Friday night in the Walgreens parking lot—all the teen girls in terrycloth or stretch lace, their boyfriends so hot and so stupid a flock of starlings could fly right through their foreheads. The kind that would remember your bra size but not your birthday or eye color. Wax themselves into a corner working the late shift at Rowdy’s. It was mid-Michigan in the 90s. The best thing a teen girl in a floss choker necklace could hope for was a dude stupid enough to love her from the rowboat he’d pushed off a dock without oars. The yearbook competition might have been for “Cutest Couple” but top of that rubric was a set of thick-lashed guy eyes with zero thought behind them. Once Tiffani and Crystal threw down behind Big Boy in a dispute over the merits of Bobby Ash. He looked equally good wet or dry. Spelled “monster” with a u instead of an e. Built the fastest sail car in physics class, but wrote Mindy’s name on it instead of his own. Nobody knew if he was actually stupid or just great at pretending, a sort of intelligence in itself. This only increased his appeal. School board members condemned the stupidity as a fleeting trend, like huffing Wite-Out or herding swans into the cafeteria as a senior prank. But every Friday in the Walgreens lot the boyfriends milled around like auditioning for a Marlboro ad. Baker Paul staggered out to the parking lot with the day’s unsold donuts to pass out to the guys for free (they would never be able to count change). Stupidity illuminated the back seat of every Camaro. We treasured the boyfriends as we did their homework Sunday night, writing answers in dull pencil with a non-dominant hand. 

Mary Biddinger’s latest poetry collection is Department of Elegy (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). Her poems have recently appeared in a variety of journals, including Couplet PoetryThe Laurel Review, and Pithead Chapel, and have been featured on Poetry Daily and The Slowdown. Biddinger’s flash fiction has been published in Always CrashingDIAGRAMGone Lawn, and Southern Indiana Review, among others. She teaches creative writing at the University of Akron and in the NEOMFA program and serves as poetry and poetics editor for the University of Akron Press.

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