Trash Can Nights (Excerpt)

Sep 2, 2014

lisa-frank-notebook1 • Dorothy Wu
Monday, September 3

Today was a day for the scribes to record and the blind bards to sing about. For today I went on a glorious adventure with my perfect prince. We overcame hordes of vile villains, gathered crucial supplies for our greater mission, and strengthened our bond as destiny mates.

Where did we go on our adventure, you might ask?

Is the answer not obvious?


Jake did not arrive at my house until 1:00 p.m., as has been his summer custom. My growing boy likes to sleep in, you see. Fortunately, starting tomorrow, which is the first day of the eighth grade of our lives, Jake will have to see me every day at 7:50 a.m. whether he likes it or not! (He will like it.)

Before we left my dwelling, Jake and I made a list of items to obtain on our grand day out. Jake suggested spiral notebooks and Bic Ultra Stic Grip pens. I proposed rulers and multicolored paper clips. Then I added three more things to the list: lances, battleaxes, and dragon tampons.

“What’s a dragon tampon?” Jake asked.

“Let’s hope you never have to find out,” I said soberly.

After finishing our back-to-school shopping list, and then after two games of Mario Kart, and then after a quick canoodling sesh, it was time to depart. We went to the garage to mount our bikes.

The only thing was…there was someone standing in our way. Someone with whom I have done battle many times. Someone whose face is out-smellied only by his feet, which are out-uglied only by his overall physical form, which is out-creepied only by the Specter of Death.

Darrell Wu, pest extraordinaire.

“Da-a-a-a-ad! Da-a-a-a–ad!” he screeched in his baby-bat voice. “Dorothy and Jake are going back-to-school shopping without meeeeeeee! And they are taking my bi-i-i-i-ike!”

I know that hate is a strong word, but I figuratively want flesh-eating wolves to devour my little brother and I literally want him to die.

Because Darrell was acting a lot more like a stuck-up child dictator than a soon-to-be seventh grader, Jake and I were not allowed to borrow the bike without his permission, which he was not willing to give. And because of what happened with Jake last June—Jake getting stabbed, Jake almost dying, me nearly losing my special soul partner, me nearly losing my entire reason for being—because of the many new dangers in this modern, crime-filled world, my father has forbidden me and Jake from taking the city bus through the mean streets of San Paulo.

Which meant my father had to drive us to Staples. Which also meant that Darrell, Demon of Winter, had to come along as well. Which meant that my day was going to be ruined.

Unless, of course, Prince Boyfriend could save me.

All through the car ride, whenever Darrell tried to tease me or poke me or cheese me off, Jake gave me tiny sensitive looks as if to say, Ignore him and enjoy me instead. When my father lectured me for ten minutes about getting better marks in school this year, and when he said that he was not going to buy me a story notebook at Staples because I spend too much time writing frivolous stories and not enough time doing math, Jake whispered in my ear not to worry, that he would get me whatever notebook I desired. And sometimes, just for fun, Jake simply touched my arm. Not enough for my brother or father to notice, but enough for all of my arm hairs to stand on end, tall and satisfied. What a dream of a feeling. I do not know how I ever lived without Jake as my mate. I must not have been very happy before him.

The split second we arrived at Staples, Jake and I fled from my kin. One moment we were standing with my father and Darrell at the front door, and one nanobreath later we  were in the back of the store, playing Bumper Chairs.

“Chivalry is dead!” Jake said as he crashed his executive leather wheelie office chair into my multifunction super task chair, and nearly knocking me over.

“Oh, is it now?” I said with playful eyebrows. I looked around, saw no one was in our aisle, jumped onto Jake’s lap and kissed him.

“Poison kiss!” I squealed. Jake pretended to choke on his own vomit and die. I burst into chortles.

After that, we had even more funny moments in the math section. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Math? Funny?? Dorothy??? Moments???? But really, we had the best time typing taboo messages on calculators. Jake taught me how. He showed me that when you enter numbers on to a calculator screen and then turn the screen upside down, the numbers become letters. It is such a thrill of a treat! You can write the most dangerous words! 55378008 becomes BOOBLESS and 5805 becomes SOBS and 5805 55378008 becomes BOOBLESS SOBS.

