Lotta Grows Up

by Kate McSHANE
 

1.

Lotta didn’t think to hide her kite. She kept it next her bed, next to her lacrosse stick, which in the off season was reduced to a standby weapon, although it didn’t do her much good now, did it? Why didn’t the burglar take that too and look forward to a spring filled with sports and leisure?

The kite was given to her by her step grandfather whom she thought had no obligation to remember her name, let alone give her gifts worth stealing. It was shaped like a butterfly, hand painted by hippies somewhere in Montana. At least Lotta hoped they were hippies as they were just her favorite. At the start of high school she thought they would be her best bet at joining a clique. Hippies love everyone! she thought. Turns out they also love jam bands and pot, two things poor Lotta could never get behind. Still, she loved her kite; its absence reminded her of her failure at being free-spirited and she wanted it back.

2.

There were two witnesses but they weren’t talking.

The first was Alex Trebec. She had a framed autograph of him that hung above her bed that she kissed for luck each morning. “To make me smart,” she would say and then correct herself and say, “what is to make me smart?” and wink at his perfect mustache.

When she was younger she wrote him and asked him how he got so smart but all he wrote on his eight-by-ten was, “Stay in school!” which was a vague yet direct answer. Her mother let it slip one day that he had the answers all along and Lotta was as sad as the Christmas Eve she found her father eating Santa’s cookies with a Hitler-esque milk mustache. She got over it but kept the photo hanging to remind her how precious she once was.

“Nostalgia at the age of fifteen is a sad thing,” her mother would say when she caught Lotta mid-kiss.

“Oh can it, mother,” she said but not out loud because she had a lot of wishes for her life but a death wish wasn’t one of them.

The other was Zappers who used to be her hamster but now was a paperweight. While most visitors to her room found this creepy, the thought of Zappers watching her do her homework, as he always did, made Lotta more productive. He was so still that it caused Lotta to do jumping jacks, run laps around her room: just to prove she could. For the record, the stuffing part was a gift. Her aunt was sleeping with the local taxidermist because well, every family comes with a quirky aunt and she happened to be hers. She also had the clich├ęd drunk uncle but he had gone to rehab and now drinks orange Kool-Aid at barbeques instead. Lotta tried to spike his drink once because she missed the twinkle in his eye but she felt bad and switched their drinks and spent the rest of the afternoon with her head in the toilet

3.

“Why are you moping around?” her mother asked.

“Somebody stole my kite,” she said.

“Nobody stole your kite,” her mother said.

“Well it’s gone,” Lotta said and started to cry. Lotta’s mom took her hand and pulled her close. “I’m sorry I’m acting like a baby,” Lotta whimpered.

“You’re my little baby,” her mother said and it looked as if she was going to lift Lotta and attempt to cradle her in her arms.

“Oh, Mommy,” Lotta said and she wondered why they were talking like this. This sympathy and baby talk was unusual for her mother. It was common for Lotta to ask her a simple question and be met with a stern look that more often than not just confused her.

“Well it didn’t grow legs and walk away,” her mother said.

Lotta pictured her kite with skinny flamingo legs sneaking past her while she slept. She then pictured Zappers with double the hamster legs and Alex Trebek with triple the Canadian legs and soon she was in a living nightmare and couldn’t look at anything without imagining it had quadruple, quintuple the legs. Her mother looked like some kind of insect on the Discovery Channel that ate its young.

“I have to go,” Lotta said. She was close to taking off her shoe and pounding her mother over the head with it.

“It’ll turn up,” her mother said like her kite might be buried under a stack of text books.

“I hope so,” Lotta said and turned to leave.

4.

“Ah, Lotta the spy,” Ron said as he approached her crouching by the pool.

“What are you talking about?,” she said as she tried to casually shove her binoculars down her pants.

“Well either you are having some gender identification issues or it looks like somebody’s playing detective.”

“I’m too old to play anything,” Lotta said.

“Meh, you’re just a baby.”

Lotta wondered if her pale pink tee shirt was reminiscent of a baby blanket because it was ridiculous to have been called a baby by both of her parents in the last twenty minutes.

“Well, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he said as if she might drop acid or streak, even though he had done both.

“Okay, Dad,” she said. Ron was her stepfather but unlike most children of divorce, she liked him more than her biological father. On their wedding day Lotta even started calling him Dad even though she was thirteen and a little old for starting over.

“Well, Marcia Brady was like thirteen,” she said after the ceremony.

“Yeah, but her real father was dead or something,” her stepbrother Ty said.

“Well, it’s not my fault Tom is alive now, is it?” she said because she also started calling her real father by his first name.

“You’re just going to have to kill him then,” Ty said.

“If only to legitimize my Marcia Brady analogy,” she said and he laughed.

You see, Tom had left her mother in the middle of the night.

“If we were in a TV movie it would’ve been called ‘Definitely without my Daughter’,” Lotta always joked.

He still tried to maintain a relationship with Lotta but she had seen that sitcom about having two fathers and it all seemed too complicated for Lotta’s taste.

“One father will suffice,” she would say when she tore up her annual birthday check from Tom, wondering how exactly he thought sixty dollars was enough to buy back his title.

5.

Lotta didn’t tell anyone that, while it bummed her out her kite was missing, that wasn’t why she was fishing an uncomfortable bulge out of her crotch at the moment.

Ron was her mother’s third husband and Lotta is afraid number four is lurking somewhere behind their hydrangea bushes. Mr. Caprezzi lives behind them and is trimming his topiaries with a fixed eye on their house. In the second window, her mother is boiling water, no doubt in a very sexy way.

Mr. Caprezzi’s first name is Bernardo and Lotta’s mom says his name with this accent, oh this accent!

“Bear-nahr-do!,” she would shout as he walked his wiener dog past their house.

“Miss Krenshaw!,’ he would shout back at them, conveniently forgetting that she had gotten married again.

“God, why don’t you ever correct him,” Lotta would say.

“Oh Lotta, he’s foreign, leave him alone,” she always responded.

“Excusez-moi,” Lotta would say and then fake barf into the sink.

The thing was, Lotta liked her new family. Ty was popular at school, he put his hands on her in the halls, a friendly shove or a secret handshake that was really just a regular handshake that ended with a thumb war. Other kids would see this and smile at Lotta and give Ty a quizzical look, like, “her, really? Okay, boss.”

Lotta wasn’t sure what staring at Mr. Caprezzi staring at her mother would accomplish but she couldn’t look away. He was attractive in that Mediterranean sort of way, like he could gut a fish and take you dancing with the same amount of flair. Lotta found herself memorizing his face, the way his thick sideburns were so precise, it seemed he had used a protractor.

Why not me, she thought. I am, if nothing else, a younger, prettier version of my mother. Has he not seen me swimming?, she wondered. For Pete’s sake, she has even caught her stepbrother studying where her tan began and ended.

Lotta was well-hidden by the giant blue blossoms but as soon as she saw him put down his shears she knew it was all over.

“Miss Krenshaw!” he shouted. He was motioning for her to come closer with his arms. Even his mustache seemed to draw her out from her hiding spot.

“Ah, Bear-nahr-do,” she said and stomped on the weeds beneath her, her feet propelling her towards him.

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