Mercy was voted Most Stylish Eighth Grader because her hair feathered perfectly. When the wind blew, it would flap like crow wings over her temples in two stiff, hair-sprayed sheets. She was pregnant and also getting married to a grown up man so she had her quinceañera when she was only thirteen because her parents said it should happen before marriage. If you did those things out of order, it meant you were a whore or something. I know this because I heard the Jungle Gym girls whispering about how Mercy’s swollen belly meant she would get two parties and two Gunne Sax dresses that won’t fit and maybe an Easy Bake Oven, even though eighth graders are too old for that, but still, the tiny spatula it comes with is so cute. You know, it’s not really an oven, this girl Jennifer W. said, it doesn’t use real oven powers, only a light bulb. Later I found out Mercy got a real oven with real oven powers and she also got a Barbie swimming pool, which eighth graders are, of course, too old for, but still, its pink plastic is smooth and perfect. You can’t tell from the commercial, but the thing is way too shallow for Barbie to swim in. The water doesn’t even come up to her knees. I mentioned this shortcoming to Jennifer W. in the double dutch line once, but then it was her turn and she hopped between the ropes. From inside their blurry forcefield, she said, Maybe too small to swim in, but not to drown. With babies, it only takes a few inches of water. You have to keep an eye on them every second.

Robyn Carter’s writing has appeared in Conjunctions, Ninth Letter, Playboy, and other journals. She is working on a collection of linked stories called Impossible Object. She lives with her son in San Francisco where she teaches creative writing to kids.