(Not me. I am one girl who does not have the boobless sobs. Not after this summer, at least! Thanks, Mama Estrogen!)

Eventually, my accursed brother found me and Jake and told us that Dad said we only had five minutes left to shop, but even that was A-okay because, as I have learned, five minutes is still enough time to have a moment of utter romantic perfection.

Jake took me to the notebooks section in the back of the store and asked me which one I would like to have as a secret present, as a do-not-show-my-father story-writing book. But then he said,”Wait. Never mind. I have a guess.” And then he walked to the shelf and—would you believe it?—he picked out the exact one I would have wanted.

It is a rainbow-colored notebook, it is a Lisa Frank notebook, and oh, it depicts the most phantasmagorical image. There are two dolphins on the cover, one a blue male and one a pink female, and they are smiling and seemingly engaging in a mating dance, and the shape of their two mating bodies forms a heart. And all manner of seahorses and mollusks are gazing upon them and smiling.

And leave it to Jake to remember that we saw dancing dolphins way back on our first-ever day as friends. Leave it to him to use this gift to bring back that magical memory now that we are so much more than friends. Leave it to Jake to sneak inside my chest and steal my heart away in a burlap sack.

Ah, Staples. The perfect date destination. Would anyone dare disagree?

On our way out of the store, I recognized a few chaps from our school. They were standing outside of the 7-11 that is next to Staples. They were all wearing black football shirts and bestickered hats. Danny Uribe was not with them, but I knew them all to be good friends of Danny’s. Where was Mr. Uribe, I wonder? The guys all looked at Jake as we walked through the parking lot. They had cruel looks on their mugs. Jake did not look back at them.

In the car, I whispered to Jake that I was sorry we had to walk past those fellows.

“Yeah,” Jake said. He did not say anything else.

I touched his hand and told him that I understood. Jake did not look at me, but he nodded.

Darrell turned around from his place in the front seat, spotted us, and said, “Dad! Dad! Dorothy and Jake are holding ha-a-a-a-ands!”

“Not in my car,” Dad said.

“No!” I said. “Darrell is deceiving you! Do not believe his lies!”

Darrell snickered like a female weasel.

When we got back to my house, I told Darrell, “A pox on you!” and I hurt him and I ran into my room with Jake. When Jake is over, there is normally a strict rule that I am not allowed to close my room door to the rest of the house, but today I broke the rule.

“So…what do you want to do now?” I asked Jake after locking my door.

He just sat down on my bed and looked around my room, wordlessly. I knew what was on his mind. It was seeing the Raiders. Seeing them had surely forced him to think about Guillermo Torres, about the stabbing a few months ago, and, worst of all, about Danny. Now he would not want to talk to me. Now our perfect date day was ruined.

“I screwed up,” I said. “I should not have let us go to Staples. I ruined everything.”

Jake then looked at me, shook his head, and smiled. He stood up, went to my desk, picked up my calculator, and walked back to where I was sitting. And then he did something really quite wonderful.

He typed the number 3407 on the calculator. Then he turned the calculator upside down and handed it to me.

LOVE, the screen read. (There is no proper calculator letter for V, but 4 is certainly close enough, methinks.)

Then Jake smiled, pointed at himself, pointed to the calculator screen, and pointed at me.

Holy table.

Holy table.


My hear jumped up in the air, did a three-sixty, and said YAH! My eyes drowned themselves in happy saltiness. I leapt off the bed and I swallowed Jake with my hands and I chewed him up with my hugs.

“I 3407 you too, Jake,” I whispered into his ear. “I 3407 you too. But you knew that already, you clever chap.”

We made out for close to a half hour until we heard my father’s footsteps, and even later this evening, after Jake had to go home, we continued to communicate via phone for many more hours. On the phone, we mostly talked about making out.

Eighth grade, everybody!


TeddySteinkellner is the author of Trash Can Days (2013, Disney-Hyperion) and the newly released Trash Can Nights.

He will be discussing and signing Trash Can Nights at Vroman’s on Friday, September 5th, starting at 7 p.m. Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91101.

For complete details, please visit

Trash Can Nights




Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena