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Authors: Hannah Johnson

Tags: #boys in love, #bffs, #happy love stories, #snarky narrators, #yarn and stuff, #learning to love your own general existence, #awesome ladies

Know Not Why: A Novel

BOOK: Know Not Why: A Novel
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KNOW NOT WHY

by

Hannah Johnson

SMASHWORDS EDITION

+

PUBLISHED BY:
Hannah Johnson on Smashwords

Know Not Why

Copyright © 2012 by Hannah Johnson

Smashwords Edition, License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

For everybody who’s kept this thing alive
along the way; I am far luckier than any anguished author lady
should be. Love, love, love to you all!

Chapter One
At first it’s just this idea.

This really, really good idea.

This
GREAT
idea.
+

“That,” Amber tells me, “is a terrible
idea.”

Amber has been my best friend since we were in
diapers, but sometimes – and I say this with all the respect in the
world, and because she could so kick my ass with her brain alone –
she is stupid.

“What’re you talking about? It’s genius.”

“It’s disgusting.”

“It’s disgusting how genius it is.”

“Yeah, um, no. It’s disgusting how disgusting it
is.”

“Why can’t you just be happy for me in my hour
of glory, huh? Do you think that Alexander Graham Bell’s homies
gave him this much trouble when he invented the phone? No. They
probably just went, ‘Hey, Alex, good goin’, man, nice one; here, up
top.’ And then there was much high-fiving and merrymaking and
drinking of grog.”

“Grog?”

“Look it up. It’s a thing.”

“How old do you think the telephone
is
?”

“That,” I say grandly, “is not the point right
now. The point is that I’m a genius.”

“Are you sure the point isn’t that you’re a
sadsack?”

“I am very sure.”

“Because, I don’t know, something about getting
a job at an arts and crafts store because you’ll be able to ‘reap
the benefits’ of being the only guy there – it reeks distinctly of
sad. And besides, you know you’d never actually do anything about
it.”

“Says who?”

“Uh, says the brilliant human being who’s known
you since always. Come on, Howie. Your skeezy-talking skills are
matched only by your inescapable decency. That’s going to get in
the way, Don Juan.”

“Bah!”

“You know I’m right. When am I ever not
right?”

“There’s a first time for everything! And that
first time is now.”

“Okay, okay. Even assuming you do find the inner
iniquity to skeeze it up all over the place – who’s to say any of
these girls are actually going to want anything to do with
you?”

“Guys who work in craft stores,” I inform her,
“are
sensitive
. You ladyfolk love that shit.”

“Sensitive,” Amber agrees – and then, after a
super-long pause, innocuously adds, “Or gay.” This is the money
shot right here; her eyebrows arch, fierce and triumphant. “Howie,
they’re just going to think you’re gay.”

“Pfft. Are not.”

But there is, maybe, a flicker of worry for a
second there.
+
Even forgetting the gay thing, there are some ways in which getting
this job could be less than cool. For example:

1. The guy who started the aforementioned store
– I’m pretty sure his son’s taken over it since – was named Arthur
Kraft. Ergo, Artie Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts.
Yeah.
On one
hand, I guess it’d be a bummer to waste a name like that, because
what else are you going to do with it?, but on the other … Artie
Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts? Really for real?

I think about answering the phone, all, “Artie
Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts, this is Howie, how may I help you?” and it
makes me want to barf. Just a little bit.

2. Artie Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts (still sounds
lame, so LAME) is right next to the hair-and-nails place where
Heather Grimsby works. Running into Heather Grimsby? It’s not
exactly on my To Do List. She was my date to senior prom, and, in
the few weeks leading up to it, my – I dunno, sort of
girlfriend.

Heather Grimsby, to be brief, is not somebody I
particularly want to run into. Especially after …

Well, whatever.

3. Getting out of this town seems impossible
enough as is. But when I’m there, inside the four walls of Artie
Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts, wearing the nametag, wearing the apron,
putting on a jaunty smile and offering to help bored housewives
find tissue paper (is tissue paper an art? A craft?), it’ll seem,
like, really impossible, you know? Why Don’t You Just Throw In The
Towel, Son, ‘Cause It Ain’t Gonna Happen impossible.

