Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #105, Spring 2004.

by Alex Joseph

My mother had a friend, Roberta, who dressed up as an orange to film a commercial one summer. She was big and fat and round and,
naturally, orange, and her dimpled rind glistened under the bright studio lights. With her huge round eyelids
caked in makeup, she sang in a pretty but unexceptional voice: Juicy-juice-o, can?t
say no to Juicy-juice-o,
can?t say nooo...
Every time she rehearsed,
I got thirsty.

Roberta had a boyfriend named Bruce, a house with a sliding door, a wooden deck, and a volleyball net in the back yard. My mother took a Polaroid of her, bent over and weak with laughter, the volleyball stuck under her white oxford like a pregnancy. She invited my family to a party on the Fourth of July, and my sister Margaret and I got to play horseshoes and dip our fingers in the citronella candles and run barefoot inside the house. There was a buffet table laid with pigs-in-a-blanket and devilled eggs splattered with paprika. We tore paper plates out of a package and loaded them up with grand food pyramids. When it got dark, Roberta and her friends lit fireworks, something my father would never do because he said it was too dangerous.

My sister and I thought Roberta should marry Bruce.

?Marry Bruce?? she said to us, a cigarette waggling in her well-lipsticked mouth. ?BRUCE? Oh, I don?t think so.?

She was driving us out to the Thieves? Market on Route One, where, for a quarter, a fortuneteller in a glass booth would light up and turn back and forth, and dispense a fortune wrapped up in a rubber band.
?Why not?? we said at once.

?Oh, I?ve got better things to do with my time.?

We thought this was mean of her? better things than Bruce? Really! Bruce, with his suede tan vests and his jeans with the psychedelic patches sewn over the back pockets! Bruce, who played guitar and sang in a sweetly melancholy, if adenoidal voice, like James Taylor! Bruce?s spaghetti, we said, and Bruce?s cool red car, and Bruce?s Maryland Tech T-shirts?Maryland Tech, where he
studied computer science! (We said this to remind her Bruce might get rich one day.)
?Yeah,? Roberta said, ?Bruce, who puts cracks in my nicest china. Bruce, who never reads a book, unless it?s got statistics in it. Bruce, who only watches sports on TV. No, I don?t think so. I definitely don?t think so.?

Margaret said, ?Oh, c?mon. You must like him a little.?

Roberta glanced at Margaret, who was in the passenger?s seat. ?Well, he does serve one important function, of course.? She gave Margaret a wink that was slower and craftier than the one she usually gave me. ?But no.? She faced the road again. ?No wedding bells. Not for this chick.?
I was disappointed Roberta wasn?t about to get married. I had an elaborate fantasy where I went to her wedding, stood on a wooden dais, and gave a speech about her into a microphone.
But it was not to be. Instead, she
came to my birthday party and made
the Duncan Hines Deluxe cake I?d said I wanted?pink, with white frosting and chocolate chips. She brought it out of
the kitchen with a sparkler stuck in the center. (?More fireworks,? my father

My mother said, ?I don?t understand why he wants a boxed cake. I?d be just as happy to get him one from the Sugar Cloud Bakery.?

?So he likes pink cake! So what!? Roberta shouted. ?Pink?s got more

Albert Brenton, who lived across the street, was the only other person my age at the party. He said almost nothing the whole time, until the cake was cut. When a pink pile lay on his plate, he said, ?Well, that?s different,? and gave a dolorous little shrug.
The Brentons were our neighbors. They were Presbyterians. We were nothing. Several times, I went with them to church. The Brentons stood in gleaming, carved wooden pews and prayed and sang without irony. I was impressed with their performance, though I was happy
to have avoided the same fate. Still, one Sunday at breakfast I wanted to know: ?Why aren?t we religious??

My mother tightened her housecoat around herself. ?What?? She often pretended not to hear something in order
to stall for time.

?Why don?t we go to church??

My father set a steaming waffle in front of my mother. ?You?re not Christian,? he said to me. ?You?re Jewish.?

?So why don?t we go to synagogue??

My mother spread margarine on her waffle. ?Well, we have better things to do,? she said finally. ?But you can go if you want to. Do you want to??

The synagogue was behind the high school, almost two miles away. ?How will I get there??



I never went.

