Here is an excerpt from "Paint" by Whit Coppedge:
Paint, the young man, is thin. "You'll blow away," he's told, sail that he is.
Out her back window, a neighbor woman, Ribeiro, sees the ring of teenage boys, more young men, circle around him. As if they sense her watching, they leave, setting Paint on his now-unmolested way home, along the worn path following the creek behind her house, a short cut to the sidewalks of his neighborhood.
"I wonder if you could help me with something," she asks him the next day as he passes along the path, a day when he's not stopped and bothered. "My car keys have fallen back behind the refrigerator. Can you see if you can grab them for me?
He is happy to oblige and slides between the white panel and the counter, snaking his arm around the corner and hooking the ring with his finger. For his help, he gets a peck on the cheek.
In geometry class, on the day the topic of laminas is covered, Teacher gives the students an example to help them understand the discussion. "Like 'laminate,'" she says. "Or like paint," offers another student. Teacher's face goes angry but Paint sees thirty lightbulbs appear above the heads of his classmates, many now giggling at him. Teacher yells at the class for quiet.
On Sunday evening, he watches a science show hosted by a man with a nasal, baritone voice who tastes each word before it leaves his mouth. This night is a discussion of theoretical physics. "I have a third dimension," he starts saying at school. "It's just different from yours."
This makes things worse. He stands perpendicular to the blows. The fists connect with the bone of his upper arm, something more like the edge of a table. The pain only angers the other boys more.
"Maybe you should move the hook for your keys," he suggests after the third week of helping Mrs. Ribeiro - her husband isn't around. She runs a finger over a bruise on his arm. "Somewhere you can get to them if they fall." He finds himself pressed flat against the refrigerator door, flatter than he usually feels, her lips pressed against his and her tongue in the back shallow of his mouth.
To read the rest of "Paint," pick up a copy of vol. 7, no. 1 in our webstore.