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MEL
BY DARBY LARSON

Driving some big old thing I stole from the hotel parking lot, a watermelon in a cardboard box in the back, a girl in the passenger. Sheíd found the watermelon in a dumpster, the box already in the back seat. Iíd found her the night before in the lobby of the hotel. Iím running away from home, she said. Sheís 17. Iím 17 too. Iím running away from home too, I said. Letís go together, she said. I said, okay.

Sheís asleep now but was up all night in our room doing speed. I woke up once and saw her attached to the ceiling like Spiderman.

I drive. Nothing but desert. The thing drives smooth, a boat. 

I watch her, the road, her, the road. Her breasts seem bigger. I remember them smaller last night. They are definitely bigger than they were last night. They are bigger than they were even an hour ago. 

She wakes up watching the desert through the window. Do you think we can make it all the way to the beach? she asks. Sure, I say. Her shirt is almost bursting. Jeez, she says, look at my boobs, theyíre all big.

In the rearview, Iím keeping an eye on the watermelon in the backseat because something is happening. Thereís a small finger poking through a crack. Thereís something going on with the watermelon, I say. Iím hungry, she says. 

She twists around, hangs over the seat to lift the watermelon up, brings it to her lap. She plays with the watermelonís finger with her own finger and giggles. This bra is killing me, she says. She does a taking-the-bra-off-without-taking-the-shirt-off thing, but the shirt comes off somehow anyway. Sheís lactating. 

The watermelon cracks in half and thereís the baby. He crawls up her torso, to her ready breasts, locks his lips to her nipple. Hello there, she says. 

Iím hungry, she says. Me too. Iíve got $3000 in cash stuffed in a brown paper bag in the glove compartment. My thought was it would get me to the coast at least; hotels, gas, food. I wasnít planning on paying her way. I wasnít planning on paying Melís way. Do you have any money? I ask her. Iíve got an American Express card, she says, my Dadís. 

This baby is a lot of fun, she says, I like Mel. She holds him in front of her and makes baby faces, baby sounds. I admit to liking Mel also. 

But two days later, Mel seems two years older, a toddler jumping on the hotel bed. Heís doing a year per day thing. Itís impossible to clothe him. He grows out of things in minutes. At this rate, I say, heíll be older than we are in a few weeks. He jumps high on the bed. On his last jump, he touches the ceiling and grabs it. Then he screams, unable to get down.

Arkansas or some state and Mel wonít stop kicking the back of my seat. Stop kicking the back of my seat, I say. He kicks his door open and jumps out of the car and the girl and I look at each other and I pull over. We walk back along the highway holding hands and itís nice to just walk and hold hands together with no Mel. We walk slow. Do you believe in mermaids? She asks me. Sure, I say. I am one quarter mermaid, she says. I look down at her feet. They look like regular feet to me. I am an eighth Norwegian, I say. Itís all I know about me.

Finally, thereís Mel, face down in some weeds. I pick him up. Okay? I say. Mel is laughing. He says, Sure Iím okay. Itís the first time weíve heard him speak. His scraped face heals back to smooth skin as Iím standing there holding him.

On the road again, like the song.

Days later, everything has gone sour. We donít like Mel anymore but feel obligated. We worry about him. We love him, I guess. We want to give him to somebody else. Do you think we could leave him on somebodyís doorstep, like in a basket with a note? The girl asks me. A basket? I say, heís twelve years old or something. I can hear everything you guys are saying, you know, he says to us from the back seat, maybe just stop the car and let me out and Iíll hitch.

The rest of the trip is spent simply trying to stop Mel from jumping out of the car and telling him to not do this and not eat that and no no no and the girl on top of him in the back seat pinning his wrists to the cushion to stop him from squirming and hurting himself or us.

We make it to the coast. Heís in his thirties, I donít know. We find a commune on the beach and rent tents for the night. I stay in a tent with the girl while Mel stays in his own tent somewhere. 

The girl and I hold each other in our tent. We are relieved to have a night alone. Do you want to have sex? she asks me. I donít know, I say, I never have. I never have either, she says. Maybe we should wait, I say. Okay, she says. 

In the morning, I get up and find Melís tent, but all thatís inside is a note. Iíve run away, it says. I walk to where I parked the car but itís gone. I look around. The girl comes out of the tent. Melís gone, I say, he took the car. Itís a good thing we already made it here then, she says. But all the money was in the car, I say, my clothes. I donít even have a shirt to wear today. 

We look around. Nothing but the ocean. Some shops up near the road. I canít believe we made it all the way to the beach, she says.


[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/mel.html]

 

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