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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:01:07
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  Even with the cold, by January we were all so rank that Mom decided it was time to splurge: We would go to the Laundromat. We loaded our dirty clothes into pillowcases and lugged them down the hill and up Stewart Street.

  None of us kids did. Mom and Dad refused to let us. They couldn't afford expensive presents, and they didn't want us to think we weren't as good as other kids who, on Christmas morning, found all sorts of fancy toys under the tree that were supposedly left by Santa Claus. So they told us all about how other kids were deceived by their parents, how the toys the grown-ups claimed were made by little elves wearing bell caps in their workshop at the North Pole actually had labels on them saying MADE IN JAPAN.

  "Bo-nanza!" Brian cried out.

  * * *When I started sixth grade, the other kids made fun of Brian and me because we were so skinny. They called me spider legs, skeleton girl, pipe cleaner, two-by-four, bony butt, stick woman, bean pole, and giraffe, and they said I could stay dry in the rain by standing under a telephone wire.

  "Something's there," I whispered.

  * * *After the Rufus incident, I slept with a baseball bat in my bed. Brian slept with a machete in his. Maureen could barely sleep at all. She kept dreaming that she was being eaten by rats, and she used every excuse she could to spend the night at friends' houses. Mom and Dad shrugged off the Rufus incident. They told us that we had done battle with fiercer adversaries in the past, and we would again someday.

  * * *The other girls talked endlessly among themselves about who still had their cherry and how far they would let their boyfriend go. The world seemed divided into girls with boyfriends and girls without them. It was the distinction that mattered the most, practically the only one that did matter. But I knew that boys were dangerous. They'd say they loved you, but they were always after something.

  "Don't pretend you don't know," she said. "That just means you're one of them."Afterward, I called Brian. "Do you think Maureen's on drugs?" I asked.


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