4. The apron.
They make you wear an
apron.
Even if you’re a dude.

None of this really matters, though,
because:

1. Fuck, man, I just— I really really need to
get laid.
+
I do get called for an interview. Let no one say I lack résumé
skills.

I show up at Artie Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts (…)
twenty minutes early, looking respectable and dapper. I’m not
wearing a tie, because I’m not sure I have one, but I’m wearing the
kind of shirt you’re supposed to wear a tie with. For me, that’s
momentous. I even combed my hair, as per the insistence of Mom. As
a result, it looks flat and weird and dweeby, but whatever. I am in
the habit of making grand sacrifices for Mummy Dearest.
I step inside. There are bells on the door. They jingle
encouragingly as I lock eyes on the girl behind the counter.

In a word, score
.
She’s pretty.
Seriously, unusually, spellbindingly pretty. Blonde, big blue eyes,
a smile that lights her up as soon as she sees me. She even makes
the apron look cute.

THIS PLAN IS GENIUS.
I make a mental note
to shoot a lot of smug looks at Amber later.

“Howie?” asks Mad Amounts of Pretty Girl,
bouncing up and down a little. It could be cloying, but it’s not. I
buy that guessing whether I’m me brings her so much joy she has to
bounce.

Ohhh, it is
on
.

“Yeah, that’s me.” My hand goes up to my head by
its own accord and tousles my hair. Self-preservation instinct.
Sorry, Mom.

“That’s great! You’re early!” Man, can she rock
an exclamation point.

“Yeah, well,” I say, putting my hands in my
pockets, going for that whole
nonchalantly-professional-and-
awesome
air, “I just thought
I’d take some time to look around. Get used to the place.” I give
her an ‘Honestly, I don’t mean to be so good at this’-type
grin.

“Really?” she asks, beaming even bigger. “That’s
awesome of you, Howie! So thoughtful.”

Thoughtful. Thoughtful’s like a shake away from
sensitive. I am
so
getting a piece of that ass.

Or. Well.

I feel a little guilty as soon as I think it,
just because, I dunno, maybe that’s not the sort of thing you’re
supposed to think in an arts and crafts store.

Fortunately, Blondie McRadiant doesn’t seem to
have mind-reading powers. “Arthur’s going to be so pleased, I
think,” she prattles on merrily. “He hasn’t really been happy with
any of the other applicants, and we’re totally short-staffed all of
a sudden.”

“You are?” I come close enough to lean an elbow
on the counter – just the one, casual, testing the waters. “Why’s
that?”

“It’s like there was some sort of quitting
epidemic this past month,” Milady Sunshine informs me in a
scandalized whisper. She leans forward over the counter on both
elbows.

“A quit-a-demic,” I quip without thinking. And
then want to kill myself.

“Right!” She lets out a giddy laugh and reaches
over the counter to slap me cutely on the shoulder. I can’t believe
that worked. That
worked
? Maybe I should stop censoring
myself all the time. “Oh, gosh, you’re funny, Howie.”

Dangerous ground. This could very well morph
into
You’re so much fun to be with, Howie, I love you like a
brother, Howie, you’re my girl friend in a boy suit, Howie, want to
braid my hair while we tell each other secrets, Howie?
But for
now, I choose to interpret it optimistically. “Thanks.”

“Anyway,” she goes on, “Jessica had to leave to
go to college, so it wasn’t really her fault. But Mari always
really hated Arthur, and he got on her case for sneaking cigarettes
in the kitchen – which is totally understandable, because, ew,
gross, right?” (I throw in a “Yuck!” for solidarity.) “And finally
she just snapped, it was incredible. I mean, really, really scary,
and kind of
b-i-t-c-h
y, she actually threw a Do It Yourself
Frame-Making Kit at him. Don’t worry, it didn’t actually hit him.
Too hard. Arthur
can
get to be a little bit much sometimes,
even for me, and he’s my cousin so I think he might be nicer to me
than everyone else. So you might want to be prepared for that, but
mostly it’s okay. But, yeah, she really lost it, and yelled, ‘Maybe
I’ll just go work at effing Holly’s then’ – you know, Holly’s Fine
Art Supplies, not a person named Holly – but she didn’t say effing,
you know, she actually
said
—”

“Yeah, I got it.”

