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Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


Love Among the Jellyfish
Charlie Onion

Dick was driving the van. He'd bought it so he'd have something to work on while his girlfriend Susan was at the office, but he wasn't a good mechanic, and I figured we had as much chance of reaching Buckroe Beach as we did of flying to the moon.

On the seat behind us, oblivious to the van's struggles, Susan's ten-year-old daughter Lucy was whistling and brushing cherry-red nail polish onto her toes. She'd been caught shoplifting a Playgirl two days before, and she was still exultant and high on the fumes. Neighbors said she had problems because she was adopted and had never recovered when Susan threw her adoptive father out. Whatever her excuses might be, I'd never liked her—she seemed to go from a sticky-faced brat to a budding delinquent in a single, alarming flash. But all she ever talked about was her cousin (and my girlfriend) Trish, and if Trish was going to the beach, there was no way Lucy was going to be left behind. So I sat up front, held onto the dashboard and tried to ignore her whistling.

After the van stalled out at a few intersections, Dick got onto the Interstate so he could keep the engine revving high. He'd forgotten about the toll booth. When we stopped to give the toll collector a quarter, the van died. Dick kept pumping the gas pedal and cranking the engine, but it wouldn't turn over. Then the woman in the toll booth leaned into the van and told us we'd have to push it to the side. The engine started.

The first exit after the toll booth was the one we needed for Trish's house. Dick drove down the emergency lane to reach it. Once we were off the highway, he kept the engine revving high in neutral at the red lights. At one light, he didn't race the engine fast enough. When the light turned, we lurched and stalled out. A few teenagers came out of a U-Totem and started strutting across the street toward us like we were lambs caught in a tar pit. Dick got the van started again just before they reached us.

One of the kids threw his Coke can at the van, and it bounced off the roof and rolled down onto the wiper blade in front of Dick. Dick turned the wipers on to throw it off. The kid who threw the can ran after us. Dick popped the van into third, and we lost him in traffic. After a few minutes, we passed the sign for the state fairgrounds.

There was a flea market being held on the fairgrounds. A long line of cars was waiting to get in. Dick drove up onto the curb in order to get around them. The cop who was directing traffic blew his whistle at us and signaled for us to stop the van, but Dick ignored him. After a while, we turned off onto a side street and started checking addresses. Most of the houses had sheets tacked up over the windows for privacy. A few teenagers stood on the corners and stared at us as we crept by.

The first time through, we missed Trish's house because Lucy had spilled her nail polish on the back seat and Dick was looking back to yell at her. Then we turned around and saw Trish waving. She was sitting on the roof, smoking a cigarette.


The house was nicer than the others—the only brick house on the block. A German shepherd was barking in the backyard, and Trish yelled at it to shut up. Then she dropped her cigarette down the chimney and climbed down a fir tree that grew up against the front window.

"What's up," she said, smoke-breathed.

She was wearing a pink halter top with tight jeans and sandals. I thought it was a little cold for a halter top. I'd brought a windbreaker and a sweater to wear over my Let It Be T-shirt, if I needed it.

"Aren't you cold?"

"Hell no," she said.

Lucy pointed at the cigarette pack in Trish's jeans pocket. "What brand you smoking?"




Lucy smirked and gave us a peek at some Salem Mentholateds she'd brought in her purse.

"Me too," she said.

"Those things are bad for your lungs," I said.

"You've got to live tough, baby," Trish said.

Dick opened the hood on the van and leaned over the engine. I walked back to him to see if he needed some help, but when I leaned in beside him, he started cussing and yanking wires off the distributor cap. So I turned around and walked into the house with Trish.


At first, it was so quiet the place seemed empty. Then we heard a cough coming from the kitchen. It was Trish's father. He was tying feathers and plastic worms to fish hooks, and he had to lay everything on the table beside him so he could shake my hand.

He was a nice man, I thought. Late fifties with calluses on his finger tips.

"You fish much?"

"No sir," I said. "But I'd like to."

"Good. I'll bring you a pole."

"We're not going to fish, Daddy," Trish said. "We're going to hang out."

"He seems like a good boy," her father said, as if I weren't in the room. "I'll take him a pole."

I watched him wrap a thread around a worm that had a bright or-ange feather glued to it. He asked me to hold the thread while he cut it. I watched him tie another one while Trish poured us some Sprite. Then she led me into her room. She made Lucy stay in the kitchen. Just as I was closing the bedroom door behind us, she grabbed me and stuck her tongue in my mouth. I was sucking on a Lifesaver and almost swallowed it.

"This is my room," she said, wiping the saliva off her mouth.

