Mo met Bell at the movie theater around eight. She looked particularly sparkly, in a tight white blouse and pin stripe pants. Half way through the great battle between the Chinese Kung Fu masters and the imperialist Japanese Samurais, it occurred to him that she had not come from somewhere looking that pretty; she had done herself up for the date. Her date with him. He started to sweat.
When the movie was over, Bell walked them over to a bar called Saint Jack's. Half a gin and tonic into the evening he stopped sweating. Her pretty, round freckled face always looked half an inch away from a laugh, and she giggled and guffawed easily.
But before he knew it, she was looking at her watch.
“I gotta go home…” she said.
“…it's a school night,” he finished.
Mo walked next to her not sure if he should walk her home or retreat back to his place. He had blown it, he was sure.
A wind gust blew a plastic shopping bag right past his face.
“Be careful! You might suffocate!” Bell said. “Remember how when we were kids everyone was all scared of plastic bags?”
Mo did remember how terrified society used to be that at any minute Mo or any other child under twelve would put a plastic bag on their head and suffocate. Maybe there had been a rash of suffocations or something, but given the terror that gripped parents around these omnipresent objects one might think a child could not survive any encounter with a grocery bag.
“Why do you think we had an instinct to put plastic bags on our heads?” Bell asked.
It was a great question. An evolutionary question. A question perfectly suited for Mo.
Then Mo had it. At some point in our evolutionary history, we were shore-dwelling creatures and we forged a working relationship with jellyfish. We trained them so that we could put them on our heads and—as we swam around looking for seafood—the jellyfish would sting our enemies and hold a little bubble of air for underwater survival.
Now, eons later whenever we see a plastic bag, which looks so like our ancient aquatic ally, we still have that vestigial impulse to squish our head into it.
Mo burst into laughter and Bell did, too, perhaps writing her own jellyfish narrative in her head.
It was a dreadfully, wonderfully stupid theory. He looked down at her warm face and broad smile—she was a few inches shorter than him.
“You know, I have no fucking idea,” he said.
She moved her face into the personal space around his head, and this time he knew what to do. He leaned in and kissed her. Her lips were warm and gentle. He closed his eyes and imagined kissing Min at the opportunity he had missed. How could he have been so stupid!? It was this obvious, why was he always...
But then he felt Bell's hand lightly touching his back, pulling him close into her. He opened one eye partially. Both of Bell's were closed; kissing him had her total attention.
And then it happened, Min and yesterday, Charles Darwin, Buddha, and Harry Harlow, giant rhesus monkey mothers cuddling pantsless tattooed men, Jessica Troy, Joy, rhinos, jellyfish, and kangaroos, all quieted. For the rest of that very long kiss, Daniel Morowitz was simply and only a young man kissing a pretty girl on a lovely spring night in Philadelphia.
All rights reserved.
It's over, folks, this is THE END, the very last short piece of the book. I wrap things up for Mo and he is quite a different person than the fellow who started the novel.
Thanks those of you who have followed X. If you want to catch up with the novel you can see all the chapters at: http://www.fictionaut.com/groups/x-a-novel
And to start X from square 1 go to: http://fictionaut.com/stories/benjamin-matvey/x-chapter-1-alex