“—and Arthur gets really touchy about Holly’s,
because it’s an actual chain and it’s so nice and they have that
commercial where the kids dance up and down the aisles, so business
has suffered a lot since they opened here. But anyway, so yeah, she
quit before he could fire her. So now it’s just Cora and Arthur and
me.” She beams. “And probably you!”

Okay, so maybe pickins are gonna be slimmer than
I’d anticipated. Doesn’t matter. I’ve got my eye on the prize right
here.

Unless Cora’s, you know, really really great. In
which case, we’ll see.

“Sorry if I totally just talked your ear off,” I
Should Probably Look At Her Nametag Already So I Can Stop With The
Lame Nicknames says. She gets all sheepish and adorable.
“Everyone’s always telling me I talk too much.”

“Nah,” I reply, squinting boobward – I can’t
help it, that’s where her nametag is – and trying to be subtle
about it. K – Karen? Kr – Kristy! Kristy. Excellent. Always liked
the name Kristy. Since two seconds ago. “I’m a voracious listener.
So you just … bring it on. I defy you to talk more than I can
listen. To.”

Not exactly smooth moves, but she totally digs
it, again! This is my dream woman! Mrs. Howie Jenkins right
here!

Or, well. My next roll in the hay.

Do people actually say “roll in the hay”
anymore? What hay? Or, well, okay, having just read (and by “read,”
I mean “skimmed while watching reruns of that reality show about
lumberjacks”)
The Woodlanders
for my British Lit class over
at Ye Olde Community College, I know that it used to happen. Thomas
Hardy was all over that. But now? Where do people even find
hay?


Why
am I thinking these thoughts? Pretty
girl. Great, pretty, cute, potentially-not-hating-me girl.
Focus.

“Okay,” she’s saying, giggly. “You’re on.”

Oh, yeah, I’m on. You. Like white on … rice …
like …
why
do I keep feeling bad thinking these things? It’s
my own friggin’ brain. I dunno, whatever, it seems rude. Invasive.
I just met this person, no matter how lady-shaped and delightful
she is.

I say, kinda weakly, “Sounds like a deal.”

“My name is Kristy, by the way!” she says,
oblivious to my sudden descent into self-loathing. This girl is
aces.

“Yeah, I know, I saw your nametag,” I tell her
without really thinking about it – and then I realize what this
implies. “Not that I was looking.”

And then it comes back to me. Haunts me, clanks
its chains, gets its Jacob Marley on. Amber’s voice echoes through
my head.
‘Howie, they’re just going to think you’re
gay.’

“I was looking,” I blurt out. Better perv than
sorry. “A little. You know. A tasteful amount. Just thought I’d …
glance. It was a glance. Small-sized glance. Mini-glance. A
glancelet, if you will.”

Halle-freakin’-lujah! She laughs. She thinks
it’s
funny
– these words, these stupid lame-ass words
spewing out of my mouth. She has the kind of laugh that reminds you
of sunny days and sleeping in and the fact that life’s not so bad
after all. It’s right about here that I decide, come hell or high
water, so help me God, I am rocking the shit out of this
interview.
+
I went to high school with Arthur Jr., who is currently the
reigning Artie. He was a senior when I was a freshman, so I don’t
have many memories of the dude. He was one of those super-involved
honor roll students, and he was always in the special advanced
music class, the one where the kids would give dinner-and-a-concert
fundraisers and sing, like, English madrigals. Amber had a
one-semester foray into the dark and dizzying world of sixth period
chamber ensemble (which is how I even know the word “madrigal”)
before she bailed: she couldn’t handle the degradation of being a
second soprano in a world where first sopranos ruled. Apparently,
Arthur Kraft Jr. could take the heat. Not that he is, from what I
remember, a first soprano, but who really knows for sure?

BOOK: Know Not Why: A Novel
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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