You or Me, Kid • Claire Hopple

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You three made it halfway out of the front yard when the telephone shrilled from the open window.

“Don’t you dare take your hands off that gate,” she said. “That goes for the both of you.”

One finger held in the air while the rest of her had already turned back.

You complied, though the metal stung in the heat. You could smell it and taste it merging with the air.

The summer before, you pretended the gate posts were ice cream cones, but you knew better now. That was kid stuff. You were waiting then, too. There was always something left undone, something that couldn’t wait. But you could. Or at least she thought you could.

That same summer, the Korean War had ended. Next summer, a 14-year-old will be brutally tortured and murdered for allegedly offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store.

You wouldn’t know either of those things until much later. But you did remember the word “armistice” echoing off the ceiling from the television, how you didn’t know what it meant but pictured dozens of arms stitched together like the satchel you were learning to make from the pattern in the paper pouch.

You were always waiting, and you guessed today was no different.

These sunglasses were a bribe. You were going for a young Elizabeth Taylor. A young Elizabeth Taylor who had to wear matching dresses with her sister all the time.

Your mother was supposed to be taking you to the beauty parlor AS-WE-SPEAK but here you were, palm skin twisting as you tried to swing from the open gate.

The beauty parlor might as well have been the funeral parlor to you. You’d just learned some facts about hair. How it stays alive after you’re dead and how it sometimes becomes dead when you’re still alive. So, the whole idea of cutting it seemed like a threat, like you were just asking for it, taunting it to make a move already.

You or me, kid, the hair could say.

Your sister was already cheating. She was rolling around on the sidewalk, peeking up the wheel wells of parked cars for buried treasure. Of course, she wouldn’t get caught. She never did.

You waited. You continued to wait.


Claire Hopple is the author of TIRED PEOPLE SEEING AMERICA (Dostoevsky Wannabe, 2019) and TOO MUCH OF THE WRONG THING (Truth Serum Press, 2017). Her fiction has appeared in Hobart, Heavy Feather Review, X-R-A-Y, Timber, and others. She is never ready for the camera. More at


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