Later that afternoon, Mrs. Brenton came over to help my mother set up
for her meeting. (She chaired a local chapter of NOW.) Mostly, Mrs. Brenton just leaned in the kitchen doorway or
followed my mother around like a parade float, talking in her high-pitched voice. ? I let him know that he wasn?t going to get away with it, not this time, no sir! And I told him.? When I was babbling about Roberta?s commercial, she said to me, ?Do you remember our Little Theater production of ?The Music Man? last year? Did you know we were invited down to Hilton Head, to do a performance there? But we couldn?t do it. Not enough money. Isn?t that sad??

During the meeting, Mrs. Brenton
just stood on the margins, sipping pink lemonade and nibbling the homemade sugar cookies she?d brought. Afterward,
I noticed her talking to some of the other women in a scattered, imploring way, as if she was struggling to get her point across. Several times, I heard her say, ?Well, what do I know??

Roberta didn?t come to NOW meetings. She was too busy going out to
dinner with agents and TV producers. She took voice lessons and practiced
her piano and her dancing. When she cooked, it was always things off the sides of boxes: Rice-n-Go. Noodle-n-Go. On her coffee table, she kept a like-new copy of An Actor Prepares by Stanislavski, with a bookmark that always stayed in the same place. My mother read whatever novel won the National Book Award, and Mrs. Brenton sometimes did, too, though she usually said she wished the stories were more uplifting. All three of them read those great levelers of women?s taste, fashion magazines.

That was my first summer at Donne-makka, an overnight camp with horses
in Maryland. Margaret had been there twice already. The legend was the actor Sylvester Stallone had been to Donne-makka, and every summer a rumor spread that the movie star was coming
to visit. This was supposed to be exciting to me, and somehow, it wasn?t. In any event, at the last minute Mr. Stallone always canceled.

My parents thought it would be good for me to go to camp and socialize with boys, because at home I mostly tended
to play with girls. There was one, Audrey, who my mother thought bossed me around far too much. Truly, I was her supplicant. Although she was two years younger, I agreed to bring her Hawaiian punch and chocolate snack cakes on a tray. Sometimes I wore an apron like a waitress in a restaurant and minced about in the back yard, wiggling my backside while she lay on the chaise, wearing a pink bikini and dark sunglasses.
On the day they dropped me off at Donnemakka, I cried all afternoon. My mother cried too, even harder if possible. I half-heartedly hoped that if I cried enough, they would give up and take me home. But instead, when the time came, my father placed his arm firmly across my mother?s shoulders and drew her away. ?He?s got Margaret to protect him,? he told her.

As I sat alone on a log beside the cabin, still sniffling, the cabin?s screen door opened and my counselor, Gus, leaned his shirtless torso out. Gus was probably 21. I still remember his lean, finely-muscled and evenly-tanned physique, the tiny whorl of chest hair at the very center of an otherwise smooth chest, and the way his hips narrowed as they sank into his shorts. Late-afternoon sun rays limned him from behind. ?Hey there,? he called, in his rugged and insouciant voice. ?Comin? swimmin???
I didn?t write my mother once in two weeks. She had put three pre-stamped-and-addressed postcards in my trunk,
but I hid them under my socks and never gave them a second glance. She wrote me, though, in a tone that went from consoling??I am thinking of you all the time??to plaintive??I hope you haven?t forgotten me up there!?

For two weeks, my sister blew me off. When I wasn?t completely mesmerized by my fantasy life with Gus, I pined for her. She took every opportunity to thrust me away, tell me to ?grow up? in front of the other kids, and mimic the faggy way I stood. The other boys also avoided me. Whether this was because I didn?t interest them or because they believed my girly behavior might be catching, I couldn?t tell.
Whenever I was most bitterly alone,
I thought about Roberta. Roberta and her breezy, unfettered life. Roberta in Bruce?s little red Japanese car, her frizzy brown hair flying out behind her. Roberta reflected off a diner?s greasy chrome walls as she ate a chicken salad sandwich. Roberta flinging back her head and letting out a sharp laugh. I dreamed she burst into our campsite wearing the orange costume and wielding an axe, campers? heads rolling to the ground
like cabbages.

After two weeks, I returned from Donnemakka with a complete corner of my mind cleared for Gus. I had committed every inch of him to memory, from his gray-green eyes to the velvet-covered-marble texture of his skin. I could shoot
a rifle, ride a horse, pilot a small sailboat, and I had even learned the phrase ?hock a loogey.?
My sister had changed, too. She walked around the house, eyeing everything with her arms folded, her face a mask of contempt. One night, when my mother brought a platter into the dining room, my sister snorted with laughter. ?What?re those??


