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There’s a girl in my neighborhood that everyone calls ‘nodding girl.’ It’s probably because she nods and, well, not much else. I’ve never seen her eat or sleep or anything, really. She just stands at the end of Holcomb Street and nods.

There’s another kid in my neighborhood, Dallas Turner, who picks on nodding girl. He’s a fairly standard bully-type—moosey frame and bruises from fighting and a face like a mean potato—and he is a bully, but he gives nodding girl a lot of attention. I try to avoid it, but where she stands, at the end of Holcomb Street, happens to be where the school bus stops. So I hear a lot of this:

“Hey nodding girl, are you a rug-muncher?”


“Hah! I knew it! So- so your girlfriend—is she like a big bull-dy[rude word]?”


Not the sharpest bulb in the idiot-shed, but he must believe the rumor; whatever nodding girl nods about is true.

I do too.

I stayed back as Dallas thumbed his bag and boarded the bus.

“Hey, nodding girl, are you…okay?”


“You reckon kids like Dallas will ever leave kids like us alone?”



“Connor, get your butt on the bus and stop bothering that thing!” the bus driver yelled.

I picked up my backpack and turned toward the bus, but I swear as I started up the stairs, I heard a whisper from behind me.


On the bus, Dallas made fun of me for drawing. He called me an ‘art class queer,’ which didn’t sting as much as some of the words he used. David Wallins, one of Dallas’ goons, sneered at me from the seat next to him. Only, I knew a secret about David that made that sneer feel even meaner. It was his secret and I wasn’t gonna tell it, but I’d seen David kissing another boy once at the coffee shop. Didn’t seem right for him to make fun.

My ‘gay art’ became a topic of derision at lunch. Dallas said that I had drawn an ‘Avengers orgy’ on the bus, but left out Black Widow. The table laughed. I tried to make myself small. But the laughter followed me home.

Dallas pushed me after I got off the bus, called me a name you could rhyme with maggot, and as he walked off, I asked nodding girl a question.



I watched her a bit before bed, nodding in the dark. Then around 2:00am, I was awoken by my mom. I could see police lights outside my window. My mom looked pale.

“Honey, something happened…at the Turner house.”

“Dallas?” I asked.

“No honey, his dad—Mark..”

The next day, nodding girl was nodding, but on her hand there was a faint red stain. Dallas was absent from class. He was out for weeks. But the next time I saw him, he didn’t have any bruises. He was in the park, lying on a blanket. Holding David in his arms. Smiling as he nodded off.

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