Cherry Land Chapters

Illustration by Nik Garvoille

“Kiss me!” a woman with freckled cleavage and curls hairsprayed to a crisp shouts in the midst of the crowded dance floor at Husby’s. It’s Fall Fest and Amber laughs and dances with three girls she’s never met wearing pink feather boas and plastic tiaras.

“Kiss me!” Mrs. Crispy Curls smacks both hands on Amber’s cheeks and presses her red lips against Amber’s mouth.

“I like you,” the woman says, her eyes hazy and bloodshot and barely focused on Amber’s.

“Thank you,” Amber laughs, then sings along as the band plays “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I’m hot sticky sweet, from my head to my feet, yeah. Green, blue, and red lights flash over the crowd. Amber wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, tastes sweat and a hint of the Miller Lite she drank when toasting the end of another season with Tyler and Dustin.

“You know that woman?” the skinniest of the boa-wearers asks Amber.

“No,” Amber shouts over the crowd singing. Pour some sugar on me. Ooh, in the name of love.

Amber coughs, then burps, and recalls all the food and drink swirling in her stomach: a Bloody Mary, a corn on the cob saturated in butter and salt, a pumpkin pie in a cup, a brat lined with ketchup and pickle relish, and Miller Lites.

“We’re going to the bathroom,” one of the girls informs Amber, who nods and continues dancing, continues burping, watching sweat drip down the lead singer’s whiskered chin. Amber’s plastic flip-flops stick to the floor filmed in spilled beers and cocktails. The bottoms of her jeans are probably fifthly.

“Hey,” a boy in a neon pink shirt approaches her.

“Hey,” she smiles. Mr. Pink places a hand on her side. He smells like an ashtray.

“I like your shirt,” she says, trying to dance in rhythm with his jilted movements.

“I like your face,” he responds. “You gotta a boyfriend?”

She almost says the truth, “No, I do not gotta a boyfriend,” but hesitates and scans the crowd: the tall bearded server from Drink Coffee who gave Amber a burnt Monster Cookie for free leans against the wall sipping a beer, the fresh-faced Wilson’s girls dance with large purses hanging from their shoulders, the tan and lean kayak guides nod along to the song, and the Patrick Swayze look-a-like bartender from the Blue Ox flexes his biceps for the red-haired intern from American Folklore Theatre.

“He’s over there,” Amber turns away from Mr. Pink towards Dustin, wearing a green and orange flannel shirt, watching the band like he’s watching a documentary.

“Uh, I am sick of boys,” Amber says. “I need water.”

“We could do better than these guys.” Dustin motions to the band and offers her his cup.

“What is it?”

“Miller Lite.”

She pushes the cup away, “God, my stomach.”

“I’m craving macaroni and cheese,” Dustin says. “We should go to Tyler’s and make some.”

Amber fans her face. “Where is Tyler?”

“Making out with…” Dustin cranes his neck and points across the bar. “I don’t know – some girl he went to Gibraltar with, I think.”

“That’s – I’ve met her. Oh no, that’s Katie. She was at this bonfire and started going on about this trip she took to Paris, like suddenly she was Miss Travel Channel.”

“Annoying,” Dustin says.

“So annoying.” Amber recalls Katie’s smug freckle-less face and fur-lined hooded sweatshirt as she explained with authority the difference between Parisian men and American men. “Like three weeks in a touristy city makes you an expert.”

Dustin nods. Amber exhales. Mrs. Crispy Curls is kissing Mr. Pink on the dance floor.

“Don’t you wish it was like the old days?” Amber looks past Dustin at the elk mounted above the bar adorned with Mardi Gras beads.


“Like the girls would wear dresses…and corsages. The boys would wear ties. Couples would dance with a bit space of between them, or cheek to cheek. How cute would that be?”

“We could do better than these guys,” Dustin says again.

Amber considers her lack of girlfriends as the three boa-wearing girls pass by. She wonders why Dustin would compare their three or four ‘jam sessions,’ consisting of Dustin strumming cords while Amber hummed along, to a full band performing for a crowded bar.

“Could we?”

“Yeah,” Dustin’s eyes widen. “I just wish you could play an instrument. And wrote some more songs.”

“Well, I’m not a songwriter, Dustin.” Amber recognizes a white-haired man taking a shot at the bar. She served him. He tipped eleven percent.

“Oh, here comes Tyler,” Dustin says.

“I think I’m gonna go,” Amber turns and a flip flop sticks, she loses her footing, there is nothing to steady her. BOOM. Her left elbow and left hipbone hit the floor.

“Owe, owe, owe,” she sits up and rubs her elbow, while Dustin stands over her laughing.

“Fall down fest!” announces Tyler. “Fall down fest!”

“Amber, oh my God.” Katie extends her hand. Amber reads J’adore Dior on Katie’s white shirt, notes how well she pulls off blunt bangs and skinny jeans.

“Thanks.” Amber rubs her hip and scans the crowd. “Great, now I’m the girl who fell down.”

“Oh no, your butt is all wet,” says Katie. “This floor is disgusting.”

“It’s not funny,” Amber laughs, pointing to Tyler and Dustin, still chuckling.

“Forget them,” Katie says. “Let’s dance.” Guilt pierces Amber as she takes Katie’s hand and follows her to the middle of the crowd. Guilt, and then gratefulness.

“I’m sick of boys,” Amber shouts as they begin dancing.

“Amen,” Katie shouts back.