I nodded and looked around. She hadn't turned the light on, and the curtains were closed. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. I spat the Lifesaver into my palm. The room smelled damp like there were some wet towels soaking into the carpet. I could see a lot of square pictures on the walls. Then I realized they were album covers. One album showed a woman getting whipped by a guy wearing a dog collar. Another had a guy licking his microphone with a tongue that looked like it could reach his Adam's apple. Over the bed, there was a fish net with a few starfish stuck in it.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me onto the bed. There was a wet towel under me. I threw it onto the floor and pointed up at the starfish.

"What are they for?"

She shrugged. "Momma did it. You want to smoke a joint?"


She turned on some godawful music and opened the window. Then she pulled some rolling papers out of her jeans pocket and leaned over with her lips against my ear.

"I'm not wearing any underwear," she said.


Her mother came home soon afterwards. I heard her pull up in front of the house just as Trish was pulling her halter top back on. I was lying on the bed and staring at the starfish. When I heard the car, I lifted the curtains an inch and saw her mother carrying a big box of Kentucky Fried Chicken in her arms. She had tremendously wide hips for such a short woman. She'd parked her station wagon right behind Dick's van, and she had trouble slipping in between the bumpers. Dick looked up for just a second and nodded at her. Then he threw a wire onto the ground in front of her and stuck his head back under the hood.

"Is she coming too?"

"Don't worry," Trish said. She was lighting a stick of incense. Once it started smoking, she dropped the match behind the bed. "We don't have to ride with them."

"I don't mind. I was just wondering."

She turned the music off and opened the door.

"Let's go," she said. She licked my ear and wiped it off with the back of her hand.


Lucy gave us a knowing look when we walked into the kitchen. I scowled at her, and she looked away. Trish's father was still tying worms onto fish hooks. He gave me a nice smile. He said he'd decided to take a fishing pole for everyone but Trish and Lucy. I carried them out to the van for him and propped them up against the side door. Dick grunted when he saw them. I asked him how things were going under the hood.

"Bad wires," he said. He pointed at the pile on the sidewalk. "Luckily, I had a replacement set in the back."

He straightened up and rubbed his hands up and down his lower back.

"I was going to put them in tomorrow anyway," he said.

He picked up the old wires and carried them up to the back fence. The German shepherd wouldn't let him get into the back yard, so finally he just threw the wires at the dog and walked back to the van.

"There's a cooler in the back," he said. "Grab it and bring it in."


Back in the kitchen, Dick filled the cooler up to the top with ice and then had to dig out a trough for the chicken. He and I both took a handle of the cooler and carried it back to the van. Trish's father walked out with us. After Dick had climbed in to start the engine, her father stepped up close to me.

"What grade are you in, son?"

I'd just leaned over his shoulder to straighten a pole out, and I thought he might have smelled the pot on my breath.

"Ninth," I said, trying not to breathe on him.

"I'm glad you're seeing my daughter," he said. "She's dated some real trash, you know."

"Yes sir," I said, as he patted my shoulder.


Dick led the way in the van, and Trish's parents followed in their station wagon. He must have been right about the wires. We cruised along at seventy-five once we were outside Richmond. Trish and I sat in the back seat, and Lucy got stuck up front. Trish was leaning against me, whispering about what she was going to do to me under the pier once we were able to break away from her parents. It felt like my earlobes were on fire.

Dick cranked up the stereo when the Stones' "Satisfaction" came on, and Lucy immediately crawled into the back seat with me and Trish. Trish leaned forward and pulled the curtain closed behind her. It was a piece of white sheet that Lucy's mother had sewn together. When the light was strong, you could see right through it, but it still felt private, sitting behind it. Lucy and Trish smoked Salems while I sat by the open window. Lucy told her about the shoplifted Playgirl. They threw the butts out the window, and Trish cuddled up next to me. Lucy leaned across the seat and stared at us expectantly.

"When's your court date?" I asked.

"Next week."

"Worried about it?"

"Of course not." She took another cigarette from her pack and lit it. "Have you ever been caught shoplifting, Trish?"


I asked her what had happened. She shrugged her shoulders.

We rode for a few miles without speaking. Then Trish sat up and lit another cigarette.

"When's the last time you've been to the beach?" she asked me after she'd slipped her lighter back into her jeans.

"Five or six years ago for Buckroe," I said. "We used to go there all the time, before the jellyfish came in. Now we go up to Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore."

"We're not going to do any swimming, you know."

I nodded my head.

"We're going to take Lucy to the pool hall down the street," she said.

"Great," I said. I watched Lucy's eyes light up.

"That's where Bubba took me last year," Trish said.

"Who's Bubba?"

She laughed derisively. "Who's Bubba? Bubba's the one who popped my cherry."