?ARTichokes.? She snorted again. ?God. They look like baboon hearts.?

My father said, ?Shut up, Margaret.?

?Well, I?m not eating that. You must be out of your mind.?

You didn?t say things like that about my mother?s cooking. ?I don?t give a damn whether you eat it or not. You can just get the hell up to your room, as far
as I?m concerned.?

My sister?s face puckered as she pushed in her chair. ?I can?t wait to get out of this hellhole. God.?

My father said, ?Feeling?s mutual, kiddo.?

?And just what are YOU smirking at?? my mother snarled to me, because I had betrayed her, too.
Later that night, Roberta and Bruce came over to watch the premiere of the orange juice commercial. They brought
a box of mini powdered doughnuts, and in the hour leading up to the commercial Roberta ate six, methodically, licking her fingers and then wiping them on the sides of her brown corduroys. When the commercial started, she shrieked and shielded her eyes. ?Oh, God, I can?t look, I can?t look. Oh, look at me, I look terrible. I look like a total butterball. I look like a glockenspiel, I look like a marionette, I look like a total freak of nature!?

When it was over, Roberta flung back her head and laughed, the sound soaring over the room. ?Well,? she said, when the laugh was all squeezed out, ?that?s the end of my citrus fruit career. Talk about miscasting! Clearly, I wasn?t cut out to play produce. Keep me behind the deli counter, that?s where I belong. I?ll play a bratwurst, I?ll play a turkey loaf. I?ll play
a tub of coleslaw!?

?You?d make a good broccoli,? Bruce volunteered.

Roberta sang, ?It?s not easy, being green.?

This was how the two of them talked all the time.

The next Saturday, for Albert Brenton?s birthday, I wrapped up a gyroscope from the toy shop at the Air and Space Museum. Mrs. Brenton had announced that she was throwing a simultaneous soiree for the adults.
My mother was getting ready. This activity required as much care and precision as a military operation. I observed it many times from the lounge beside her bed. She had to curl her hair into a spunky, blond flip, massage in the proper amount of foundation, blush, and rouge, touch up her lips, and all the small, bristly black hairs that grew in along her jawline had to be assiduously tweezed. When she went with just my father to Wolf Trap for concerts on the lawn, she wore a white linen dress with a beaded leather belt and suede and fringed tan boots?an outfit she?d cribbed from a display. For this party, though, neighborhood people would be there, so she needed to seem more commanding. She chose a dark blue denim pinafore, tied a red scarf around her neck, and topped it off with an inviolable black beret.

From behind her bedroom door, Margaret called that she was staying home.

We knew to follow the trail of yellow balloons strung along the Brentons? white wooden fence, down the driveway and into the back yard, where a paper tablecloth draped over a picnic table fluttered in the breeze. A line of Japanese paper lanterns was strung over the clothesline. Six or so adults stood on the side of the small hill, pecking with forks at the thick plastic plates tucked under their thumbs, and munching. They looked up, embarrassed, whenever anyone new entered the yard. Mrs. Brenton laid out burgers and iceberg lettuce and beefsteak tomatoes on stainless steel platters and set up stereo speakers in the living room windows to pipe guitar and flute music into the back yard. Flames from bug-repellent candles wobbled in glass candleholders.

Albert came up to me, his cheeks shiny and pimpled with errant kernels. The rest of the boys were up in his treehouse behind the garage. ?You have to see the new BB gun my parents gave me.?
Guns. My father wouldn?t let us bring guns into the house, not even squirt guns. My mind raced at the memory of shooting the .22s at Donnemakka.

?Let?s go,? I said, practically choking with desire.

The Brentons? house had a distinctive smell, which somehow reminded me of their church. Mrs. Brenton set out potpourri in silver bowls and waxed the floor herself, whereas my mother let her floors get by with the rather desultory job done on them by our housekeeper. Mrs. Brenton decorated with dark Federal pieces, baby?s breath in tin vases, and 19th-century wind instruments no one was supposed to play. We raced through the foyer and up the creaky wooden stairs.

In his bedroom, Albert stretched out on his bed. I asked where the gun was, and he pointed to a box on his dresser. My pulse went slack. ?You have to put it together??

?Yeah, Dad?s doing it after dinner.?

