Greene, R. W. W.

R.W.W. Greene is a New Hampshire writer with an MFA he exorcises regularly in lonely bars and damp coffee shops. He collects typewriters, keeps bees, and lives happily with writer-spouse Brenda Noiseux. Greene keeps a website at and Tweets for posterity @rwwgreene.


R. W. W. Greene

(Summer, 2018)

All the kids in the neighborhood knew the front door of Freddy’s Fried Chicken. The food was cheap and filling, and the little diner was more reliable than anything many of them could find at home.

Joseph liked Freddy’s. Sometimes he picked up a three-piece on his way home and ate it while playing his games. Usually, though, he saved his money for Early-Rlease Wednesdays, those monthly teacher-workshop days when hungry kids left school and piled into Freddy’s for crispy chicken and greasy fries.

Today, though, was a Thursday, and Joseph and the two girls were the only kids in sight

“The doctor hooked me up with all kinds of shit,” said Wayrellis, the girl sitting across the table from Joseph. “A big plastic bag full of condoms. I got one in my pocket.”

Amanda, who was sharing Joseph’s bench seat, hooted. She was skinny, twitchy, and her braces flashed as she chewed piece after piece of purple gum to death. The girl across the table was rounder and fuller everywhere, with brown skin just a few shades lighter than Joseph’s own.

Amanda leaned over the table to mumble a question in Wayrellis’ ear. Joseph strained to divine meaning from the rhythm of the words. Were they talking about him? Did they know he’d never even seen a condom?

“Nah!” Wayrellis pretended to push Amanda away. “It ain’t like that! My mom wants me to carry it. ‘Do you want an STD?’ she say. ‘Do you know what a STD can do to you?’” She rested her elbows on the table. “I’m on the pill anyway.”

Wayrellis had stayed back in school a year, which meant she was fourteen. Older than Joseph by seven months. She knew everything and talked like sex was no big deal. There was always some guy she was thinking about dating, some guy who wanted to date her, some old man who kept trying to see into her shower … Joseph listened to her talk about birth control and wondered what it would be like to kiss her.

The man behind the counter yelled. “Five-piece basket with rice!”

Joseph adjusted his glasses like they’d bring his fantasy of Wayrellis into better focus. His mouth was dry.

“Five-piece!” the counterman yelled.

Amanda elbowed Joseph hard in the side. “That’s ours. Get it.”

Amanda’s bony elbow took Joseph out of his daydream. He pulled the hem of his sweatshirt down to cover the front of his pants and went to the counter.

“Ten dollars, fifty-seven cents,” the counterman said. He owned the place, but his name was not Freddy. His accent was thick with the Middle East.

Joseph pulled a bill out of his pocket and looked at it. “How much?”

“Ten fifty-seven.”

Joseph turned back to the girls. “Do you have fifty-seven cents?”

Amanda shook her head. Wayrellis was watching a video on Amanda’s smartphone and acted like she hadn’t heard him.

The side order of dirty rice had put him over budget. Part of him was relieved. His mom would freak if he spent all his money the day after he got it. Two weeks of helping Old Lady Rousseau with her groceries and cats gone in one afternoon? No way.

Another part of him squirmed at the idea of bringing the basket of chicken back to the table without rice. Amanda would jump all over him about it. She would call him cheap. Wayrellis wouldn’t say anything, but he would feel her judging him. A boy, not a man.

Not worthy of being in the same thought as her condom.

Joseph glanced around the tiny room for inspiration. Six uncomfortable booths and a bar near the window. Two men at the bar coughed to each other in Arabic. The older man had scars on his face. The younger man had a battered Razer scooter leaning against his knees like a puppy. In the corner booth a skinny white guy with short hair and pimples looked at his phone and nodded at whatever the chunky Hispanic girl across from him was saying as she dug in her purse to pay the bill.

Joseph’s father hadn’t stuck around long enough to tell him how a man should handle being fifty-seven cents short. Should he make a scene? Beg? Yell? Run away? Ask the Spanish girl for a loan? Call the counterman a towel head and tell him his food was no good?

His mother would tell him to be honest. Joseph showed the counterman the $10 bill Old Lady Rosseau had given him that afternoon. “I can’t get the rice.”

The counterman peered over Joseph’s shoulder to where the girls awaited their meal. He winked. “No problem. I give it to you for ten.”

Joseph carried the basket of chicken, the box of rice, and a handful of plastic flatware back to the table. He felt a little taller with the meal in his hands. He was a provider. A hard worker. A good prospect.

Amanda pointed to the center of the table. “Put it here.” Neither girl looked away from the smartphone screen. Joseph slid back into the booth next to Amanda. She was leaning across the table so Wayrellis could see the video. Wayrellis met her halfway, breasts pushing against the orange Formica top.

The girls talked about the video as they ate the chicken. Joseph entertained himself by recalling a dream. It was really more of a fantasy, and he used it to put himself to sleep almost every night. In it, the two girls had been taken hostage by a gang and tied naked to poles inside their warehouse. The fantasy Joseph swung down from the rafters to rescue them, cutting the ropes with a single swipe of the big knife he held in his hand. The fantasy always ended the same way. He defeated the gang then, riddled with bullets, slumped to the floor. Amanda tended his wounds while Wayrellis kissed him and cushioned his head with her breasts.

“I got to get home,” Amanda said when the chicken was gone. Joseph blinked. She hadn’t touched the rice, and Wayrellis had only eaten a couple of forkfuls. Joseph could have devoured it all, but he didn’t want Amanda to call him “Doughy Joey” again. He carried the paper and plastic to the garbage while the girls used their smartphones some more.

Amanda’s building was the closest so they dropped her off first. Joseph and Wayrellis walked another block to their development. They lived in different buildings but close enough to see each other’s windows. Joseph was not sure Wayrellis knew that, though.

“You going up?” she said.

“I told Moms I’d be home before eight.”

“Okay.” She poked at her phone, dismissing him.

In the glow of the phone’s screen Wayrellis looked like an angel, or an elf, some fey creature far beyond Joseph’s ken, but one he ached to know. What would a man do? He looked around, but there wasn’t one in sight. Joseph’s head swarmed with cool-guy lines from the action movies he liked. “Hey,” he said.


There was nothing impressive about him, he decided. He wasn’t cool. Never would be. “Nothing.” Joseph slumped. “Just have a good night.”

She smiled at him, meeting his eyes for what felt like the first time, and kissed him on the cheek.

It was a quick peck, nearly missing his skin, but Joseph nearly exploded. He forgot how to work his mouth.

“You, too.” Wayrellis blushed. “See you in school.”