I didn't say anything after that. I leaned back and watched her and Lucy smoke a few more Salems and wondered who else she'd slept with. Dick was singing along to some Beach Boys songs. After a while I fell asleep and dreamed about being back home. Then the van hit a pot hole, and I woke up with the smell of sea water blowing in on my face. Trish and Lucy were sharing a Salem. They hadn't noticed me wake up. I leaned over and pulled back the van's side curtains. After a minute, we passed the wooden roller coaster that was at the front end of Buckroe Beach. It hadn't run since I was eight.

"Ever ridden that thing?"

Trish and Lucy were looking at some photos Trish had in her purse. When she heard my voice, Trish snapped the purse shut.


"The roller coaster," I said, pointing at the back of the van. "Ever ridden it?"

Trish said she hadn't. Lucy said she'd ridden it when she was two, when her father was still living at home and used to take them places.

"Do you remember that?"

"Of course," she said.

I hadn't seen her father in years. He had been in the National Guard like my father, and whenever they saw him in the street, my parents would call out to him, and he'd come sit with us on the side porch and talk about where he was going to take his family on his next vacation. After they divorced, Susan got a court order to make him stay away from the house. I only saw him once after that.


It was hot out on the pier. I helped Trish's father carry the fishing rods and lawn chairs. Trish dragged one of the chairs against the railing and pulled her halter top off. It wasn't very crowded on the pier, but the few old men who were standing around in little groups almost dropped their poles in the water when they saw Trish peel her shirt off. At some point after we'd left her bedroom, she must have changed clothes because she was wearing a bright orange bikini top under her shirt. I was surprised to see how tan she was. I'd never seen her torso in such bright light before.

"This is your rod here, son."

Trish's father held a fishing pole out to me, and I took it.

"We're not fishing," Trish said.

I kept the pole and stared down into the water. It was brackish and green. Jellyfish were everywhere, floating in stacks of three and four under the water. I let the line plummet into the water and wondered how I'd pull a fish out without snagging a few jellyfish as well. It was like the ocean had given up after the jellyfish came in and was just going through the motions of lapping up against the pier.

"There's a lot of jellys down there," her father said. He leaned over beside me and let his fishing line waver next to mine.

"Yes sir," I said. "I used to come swimming here with my family before they moved in."

"We did too, son."

Trish held her hand up over her eyes and squinted at me angrily. "You're not fishing, are you?"

"He's just talking to your father, dear," her mother said. She was sitting beside Trish with her shirt buttoned up to her neck. "He'll be going with you in a minute."

Lucy said she wanted to see the pool hall. Trish stood up and cleared her throat. I told her father I'd be back in a few minutes. I started to pull my line out of the water and managed to snag a fat jellyfish, but it fell off before I could reel it in.

"Aren't you going to put your shirt back on?" I asked Trish.

She gave me an exasperated look and walked off down the pier.


We ran into Dick at the van. He'd gone back to get the radio and was smoking a joint in the back seat. He didn't see us coming. When we slid the door open, he threw the joint out the window on the other side and gave us a startled look.

"Where are you going?"

"To the pool hall," Trish said. "I need to get my cigarettes."

"You shouldn't be smoking," he said. He climbed out of the van so Trish could get her purse.

"You shouldn't be wasting joints," she said.

"I don't know what you're talking about." He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, looking at Trish's breasts. "I'm just getting the radio for your father."

"We're taking it with us." Trish handed the radio to Lucy.

Dick looked at us for a second. "Sure. Whatever."

We watched him hop barefoot across the hot sand. Then Lucy walked around the van and retrieved the joint. It was only half-smoked. Trish and Lucy sat in the van and smoked it down to a roach while I stood outside and looked around the parking lot. Before we closed the van up, Trish set the roach on the dashboard beside Dick's sunglasses.


The pool hall was closed. Lucy pressed her face against the windows and stared at the dusty pool tables.

"Damn it," she said.

Trish patted her on the shoulder, and we started walking down the beach road away from the pier. There were only a few cottages facing the water. Almost all of them looked abandoned. Trish put a heavy metal tape in the radio and turned the sound up all the way, and the music bounced between the cottages and the sea wall that separated us from the beach. As we walked inside the echoes, it seemed like I could hear the music fizzling out over the water.

"This place is boring," Trish said after a car filled with old ladies passed us.

"Want to turn around?" I asked.

Lucy shook her head. She was smoking another Salem and nod-ding her head back and forth to the music.

"A little further," Trish said.