?Wow, great.? What did he think?I was going to get excited about something in a box?
We had lain beneath his nubby brown bedspread for many hours, giggling until one of his parents came in and shouted at us to shut up and get to sleep. But now that was mostly over, because I was beginning to find Albert annoying. He always laughed at stupid jokes about crap and peepees, and the only time he read a book was for school. Without the gun, there was nothing up there for me to look at. I had seen the WWII bomber wallpaper, his elaborate yellow gerbil maze, and his (book-free) bookshelf.

Albert saw that I was irritated. ?You wanna go see my mom?s new bathroom?? Mrs. Brenton had gotten a new bathroom because my mother had.

?Sure,? I shrugged.

Mrs. Brenton had installed salmon-colored tiles and a matching bidet (also something my mother had first) and a clear glass shower door. The glass on my parents? door was pebbled. ?Now your father can see your mother naked while he?s brushing his teeth.?

Albert made a face. ?Ewww,? he said. ?Mommy naked.?

?Well, it?s true,? I said. ?Face it. Under her clothes, your mom?s naked, just like you are. You?re both naked.?

Albert giggled shyly, almost coquettishly.

From beside the sink, I snatched up a lipstick in a mother-of-pearl case. ?Here, I?ll show you what it looks like.? He let me dab a fuchsia, bow-shaped pucker over his lips, and when it was done, he smiled so coyly that it seemed to be what he?d wanted all along. Emboldened, I maneuvered him backward into the shower and shut the door.

?See?? I said, when I?d installed him.

?I see you, you see me.?

What did I think I was doing? I think
I thought I was acting like Roberta.

Albert pressed his lips up to the glass door, leaving a smooch mark.

?You?d make a good girl,? I told him.

He was studying the lipstick smear from close up.

?Albert, c?mon,? I said. He allowed himself to be led to his mother?s closet, which, unlike my mother?s, was color-coordinated. I saw something green, wool??This?ll go with your hair??and tugged it off the hanger.

He was shockingly passive while I outfitted him. All my training from watching my mother had paid off. I knew how to adjust the simple dress on his shoulders, and I taped the hem up with some
double-sided tape. I rubbed foundation on his face, dusted his cheeks with rouge, and gave his eyelids a green hue to match the outfit. All the while, he had the patient, docile look of a cow being milked.
As a girl, Albert was not half bad. He would not really pass?the outline of his face was unmistakably a boy?s, as was his squint. Yet his pouty lips, long lashes, and dainty nose were certainly working. ?Albert,? I announced breathlessly, ?you?re absolutely BEAUTIFUL.?

Albert batted his eyes. ?Am I??

?All the other girls are going to be so jealous of you.?

He looked at himself in the mirror. ?I?m a beautiful girl,? he said, experimentally, and kneaded the unfilled breast cups of the dress. I went and got him two pair of balled-up athletic socks. While we were stuffing him, we heard the needle lifted off the record of guitar and flute music, and then Mrs. Brenton called up the stairs.

Albert was stepping into a pair of faux-alligator pumps, holding my shoulder for balance and giggling.


?Come here, we?ve got something for you.?

They were gathered around the bottom of the stairs, everyone who had come to the party?a few neighbors, some of the Brenton?s other friends, and a whole posse of neighborhood kids. In the center stood Mrs. Brenton, holding a chocolate cake glowing with candles. They began to sing ?Happy Birthday? when they heard us open the door, and they kept singing until Albert limped and hobbled around the stair landing. Then the singing faltered and dwindled, until at last it was nothing at all.

I was lying in bed, wondering what went wrong, when someone knocked on my screen. Since both our windows looked over the sun porch, my sister sometimes climbed out and knocked on my screen to scare me. This time, I just ignored her. I didn?t even roll over to look.

What, exactly, had happened when
I led Albert down the stairs? At first, no one said anything. Albert was smiling obliviously. He tottered to the bottom
of the steps and blew out the cake with
a few short, prissy puffs. Then Mrs. Brenton said something. Afterward, many people said many different things. But really, in my memory, the only remark I completely recall is Mrs. Brenton?s, which came to stand for them all: ?Why did you do that to him??

The knock came at my window again, and when I turned over I saw it wasn?t Margaret, but Roberta. She had somehow managed to climb the drainpipe. ?Hey! Psst! You in there!? I slid up the screen and she swung her heavy legs over the windowsill. She was wearing some kind of gauzy pink top and a pair of tight-
fitting blue jeans. ?Me acting like Jack and the Beanstalk is like a limousine
trying out for NASCAR,? she panted. ?C?mon, let?s go for a ride. I?m in the mood.?

