Plenty Porter was nearly thirteen when her brother smacked her face
red. I am Plenty Porter and my brother is Jerry and that was yesterday.
Now Im upstairs in bed next to Margie whos saying, Quit
crying, Plenty, that was yesterday and theres no use crying about
yesterday. But I hadnt thought about it all that much until now.
Everyone else is sleeping, except Margie, who is easily disturbed. Peggy,
Marlene, Martha, Joyce, and Debbie, split up on two beds, all of us
in the same room, but who-is-where Im not sure. Im only
certain about Margie because she keeps sighing at my left; by the time
the others made it upstairs and climbed under the covers my eyes were
already flooded. And now theyre asleep and all I feel is the collective
weight in the room. Of which I am not.
On Margies suggestion I go downstairs, passing the room of my
brothersof Jerry who slapped my face red for scratching the hood
of his Chevy with a butterfly net, of Johnny, Bob, and Deanwho
with the other five sisters makes ten. Plus one, who is me, and that
is eleven. One more than a handful for each parent. Then passing the
room of my parents, a room that is always half empty, different at day
and different at night, depending on who is working. Then downstairs
and outside. Onto the porch where it is cool.
Across the road a dim light wobbles inside a window on the top floor
of the Pendergast place. That is Eds room, I know because I was
invited inside once. Ed is in my grade and shares a bedroom with no
one. His family owns the land we look after. He reads with a flashlight
under the covers, the light dim, the light wobbling. Ed does not know
that I am outside, that I am crying. Ed does not know because Ed doesnt
need to think of those things outside his window, those things his flashlight
touches when it wobbles, like me.
My father keeps a pack of cigarettes under a loose brick in the wall
next to our mailbox. I caught him smoking one morning and he gave me
a quarter for the secret. I told him a quarter was a one-time payment,
but if he kept smoking there would be more secrets to keep, more quarters
to take. He said Id be a rich woman for every cigarette he planned
on smoking. We settled on one quarter a week. And Ive kept the
secret and learned to smoke, which he does not know, which when he does
know, when he finds out, will be his secret to keep, and I will pay,
or he will stop paying and no money will pass between us. But for now
it is not worth thinking about the future of our secrets, the secrets
between my father and me, because it is midnight and unlike Ed I hate
reading and have nothing to do but have a smoke and air out some before
going back to bed.
You can read Plenty Porter in its entirety
in the premiere issue of Swink.
Brandon Noonan is a graduate of
the University of Southern California's film program. His screenplay
DEM is currently in development, with Neil LaBute attached to direct.
He resides in Berkeley, California. This is his first published short