We walked to the end of the cottages and stared down the road. It kept going as far as we could see without a single curve. We stopped, staring. Then Lucy flicked her cigarette into the road ahead of us, and Trish said she wanted to walk on the beach. We climbed the sea wall and stared down at the sand. It was littered with dead jellyfish and the shells of horseshoe crabs. Some of the jellyfish were clumped up in piles above the high water mark. Beside the tallest pile, there were a few half-burnt logs and empty beer cans from somebody throwing a party. Trish lit a new cigarette and jumped onto the sand. I handed her the radio and jumped beside her. I offered to help Lucy, but she jumped by herself. Her feet slipped out from under her, and she landed with her hand flat on a jellyfish. A red welt swelled up across her palm.


It was a long walk back to the pier. After a while, we stared at it like it was a floating mirage and trudged on top of the beach trash as if we didn't care what we were doing. The sun made me sleepy. I asked Trish to cut the music off, but she didn't. Occasionally, Lucy walked down to the water and stuck her hand in to cool off the welt. When we finally reached the pier, I looked at the trash underneath it and decided I didn't want to have sex under there after all.


Dick was sitting beside Trish's mother with a fishing pole between his knees when we walked up. He gave us a scared look, like we were going to say something about the joint, but of course we said nothing. Trish turned her chair to face the sun and lifted her face up into the sunlight. Lucy sat beside her and lifted her face into the sunlight as well. After a moment, I walked up to Trish's father and dropped my line beside his.

"Caught anything?"

"Not yet," he said. "But a few've bitten. It's just a matter of time, you know?"


A big jellyfish washed up against my line. I swung the line away from it and reeled in a little to keep from cutting through it.

Trish's mother offered me a piece of chicken, and her father took my pole so I could eat it.

"I used to love the Beatles," her mother said, pointing at my shirt. "People thought I was crazy for liking them since I was so much older, but I love their music."

I told her I liked them too and took my pole back. Trish jerked her chair around so her back was to me.

"What's that line out there?" I asked her father.

There was a sheen on top of the water out past the pier that ran like a thread of gold along the coast. I hadn't noticed it before.

"Where?" He squinted at the water with his free hand shading his eyes.

I pointed at the line. I traced its path with my forefinger, and finally he spotted it.

"I'll be damned," he said. "Never seen anything like that."

I turned around to point it out to Dick, but he'd fallen asleep.

"I wonder if it's from the shelf," Trish's father said. "From where the sand drops off under the water."

I stared at the line and thought of how cold it would be on the other side of the wall, deep underwater.

"That may be it," I said.

A pelican dove into the center of the golden line and jerked back up with a fish in its mouth.

"I'm going for a walk," Trish said, standing up.

"Me too," Lucy said.

Trish told her she looked like she needed to get more sun.

Lucy looked upset but she leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. Trish glanced at me and raised her eyebrows.

"You coming?"

I looked down at the water for a second. I watched my line weave back and forth and felt for a moment as if it were connecting me to two worlds. An old man shuffled by with his fishing rod over his shoulder. I turned around and watched him ogle Trish's breasts.

"I don't know," I said. "I think I may stay here."


"I said I may stay here."

She gave me a look to remind me what she was planning for our walk, but I shook my head.

"I'll go," Dick said, apparently waking up quickly enough to under-stand the situation.

"Forget it," Trish said. She sat back down in her chair. Her mother reached over and patted her arm.

"He'll go walking with you later on," she told Trish.

"I'm sure that's what that line is," her father said. "That's the edge right there, I bet."

I nodded my head and looked at my line.

A few minutes later, I got a bite. I reeled it through the jellyfish and slapped it onto the pier beside Dick's chair. It was a baby flounder. It kept flapping from its white side to its dark side. Trish's father held its tail and head so that we could see how it was designed to lie flat on the ocean floor, dark side up and white side down. Both its eyes were on the dark side, and its white belly looked like how your skin would look if you'd lived in a cave all your life. It gulped in air and made a clacking noise each time its jaws opened up. Trish's mother said we should throw it back in.

"It's too small to keep," her father said.

He helped me cut the hook out of its mouth with a pair of pliers. I had to hold it tightly as I carried it to the side of the pier because its scales were getting slimy from drying out in the sun. I dropped it over the side, and it seemed to float in the air for a second as it kicked and turned. Then it fell onto a jellyfish. I watched it jump once or twice like it had forgotten which side was dark and which white, and then it flapped its tail a couple of times and disappeared in the water. I leaned over the rail and thought about it lying on the bottom of the water, working its way out to the edge of the cliff where the sand stopped. Then I straightened back up because I was getting dizzy looking into the water.

Trish's father tied another hook onto my line and held the pole out to me. I shook my head. It felt like I was underwater. I set my hand on Trish's shoulder.

"Let's go for a walk," I said, hoarsely.



About the Author

Charlie Onion is a frequent WAG contributor, and his novel, Pluto Wars (co-authored with the late Reginald Blisterkunst), is currently being serialized on the WAG Web site.


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