We crept out the back door, me still in my pajamas, and Roberta drove us to the Uptown Diner. It was where I had always pictured her, except she didn?t order a chicken salad sandwich. She got a plate of fried shrimp and a chocolate milkshake instead. When she was done, she said she felt guilty. ?An actress should always watch her figure.? So she ordered a garden salad with lemon wedges instead of dressing, but when it arrived, she didn?t eat it. She picked up random lettuce leaves with her fingernails, looked at them on both sides, and returned them to the bowl.

I told Roberta about the party, and Albert, and what we?d done, and she said, ?Well, maybe you?re just going to be a different kind of kid. There?s nothing wrong with being different.? She thought about that for a second. ?Although it can get lonely sometimes.?

But no, that wasn?t the point, I told Roberta. The point was, Albert wanted to get made up that way. Not me. Everyone was acting like it said something about ME.

Roberta wasn?t listening. What she said was, ?You know what the difference is between men and women? It?s that men think sex is easy, and women think it?s hard.?

I had no idea what she meant. ?Who?s right??

Roberta let another lettuce leaf flutter back into the bowl. ?Depends,? she said, swiveling in her seat to face me, ?whether you?re a man. Or a woman.?

It took my mother three-and-a-half years to die, and she never complained about it. At the time, I didn?t question
the idea that she simply didn?t mind,
but now I believe she behaved this way because she thought it was gallant.
Only once did I hear her say, ?You know what cancer is like? Getting stuffed backward into a small, dark sack.?

By the time she was diagnosed, my mother hadn?t spoken to Roberta for more than 15 years. Something mysterious, in fact, had happened to almost all of my mother?s female friendships. The ones I thought were genuine, the friendships with the politically active women, had ended. She got mad at some; others she ignored until they left her alone.

I had always thought my mother?s friendship with Mrs. Brenton was like an arranged marriage, but evidently, like many arranged marriages, this one had given rise to actual sentiment. Toward the end of my mother?s life, the two became best friends. During the days, while their husbands were at work, they went out shopping when my mother was well, or watched TV or did cross-stitch when she wasn?t. They talked about the Democratic Party, and sometimes they gossiped about me, the ?famous? costume designer (I work on one of the highest-rated daytime series), and my sister, who does bankruptcy law in Maryland. My mother probably wanted my sister and me to pair off like Albert, who married a girl he met at Alabama State, but my sister is terminally single, and I date men. Actually, I?m dating quite a few of them, and I use the word ?dating? only in the loosest way.

But the saddest part about my mother?s dying was how she started talking about God. The woman who once said she didn?t have time for religion now routinely said, ?Well, God meant that to happen,? or worse, ?God loves you.? The best I could think to reply was, ?Think so, huh??
When my mother?s obituary ran in The Washington Post, Roberta saw it and wrote a letter to my father, who forwarded it to my sister. One day, I got an e-mail:

?I hope you don?t mind it but your sister said I could write you. I wanted you to know how much I loved your mother. She was really a super-duper lady and
she had two beautiful children.?

I wrote Roberta a long response, but
I didn?t mention my mother. I wrote about the Fourth of July party and the pink cake and the time she?d climbed on the roof and we?d gone to the diner, and, best of all, the time she?d done the juice commercial.
She didn?t reply for a while.

?Commercial? You must mean that public service announcement we did about the four food groups for 4-H.
It was just regional cable, you know. I guess you?ll do anything for money, if you have to.?
I couldn?t read Roberta?s tone. Was it hurt? Humiliated, even?
It had taken a long time, but my sister and I had finally stopped being angry with each other. We had come to a kind of draw?not a peace, but close?over the ways we had let each other down when we were growing up. Now I found Margaret funny and comforting, and
I even confided in her occasionally. I
forwarded her a copy of the e-mail I?d sent Roberta. Had I written something offensive?

?Roberta wasn?t like that. You just made all that up. Climbing on the roof?

I don?t think so, little bro. What have you been smoking? Besides, Roberta?s not funny now. She?s really not funny. She didn?t get Bruce, or babies, or anything. She lives out in Delaware somewhere. I think Mom said she was on Celexa or something, but that was a while ago now.?

I made Margaret give me the address off Roberta?s letter, and then I did something completely in contrast to my reputation as an exacting perfectionist: I let my assistant take over the show the next day, and rented a car.

