Period 8 - By Chris Crutcher

A teenage girl steps out of the bathroom, clutching her blouse tight at the collar where the buttons are missing, walks across the grimy carpet, and slips her feet into her flip-flops. The man sits on the end of the bed pulling on his shoes, snaps the clasp on his watchband, pushes back his thinning hair. The girl stands, staring at him.

The man doesn’t speak.

“Uh,” she says in a whisper. “Can you help me get back to my car?”

“Sorry, darlin’,” he says. “By the way, what’s your name? Who do I ask for?”

“I’m Star,” she says.

He smiles. “Star. Where’s your young friend, Star?”

She shrugs.

“I’d like to help,” he says, glancing around the room, “but I’ve, uh, gotta run.” He picks his sport jacket off the floor, shakes it, puts it on. With his hand on the door knob he turns. “That was nice,” he says. “I’m, uh, sure someone will take you to your car.”

The door closes behind him and the girl drops to her knees, face in hands, gasping for breath. When she’s under control she grabs her purse and steps outside, squinting into the sun high in the sky. A familiar car pulls to a stop in the street and she hurries to get in.


Near midnight Paulie Bomb pulls his VW Beetle onto the shoulder of Ridgeview Drive and kills the engine. He’s just finished his shift at The Rocket Bakery and Coffee House, where Hannah kept him company for the last hour. He releases the seat back a couple of inches and breathes deep, staring over the blanket of city lights below.

“You’re bringing me here to park?” Hannah says, laughing. “This is a Beetle. I’m used to better accommodations.”

“I need . . .”


“. . . to talk.”

“Right here,” she says, leaning over to kiss him. “World’s best listener.”

The kiss is long and hot and causes him to hesitate. “I gotta be sure we’re goin’ farther.”

Hannah smiles, slides her hand up his thigh. “Why wouldn’t we? Everything—”

“I cheated.” He closes his eyes tight.

Her hand comes off his leg. “You’d better be talking about the chem test.”

“I wish I was. Let me explain . . .”

Hannah presses her back against the passenger door. “Did you put your dick in someone who wasn’t me?”

“Hannah, Jesus, yes. But—”

“Then there’s nothing to say. Take me home.”

“Will you just—”

“Don’t say another word. Start the car and take me home, in fucking silence, or I’m walking.”

Paulie starts to say something but Hannah reaches behind her for the door handle. He starts the car. So much for the world’s best listener.

Paulie crests the knoll on the old highway leading to the landing dock on the city side of Diamond Lake. He cuts the engine and coasts to a stop, then sits, staring at the perfect upside-down early morning twin of Smalley’s Peak in the glass-still water. It’s late March—still cool in the Pacific Northwest—first outdoor workout of the year; the water will be cold, probably mid-fifties. If he doesn’t lose feeling in his fingers and toes, he’ll coax Logs out here this afternoon. Bruce Logsdon teaches science and social studies at Heller High, runs Period 8 at lunchtime, and swims open water with Paulie Bomb—Paul Baum. Logs requires Paulie to test the water temperature early each spring before immersing his own body.

Paulie pops the trunk lock and hauls out his triathlete’s wetsuit. At least his nuts will be warm. Like that will ever matter again. Oh, Hannah.

He hits the water, involuntarily sucking air as the cold leaks in. The colder the better. He deserves this. Even so, he pees in self-defense, his only means to counter the ice-watery fingers creeping around his ribcage and into his crotch. He swims away from shore for about a hundred yards as his body heat warms the water inside the suit. He turns parallel to the shore and strokes, finding a cadence he can hold over the next two hours. He knows how to play games to allay the monotony; fifty strokes hard, fifty strokes easy; a hundred strokes hard, fifty easy; a hundred-fifty hard, fifty easy, and on and on. An hour up and an hour back. He has taught himself to breathe on either side in order to keep the shore in sight and swim a relatively straight line. On this morning, working on zero sleep, he holds an even pace; no intervals. Just his sweet, sweet Hannah wedged in his frontal lobe. His gone Hannah.

Paulie Bomb could have any girl at Heller High, according to most of