Hit Me With Your Lettuce Beans by Steve Campbell
“Relax. Don’t do it. Wear your ant socks to it,” Em recites with her eyes scrunched together. She has her ear pressed to a glass that's she’s holding against the wall. We’re sat cross-legged beneath the kitchen table.
“What? Wear your ant s--”
“Shush! How can I hear if you keep talking?” Em snaps.
I swipe at the overhanging gingham tablecloth and pout. Em closes her eyes again. “Relax. Don’t do it. Wear your wan-der gum,” she sings.
Mum and Dad are on the other side of the wall in the living room, giggling. When they got back from shopping, they’d shooed us out of the room so they could listen to a record they'd bought. They’d never done that before. We always sat around and listened to them together.
“Shoes in the right direction,” Em continues. She looks as confused as I am.
“I knew the glass wouldn’t work,” I say. “I’ll get a mug.” I start to crawl out but Em flaps her hand at me to stop. I skulk back and fold my arms. “Why can’t we just listen anyway? It’s not fair.”
Em drops the glass and opens her mouth to say something but then she stops. She sighs before trying again. “We just do. Dad said the song isn’t for kids. It has sex in it.” Em flicks her hair and lifts her shoulders. She does this whenever she says I’m being a baby. “You don't know what sex is yet. You're not old enough. So we both have to sit here. If it was just me, I could listen.”
Em started secondary school last year and so she knows loads of new stuff. She'd had a lesson where everyone was shown a picture of a naked man and woman. They’d watched a video of a baby being born. She said Jenny Robbins felt sick but she didn’t.
“Is it like A-ha being sexy?” I ask. Em has a poster of them on the wall next to her bed. She kisses and whispers to it. I’ve seen her doing it. I didn't let on though.
“Sort of.” Em’s cheeks flush as she puts the glass back against the wall. She raises a finger to her lips before covering her other ear. “Got to hit me,” she recites. “Hit me. Hit me with your lettuce beans.”
“I’m getting something else to use. Lettuce isn't rude.”
“It can be, though.”
I think for a minute, wrinkling my forehead in concentration. “Is Dad calling me ‘a wet lettuce’ rude?”
“No. He calls you that because you’re always hanging around with me and don't like playing football.” Em starts to crawl out from beneath the table. “We better put this back or they’ll know we’ve been listening.”
As Em is putting the glass back, I straighten the tablecloth, lining up the square pattern with the corners. “So what are beans then?”
“Never mind,” Em replies. She says it quickly, like she knows, but doesn't want to tell me.
Steve Campbell has had work published in Spelk, Fictive Dream, MoonPark Review, Molotov Cocktail,and Flashback Fiction. He is Managing Editor of Ellipsis Zine and is trying to write a novel.