A Storyby Stephanie Pushaw
Summer kept right on going, way past the time the calendar said it was over, and in late October, when the moon got close to full, we drove up to the caves for a bonfire. The caves were on the skinny ridge at the top of the mountains that split the valley from the beach. Getting there was a bitch, getting there in the dark was something else, getting there in the dark on mushrooms was a new one for us. I say us but I hadn’t done any. Back at Bianca’s house, when they were getting passed around with the jar of peanut butter, I palmed a couple of stems and a cap and held them under my tongue for a little, the starchy earth taste thickening my bottom lip, until everyone was sinking dramatically back against futons and pillows, and I sidled to the bathroom and spit them into the toilet and flushed. When I thought about it days later—replaying that hot day and sour night, trying to isolate the bad spot, the rotten part peeling at the corners—that seemed like the first time I should have bowed out. Taken the bus back home, spent the afternoon in front of crime shows with my mom. Watching the shriveled mushrooms spiral around the toilet bowl, flicking on the vanity lights to see my eyes spiderwebbed red from the furnace of the day: it was the first wrong-struck note in an off-key night. But of course all that shit only finds you afterward, when you get to beat up on yourself, and at the time I just felt, bone-deep, this again? and resigned myself to another night of everybody acting dumbstruck and infused with cosmic energy and me sulking because I was too uptight to join them.