And of course, once she says that, everyone agrees. Myself included. 

I do, I look up to my friends. I marvel at their talents. Lucy has her cherry stem. Bart has his Rubik's cube. During Super Bowl, in Melanie's basement, Terrance outshines the halftime show with his flawless recitation of all fifty states. In alphabetical order. Five beers in.

Jackson has his karaoke. Charlie, her invisible ink. When it's a full moon, Samantha can read auras and, even though we don't believe her, she still carries this around, like a talisman, near and dear.

Mark can stand on his head. Kelly runs marathons in giant, gray cities and on switchbacks up Mount Lemmon. Jesus has his name.

I can't wiggle my ears. I can't curl my tongue. I type with my two pointer fingers because, six years ago, in sixth grade, I got a C in computer class, and only by sneaking peeks under my cardboard box when Dr. Erlick's back was turned. Twice, I quit a summer job after the first day. Once, I presented my PowerPoint in bio lab with pen ink smeared on my face. 

At least I have them, my friends. And, as Lucy says, we'll have each other forever after we do what we do tonight. After we decide what it is we should do. Once in, there will be no getting out.

Will has his MDMA. 'On a rooftop?'  I say. 'You'd have to be crazy.'

Then I immediately regret saying anything because, last winter, Will missed three weeks of class after he pulled every last hair out of his head.

Melanie hums. 'Jujugoo jujugoo,' she says. 'Come on, guys, don't you feel the connection?'

I try. I even squeeze my eyes shut.

When I open them, Melanie is rocking back and forth, and I can see the perfect space between her breasts every time she leans forward. There's nothing I can do about that now, but I'll save it for later.

In ten minutes, we'll be hungry, and decide that initiation should consist of eating twelve spicy burrito bowls in twenty minutes flat. In two hours, we'll call it a night. In two weeks, we'll think back and laugh. In two months, we'll think back and laugh. In two years, we'll think back and smile. In two more years, we won't think back. Somewhere down the road, FAO Schwartz will close, and we'll see the For Rent sign or read about it in papers, and remember the night, decades ago, what we did and did not do, and how each one of us, apart now by miles and, in some cases, no miles at all, won't likely return to the jungle.

Alison McCabe was born and raised in the Garden State, and now lives in the Sonoran desert. She teaches Creative Writing and Composition at the University of Arizona where, in 2010, she received her MFA. Alison's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in American Short Fiction and Third Coast. She's currently at work on a novel.

Illustration by Leigh Luna.

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