The Readers Advisory committee is pleased to announce that Kristin Pitts has won our Ain’t It the Truth writing contest in the short story category. In Last Night, Pitts develops her two characters nicely, primarily through effective use of dialogue; without further explanation, we know who they are and how they see the world. Pitts’ response to the theme of truth is subtle, showing us that we can’t always rely on memory and, at times, we must rely on the evidence.
Kristin Pitts is a Kansas City-based writer and editor. She is currently working on a novel about a summer camp romance gone wrong.
Early morning sunlight seeps in through the cabin’s curtains. It’s evil. Everything’s evil. The alarm clock. The sunshine. The fluorescent lights. I scrunch my eyes shut and nestle deeper into bed. My mouth tastes like a fermented sweat sock.
“Fun night?” Alyssa rustles in the bunk below me.
“Mmph.” I nestle further down in my sleeping bag. My head pounds. It pulses. It expands. It feels like my brain might bust through my skull and splatter against the cabin walls. I rub my temples as bits of the previous night come back in flashes.
“Where were you? You weren’t here when I went to bed last night.” Alyssa sounds like a smug detective. She’s moving about the cabin now, throwing off her pajamas and slipping into her Camp Frontier staff shirt.
“If I tell you, do you promise to reserve all judgment?” I dig my nails into my forearm and scratch harder. The spot pulses with dull satisfaction.
“You and Grant? Did you hook up with Grant?” Alyssa bounces around the cabin. She’s as cheerful as a Care Bear.
“Yes,” I squeak. The night comes back to me in flashes. The shots. The cocktails. Stumbling through the field. My hands roaming his body. His lips on mine. I search myself for more information, but my memory is like grainy surveillance footage. Everything’s a blur.
“Did you have sex?”
“I don’t know.” I can’t believe myself. I never wanted to be this girl. I never planned to be this girl.
Middle school sex education flashes before my eyes. A photo lands on my desk, image side down. I turn it over and the image sears itself into my brain. It’s a full color photo of a dick and balls, covered in what I can only describe as cauliflower florets dipped in hot sauce. The caption informs me that the patient has severe genital warts. My stomach twists. I flip the photo image side down and avert my eyes as I pass it to the next person.
At the front of the class, the school nurse continues her lecture. She’s using words like “wait” and “special” and “the one,” but I think she’s way off base. The cauliflower florets have scared me straight. I want nothing to do with sex. Ever. I make a decision right then and there. I promise myself that I will never have sex. Ever. My vagina will be strictly for urinating. I’ll die an STD-free virgin, like Mother Theresa.
Of course, I eventually changed my mind, but I never lost the fear. Until last night, apparently.
I cover my face with my hands and cry out to Alyssa. “Am I the sluttiest slut that’s ever slutted? Am I the mayor of Slutsville?”
“If you’re the mayor, then I’m the queen.”
I lean over the rail of my top bunk, and the sleeping bag twists around me.
“Look. I know you’ve got all this weird guilt going on, but I am proud of you. You finally loosened up last night,” Alyssa says.
“But you had fun, right?”
I scratch my stomach. It tingles.
“Yeah. From what I remember.”
“Hmm. Maybe take it easy on the alcohol next time.”
“Don’t even say the word ‘alcohol’ to me. Ever.” I peel the sleeping bag off myself and climb down the bunk ladder. My head pounds with every step.
Alyssa is weirdly quiet as I descend the ladder. “What happened to you?”
“What? What do you mean?”
Alyssa’s wide-eyed gaze travels my body. I look down, then rush toward the full-length mirror. “What the!” My chest, back and arms are covered in pink blotches. I rotate in front of the mirror. I look like I’ve been dipped in a vat of chili.
“Is that poison ivy?” Alyssa grimaces.
“It’s all over me.” I scratch wildly at myself.
“Stop! Stop! You’ll make it worse.” Alyssa swats at me and pulls a bottle of Benadryl from the cabinet.
I spin some more, gasping at every horrifying bump and patch. I strip off my shorts. “This is horrible. This is horrible.” But in my mind, the mantra is a bit different. I am horrible. I am horrible. This is clearly some sort of punishment. What the hell was I thinking? That I could live a life of no consequences? And this is probably just the start. Sure, I have poison ivy now, but it’ll only be a matter of time before the genital warts pop up. Or maybe he has a whole bunch of STDs. Why assume I’m lucky enough to get just one? We definitely had sex last night. I have no memory of it, but it had to have happened. And of course it happened without a condom. What guy drunkenly stumbles into a field with a condom in his pocket?
Alyssa upends the calamine lotion onto a cotton pad. “Oh, girl. Does it feel…”
“Itchy. It feels itchy. Am I going to blister up? I am. I can feel it. I’m going to look like a slice of pizza that lost its cheese. I’ll be a walking, oozing sore.” I scratch myself again.
“You have to stop.” She swats my hand away. “And it doesn’t look that bad.”
I shoot her a hard look.
“I’m serious. I’ve seen much, much worse. Look.” She points to the light pink patches on my arms. “These aren’t even red. And there aren’t that many of them on you. So at least we know that you didn’t lie down in a field of poison ivy. It had to be more like, grass and rocks and dirt mixed in with a little bit of poison ivy. Plus, at least we know you didn’t have sex.”
I start to ask how she could possibly know that, but then I see it, too. There aren’t any patches on my legs. I couldn’t have taken off my jeans.
“So, I guess you’re not the mayor of Sluttsville. I’d say you barely made the city council.”