This gala, there seemed to be one every few months, was for Cleft Palates in Peru. Tickets to toss a bean bag, throw darts at balloons or whack a mole were ten dollars. But, after a fifty dollar admission, drinks were free.
Everybody had heard about the Kissing Booths, but they were surprised to see Maxwell Blevins—in an Izod polo with his skinny legs sticking out of faded cargo shorts—working there.
In the next booth stood Amy Wright, Foxborough’s resident bombshell. Most of her attractions were surgically enhanced but everybody liked Amy. She was colorful and not a real threat to the other wives, all of them in their 60s and 70s. None of whom would be caught dead in hot pants and tall, tasseled boots.
Some of the men played along with the Carefree 50s theme and turned up the collars of their shirts, handed Amy a blue ticket and received a kiss on the cheek or a dry, I’m-your-auntie peck on the lips. The widowers also got to experience Amy’s expensive, unyielding boobs when she threw in a quick hug.
No one knew what to do with Maxell. He’d volunteered, and who could say no without hurting his feelings. The gals who’d organized the gala felt obligated to patronize his booth but no one wanted to be first. Maxwell was such an odd duck. Pleasant-looking but not striking like Rex or Andrew. Fit enough but soft compared to Jason or Karl. He had some hair, but he combed it over. When his wife passed away a year or so ago, he showed up at AquaRobics. The only man doing Side Stretchers, Waist Trimmers, and Standing Kickbacks and never—like the others—getting his face wet.
Finally, when there was something going on everywhere but at Maxwell’s booth, Francine took a deep breath, smiled, handed over one ticket and closed her eyes. She felt his hand drift to her face and tilt her head just so, “You’re beautiful,” he murmured, and then he kissed her. Something inside, a personal ice age, perhaps, melted just a little. She turned away, dazed, and got back in line.
Barbara stepped up and Maxwell said, “This should help quell the dread,” and he put his lips—moist and slightly citrus-flavored—on hers. She, too, returned to the end of the line.
When it was her turn, Judith heard arias, Susan started to weep, Aimee put her arms around Maxwell and had to be pulled gently away. The line grew long and restless Small things were unpeeled. Larger things rose from a long sleep. A silence fell over the community room.
No one could get enough. Everyone wanted to be kissed, really kissed, again and again. Kim, who had quit smoking years ago, lit up a Marlboro. Lucia fell to her knees and thanked Saint Anthony, patron of lost things. The temperature in the room rose steadily.
Finally the men put a stop to it. They led their disheveled wives away, then came back for the others and took them, too, even though they resisted. Rex swore at Maxwell, and the other men glared menacingly. They threatened to meet Maxwell in the parking lot. Soon he was alone and he, being last, turned off the lights as he left.
Copyright © Ron Koertge
Ask Ron Koertge what he brings to the realm of young adult fiction and he responds matter-of-factly. “I write dialogue well, and I’m funny. I like iconoclasm and practice it in my fiction. I don’t like pretense or hypocrisy. I’m almost always irreverent.”
Ron Koertge is the author of many celebrated novels, including Stoner & Spaz,Strays, and The Brimstone Journals, all American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, and American Library Association Top Ten Sports Books for Youth Selection; and The Arizona Kid, an American Library Association pick for “one of the ten funniest books of the year.” A two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s Literature, Ron lives in South Pasadena, California.
Above content from ronkoertge.com.
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