Now, Right Now
Jennifer Pieroni

I stopped at the door of the East Entrance of the mall, finishing my cigarette. The sensation of smoking in this heavy heat was so specific, a feeling of smoking you would never get without the humidity, and every time it happened I was acutely aware of it. It's happening now, right now, I would think.

Gavin waited for me inside. He'd never smoked and never would, but he drank and drove, a habit I didn't have.

Inside, the air conditioning cooled my sweat immediately.

We went to the arcade and found some kids we knew, not from our town, kids we knew just from being at the mall.

Gavin and I had our pictures taken again in the photo booth. I showed off the finished print to a few of the girls.

One of them said, "Wait, your ears aren't pierced."

I wasn't very tolerant of pain. I had bad periods and none of the medicine worked. I had migraines, too.

The girl working at The Earring Hut had me sign a waiver. "Just put that you were born in 1978," she said.

I signed the form and sat in the gray pleather chair. "Pick out a pair," she said.

"You help," I said to Gavin.

"There aren't any hoops," Gavin said to the girl.

But I couldn't have hoops for at least thirty days, until the holes healed. The girls who had come along helped me pick the pair of sterling silver dots.

The girl brought the gun to my face, she hovered by my ears. I listened for a motor or for the device to cock, like a real gun. "Try not to jerk your head," she said as the first needle cut through. "I said don't move," she said, reaching for a compress and an ice cube.

The pain had caused me to tear, the tips of my fingers to tingle. The ice killed. I saw the spots of blood on the compress.

"I don't want to do the other," I said.

"You don't?" the woman asked.

"You have to have follow through," Gavin said. "Just do it."

"No, I really don't," I said. "I'm not doing it." I reached up to my pierced ear and pulled out the stud she'd slid in. "I'm sorry," I said, taking off down the mall.

I passed some stores and the food court, my ear throbbing hard, and ducked into the candy store. I reached up to check if my ear was still bloody. It was.

The girl behind the register nodded at me.

I grabbed a bag and spooned jelly beans in. I grabbed another bag and spooned mints in.

Gavin found me. He slid his arm around my waist.

"I can't picture you ever giving birth," he said.

I grabbed another bag and spooned gumballs in. At the register, I told the girl that he was paying. He didn't hesitate to open his wallet, slide her the cash, and take the slip for me.

Jennifer Pieroni is Editor in Chief of the literary journal Quick Fiction. She has work in the current issue of Hobart and forthcoming from Another Chicago Magazine and Bateau. An essay will appear in Rose Metal Press' Field Guide on Flash Fiction.

To link to this story directly:

Read JP's "Let's Stay Together" from the archive.

Photo detail on main page courtesy of Juin.

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