Goals for Growth

Sophie Madeline Dess
 “Quaint” classroom with happy pupils, from a 1923 advertisement for Crisco

Benji’s Goals For Growth – Poker Elementary – Mrs. Applebottom’s Class

Mrs. Applebottom says that Timmy and Tommy and I need to write out longhand our Goals for Growth. She says we’ve been giving her grief and there’s been lots of misbehavior and we need to cut it out and tell her how we’re gonna go about growing the heck up. And you know that’s everyone’s greatest concern for me. Everyone’s so whispery about it – oh, he’s growing, he’s growing up so fast. But let me assure you, Mrs. Applebottom, I am not. I am not growing. I can tell you my goals, easy, because by the end of my life I will have stayed pretty much exactly the same.

Right now at age nine I’m dating Bunny, she’s a seven. By the time I’m fifteen I’m gonna be dating a massive ten, and I’m gonna be saying extremely powerful things in conversation. They’re going to be amazing things that will stunt you. At a party I will talk with such power and clarity that everyone’s gonna be like “That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about talking about things!” I will be charming and admired with chic, niche interests. I will find out what Social Grace is. That it’s when you look at someone and you make them think: I am unforgettable. I will make everyone feel this way. Really it is I who will not be forgotten. And because I will not be forgotten, I owe it to the people who will never forget me to never change! If you’re starting to see what I’m saying.

I know, of course, that all this current baby-boy horsing around with Timmy and Tommy will have to come to an end. But I know that they’ll stay with me as my buddies. And that in my mid-twenties they will come with me on this long trip to Spain because we’re gonna deserve it. We’re gonna leave our girlfriends – nines and tens – at home. And one night in Madrid I’m gonna get drunk at a disco. I’m gonna be dancing. I’m gonna be lifting my hands over my head and moving. And I’m going to see this beautiful Spanish man, he’s going to be moving in kind of the same way as me. With his hands over his head, and his neck kind of tilted back, and he’s going to look like he wants to dance with me. So I’m going to say… why not? And I’m going to move closer to him, and he’s gonna move closer to me, and I’m gonna keep thinking I guess I’m gonna do this. I guess I’m gonna dance with this man. This is life. He’s alive and I’m alive. My life can change now. And then, at the last moment, I’m gonna realize it’s a mirror, and I was only dancing toward myself. And so I’ll stop. I’ll laugh so hard I’ll fall down. It’ll all be so funny. I’ll fall down and Timmy and Tommy will come and lift me off the floor. We’ll all be laughing. But I’ll be irritable. Because I’ll feel I missed out on the man.

But it won’t change me, and I’ll marry soon after that.

GOD this marriage! Mrs. Applebottom, I’m gonna fall in love so good. Like how I did it at recess with Bunny. My future wife and I are going to be sitting in a field and the sun will be setting and I’ll be saying, don’t worry, all I see is your face, closing in on me. Then I’m gonna be fifty and by then my wife’s gonna be a smoker and she’s gonna be extremely absent and prestigious. I’ll be in the kitchen and she’s gonna be sitting out in the car, smoking, ashing out the window, really curly rusty hair, which quivers around her head with that proverbial mind of its own, which I much prefer to her mind, because of course by then I’m going to hate her as a reflection of my relationship with myself. And one day, nine years into our marriage, I’m going to come home and she’s going to ask me for a divorce.

And I’m gonna say: “Why?”

And she’s gonna say: “You just… you take me too seriously.”

And I’m gonna say: “Well, how else should I be taking you?”

And she’s gonna be like: “BY THE HIPS, Benji, BY THE FUCKING HIPS! Life’s too short. Just fucking fuck me hard or some shit. You bitch. Just make me quiver just like slam me or whatever.”

Silence, then, will reign.

I’m gonna look at my wife. I’m gonna sense how much she loved calling me a bitch. How she probably rehearsed it in her head. How all day she paced around our closet in her beautiful bare feet and thought: Tonight I’m gonna call him a bitch, I’m gonna say it out loud. I’m gonna do it.

With her grand performance in mind, with her request for brutality, her clarion call for conquest, I’ll at last lay her down, and fuck her very, very softly. Gentle enough to kill. Slowly, softly, like we’re fucking nothing. As I thicken up inside her I will feel her drain away from me. All of her, gone. The last of not only her good will, but all of it.

When I finish I will hold her by the hips and lick my spill off of her. In retrospect it will embarrass me that I’ve done this, but in the moment I’m going to hope it scratches some inner itch for feeling. As I taste the sticky I’ll think back to Bunny and how I love what they like to call her nervous ‘accidents.’ I’ll think back to the dancefloor, too, to the man I missed out on, who was only ever myself, anyway.

But these thoughts will not change me. They will not even bat my eye.

Which is what I’m trying to say to you, Mrs. Applebottom! Yes, I’m turning ten. Yes I’m aging. But no, no goals for growth, I don’t need them, do you see? I’m here already!


Sophie Madeline Dess

Sophie Madeline Dess is a writer and critic living in New York City. Her first novel, Dead Center, is forthcoming from Penguin Press.

Sophie's Articles on KGB LitMag

Sophie Madeline Dess