Planning

Elizabeth likes to sit beside the pond and think of what she’ll do when she goes Rumspringa. She’s turning sixteen. It’s almost time. She thinks she’ll get a leather jacket with silver snaps. Let down her brown hair, perhaps dye it black. She thinks she’ll smoke a cigarette and try beer. These thoughts excite her, but she’s also a little afraid.

What She Learns

Elizabeth discovers Rock & Roll. She can’t get enough of the band Thin Lizzy, is always singing out loud and under her breath. “Tonight There’s Gonna Be a Jailbreak.” “Cold Sweat.” “Wild Child.” She starts going by Lizzy and learns words like dickface and shithead and motherfucker. They feel so new in her mouth she says them every chance she gets. Her leather jacket rests softly against her bare shoulders like a second skin.

Other Things She Loves

Lizzy loves movies about gangsters and action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and Steven Segal. She also really loves Samuel L. Jackson because he says motherfucker a lot.

Nights

Lizzy drives around on desolate country roads with her friends, some of whom, the boys, have gotten cars. Her people don’t drive automobiles, but this is a time of bending, of “going English” as they say. Lizzy enjoys the speed of cars. Windows down and blown-back black hair—it’s as if she has wings.

Misconceptions

She knows she’s the exception, not the rule. Common knowledge is flawed. Myths abound. There are no blue gates to signal suitors. Most don’t choose to leave for good. Most have decided they’ll return before they go. Few seek towns or city lights, remaining home as they roam. She is the few. This much she’s always known. The things she does aren’t endorsed. Her family wouldn’t approve.

Semantics

Lizzy and some friends steal a horse and buggy. More like “borrow,” she thinks. She says she knows a place. They meet a man with a lazy eye and knuckle tattoos outside Mort’s Little Shopper. She tells him she’s on Rumspringa. He buys them a case of Yuengling and shows them his gun.

Mistaken Identity and Laughter

The man from Mort’s is named Orvis. After leaving the store, Orvis misplaces his gun and runs another buggy off the road. Lizzy sees this on the news the following evening after watching Predator. Her people don’t have televisions. They don’t have light bulbs or microwaves. Orvis is said to have shouted, “Rumspringa!” before punching the horse and falling down. They found no gun, police say, and Orvis was arrested for admitting to buying alcohol for minors and equine assault. Lizzy is still laughing from the scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger called the alien an ugly motherfucker. She laughs a lot these days.

Honing New Skills

Lizzy goes to many parties. “Ragers,” they’re called. She’s tried many new things, like marijuana and cocaine and ecstasy. She’s done Jӓger bombs and tequila shots. She’s shotgunned beers and licked salt off strangers’ stomachs. She’s unaware of how the English boys would like to fuck her, and one night the cops come just as one of them is leading her away from the group. Lizzy throws a half empty bottle of electric blue St. Ides Special Brew at a sheriff’s car and runs into the woods along the Yeowza River with another girl. They laugh and kiss, and she likes it and it confuses her. Another night they party on the hill behind the high school. Lizzy’s people don’t attend public schools. Someone has a potato launcher—spudgun, tater cannon. The spray used to ignite it smells like an exotic flower, and each time she fingers the switch the kick makes her heart gallop.

Sad Connection

Watching a documentary on the History Channel, Lizzy learns there was a potato famine in Ireland and many people died. Thin Lizzy first formed in Ireland. “Motherfucker,” she says, but this time she doesn’t laugh.

Lineage and Hidden Rage

Lizzy has a large family. Dozens of brothers, sisters, and cousins with names like Zachariah, Isaac, Sarah, and Mary. This isn’t a myth. These are common names. “Ya’ll like a buncha rabbits ain’t ya?” someone says at a party one night, but Lizzy has never learned to hold her liquor. She thinks humans are softer than horses and punches her first face. It hurts her hand, but she’d do it again. She wonders if potatoes can feel pain and decides no, they cannot. She shouts, “Say hello to my little friend,” and shoots the man with a potato all knotty with eyes—Thwoomph! There are roars and applause as firelight drags her dancing shadow across the ground. Friends hold the man while she reloads and hits him again. He finally breaks free and flees down the hill and across the tall grass. Lizzy drops the cannon and removes the stolen pistol. She raises it high, fires into the sky, and screams, “Run, you shithead motherfucker!” And when the words dissolve there’s a long, heavy silence. She falls to her knees as whispers enfold her, and cries.

Bittersweet Reflection

Lizzy hears third-hand from a friend of a friend that a man was found beside the post office, bruised and starchy, strips of potato skin stuck to his neck like leeches. She laughs. She feels more alone than ever, but she knows she’ll miss this.

Ghosts

She’s not yet courted, though she’s home to stay. The old dresses and stockings suffocate her, chafe her flesh, but she keeps the leather hidden beneath the floorboards, taking it out when the moon is bright so she can see its sheen in the darkness. She removes her nightgown and drapes the jacket around her like a cape. Though she never utters it aloud, she shouts it inside often. Motherfucker. She turns over the things she’s learned and left behind. The kicks and thrills. The smell of hairspray. The bite of cheap red wine. She thinks of the girl by the river, of what it means. Sometimes she wakes in a cold sweat, singing.

William R. Soldan

William R. Soldan

William R. Soldan grew up in and around Youngstown, Ohio, where he resides with his wife and two children. He received his BA in English Literature from YSU and his MFA from the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. Over the years, he has lived in many places between the Midwest and the West Coast and has worked as many things, including (in no particular order) maintenance man, factory machinist, bouncer, tattoo artist, personal trainer, vacuum cleaner salesman, and undergraduate Writing instructor. His fiction appears or is forthcoming in a number of publications such as New World Writing, The Fictioneer, Jellyfish Review, Kentucky Review, Thuglit, The Best American Mystery Stories 2017, and many others. You can find him on the various social media platforms, if you're so inclined.
William R. Soldan

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