Roberta?s place was part of a small, burnt-red brick subdivision skulking over the highway, surrounded by mud and weeds. It was the kind of place a sociologist might write a book about and call it ?The Ugliest Place in the World.? I climbed a set of rusty metal stairs to the second floor and rang Roberta?s bell.
The woman who came to the door was Roberta in outline only. The rest of her had become shrunken, caved-in. Her face was shiny and her hair was thinning, and the backs of her hands were covered with red scabs.
She knew instantly who I was?they sometimes run my picture in the magazines. But instead of seeming delighted, she seemed distressed.

?Oh, you shouldn?t see me like this,? she said. Her hands fluttered down the opening of her yellow nightgown. ?I?m really?I?m not decent.? But she backed up into her foyer, and not knowing what else to do, I followed her into the dim entryway. A large, blaring TV dominated the living room. Roberta seemed a little dizzy, and she motioned me toward a pink sofa, throwing aside a dusty gray comforter. On the windowsill behind the couch stood an army of unsmiling white porcelain dolls. The place smelled of cough syrup. Roberta collapsed into the recliner opposite. ?Well,? she said,?this is such a surprise. Too bad I?ve got this cold.? She pulled out a tissue and blew into it several times before dropping it on top of an already formidable pile on the coffee table.

I showed her my tackle box full of makeup. ?Hey,? I said. ?I?m a famous stylist, remember? Wanna makeover??
She gave a tiny, frantic, warding-off gesture. ?Ohhh, not really. Thank you, though.? She slid a pill into her mouth?
I could see she was trying to be surreptitious about it?and sucked something carbonated through a pink straw.

I was embarrassed. Why had I assumed she might want something like a makeover? Maybe all she wanted was to be left alone.

?No, stay. Stay,? she said, when she saw me eyeing the door. ?Mostly I just watch TV now.? She pointed at her big set. ?I?ve seen your show a few times. Sometimes I can?t completely follow the plots.?

?Nobody can,? I said. I gave a self-
deprecating laugh, but Roberta didn?t see the joke.

?Do you want some ginger ale?? she asked. ?I also have mango-orange fruit juice.?

?That?s all right,? I said. ?But what if we went for a drive? I saw a nice-looking diner on the way.?

?I don?t think so,? she said, running a scabby hand over her scalp. ?I get cold easy. I get nauseated easy. I?d rather just stay here. ?Crime and Trial? will be on soon. I never miss that.?

Both of us were silent then. The TV talked and showed us pictures of expensive new trucks streaking along mountain roads. What could I do for Roberta? There had to be something. I thought about how I?d felt when I first met her, and then how I felt when I saw her acting on TV.

I asked where the bathroom was. Her clothes closet was beside the bedroom. Of course, I half-hoped the orange costume would be there, dusty, but still in one piece. No such luck. I did find a nice dirndl?more burnt sienna than straight orange?which just fit over my bulky frame. I raided her bathroom for cosmetics and found plenty, most of which looked as though they hadn?t been used for years.

It seems ridiculous to say, but it grieved me to be so starkly unbeautiful. As a man, I was almost adequate? mushy maybe, but not without certain strengths and appeal. But as a woman,
I was hopeless. Dressed, I felt squarish, irritatingly nonfeminine. The dirndl bit into me all around my chest, which was oversized from too many bench presses.

I left my hairy legs bare, but I did squeeze into a pair of low heels. Compared to
me, Albert Brenton had been a dazzling beauty queen.
When Roberta realized what was clomping toward her out of the bedroom, she cried, ?Holy shit,? and gripped the sides of her chair like someone on a thrill ride. In the middle of the living room, I stood with my palm in the center of my chest, threw my head back, and sang:

Juicy-juice-o, can?t say no to
Juicy-juice-o, can?t say nooo

How Roberta laughed then. Oh, my God. It was the best thing I?d heard in so long, that near hysteria soaring over the room?the best thing since my mother?s diagnosis. Roberta made me do the jingle again, and then a third time. She shut off the television and shouted, ?C?mon, c?mon, once more!? and roared all over again each time. It turned out Roberta did have other things to drink besides ginger ale and fruit juice. She poured us glasses of the stuff over ice, and then she turned off the lights, and we drank and told stories about my mother and drank some more. As we talked, we stared out the window at the night and the stars, until we seemed to be hurtling toward them.

Alex Joseph is a writer based in New York,
where he works as a journalist. He has published
in numerous journals and little magazines. He is
writing a novel, tentatively titled They Go Up.