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Criminal History by Karly Little

Jack had straight teeth but crooked lips. On game nights, he wore a football uniform and a smiling green Styrofoam frog head. The mascot gig helped him stay out later on Fridays. I offered him a ride home when I saw him standing near the field’s gated entrance, and he gave me directions to the Boys’ Home, the blue juvenile delinquent center for boys on Oak Street. He kissed me square on the lips before I could close my eyes. You haven’t done this before, have you? He asked. I wasn’t sure what this was, so I closed my eyes and leaned in again. After the next home game, I drove us a lap around the park. He still wore the football uniform; he’d left the head in the janitor’s closet. The home director left me three voicemails while he and I kissed at the center of the spinning merry-go-round.  On the fourth call, she threatened to call the cops if I didn’t take him home. My only interaction with the police happened while touring the jail in my freshman leadership class and trick or treating the station in my Princess Jasmine costume in fourth grade.

I held back tears when I kissed him goodnight. Jack’s shrinking silhouette as he neared the home’s porch light is how I remember him.  It was the last time I saw him after dark. 

Adam’s body was more ink than flesh, and he’d worked as a line cook since I was nine. His top lip curled in a frozen look of disgust, and the East Coast showed up in some of his words. My first day of work at the hipster bar in Phoenix, he called me new girl,pointed a bony finger at his counter space, and told me to stay out of his way.  Two weeks later, he had a spare key and kept a pair of skinny jeans at my place. When the bar manager pounded on the insulated door of the walk-in fridge, I worried the moisture between us would freeze on my lips. He was working when my parents accidentally met him while visiting me. I laughed when Dad said he looked right at home with a knife in his hand. I flew home for the summer and flirted with the boy who lived across the street from my parents in Kansas. When I describe Adam’s tattoos, the boy asked, And you like that? It was the first time I’d drank more than three beers, and I couldn’t answer.

Adam picked me up at the Phoenix airport and unlocked my door to a stranger’s sunglasses on my end table. That next day, he left me for a girl with chrysanthemum-flowered sleeves of tattoos. 

Henry spent six months in jail when he was arrested for the third time. There was never a story for the first arrest, just the second (His twin brother with the same name helped him drag an ATM down the street with his truck.) and the third (He buried a butterfly knife in the chest of a man who’d grabbed his girlfriend’s ass at a bar.). His name carried a Roman numeral, and he told me it wasn’t lying to say I didn’t know him if someone asked for him minus that number. While showing me his GED scores he bragged his composite average was higher than almost everyone else’s averages. I never told him the graph he thought showed everyone else’s averages illustrated the subject scores that made up his composite. The girl he’d stabbed someone for called daily and I sat quietly in the background when he told her, I love you. The boy who lived across the street from my parents got my phone number and wanted to spend time together the next time I went home.

Henry asked me to proofread his essay about the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen for the only class we had together. He detailed how I looked the day I moved into the college apartment next door, and I described my still-tender tattoo celebrating the start of my life without him. 

Karly Little has an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. She served as the Creative Nonfiction Editor for Lunch Ticket, reads creative nonfiction for The Citron Review, and interns for The Rumpus. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Free State Review, Drunk Monkeys, Bluestem Magazine, and Spry Literary Journal. She coordinates community education and teaches English at Barton Community College. Karly lives, writes, rollerblades, and watches sports with her husband in a north-central Kansas town of 172 people.