Caleb True


     Andy was such a fascinating sort of attraction. Enigmatic. No boys knew her, almost no girls. Andy did have one friend who, after proving her authenticity as a friend and not just a snoop for the rest of us, learned that Andy made her own jewelry, electric jewelry, rewired Christmas lights run off a 9-volt battery she kept in her pocket. Andy would wear the jewelry to raves. She would dance and dance and deal drugs and dance some more. Did she have boyfriends from the raves? we asked the snoop. The snoop shook her head. She doesn’t have boyfriends, she said. She has a lot of money. Does she get with guys? we asked. I said she doesn’t have boyfriends, repeated the snoop. We backed off. The snoop was all we had.
     One day the snoop told us: Andy’s father is the chief of police. A drugs and gangs cop. That is how she deals dope, said the snoop. She knows when and where before shit goes down.  She listens up at the dinner table, explained the snoop. She learns how close or how far her old man is. Andy must be a loner because we were all children and she was an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur has no use for children. We pictured Andy with an older man, a guy with loads of money and a beard. We were still twiddling our dicks and talking about getting laid while Andy was out there making exponential money.
     Andy dropped out of school her senior year. She got her GED, said the snoop.
     Did you have any idea? we asked the snoop.
     Not until she showed me the degree, said the snoop. Well, amended the snoop, not until I saw the degree lying on her bed, and asked her about it.
     And what did she say? we asked.
     She said, ‘I got my GED.’
     We left for college, all of us. None of us dared stay a townie. We had our little crushes in college, but they were all Andy. How would she dance at a rave? we wondered. How would she dress for class? How would she orgasm? Most elegantly, we figured, most elegantly.
     What is Andy up to? we’d ask the snoop.
     All quiet on the western front, said the snoop.
     Have you talked to her recently? we asked.
     Not since Christmas, said the snoop. She doesn’t return my calls.
     Send her a text, we said. Send her an email, we said. Send her a snail mail.
     One evening, doing homework in our dormitory, we got a message from the snoop. Andy’s joining Peace Corps, said the message.
     Why would she do that? we wrote. Doesn’t she have all the money in the world? Where is she going? Is it dangerous? How will she rave?
     The snoop responded, I don’t know. I have no idea. I just don’t know.
     A month later the snoop announced: Andy’s flown to the East Coast for training. A few weeks after that, the snoop said she was driving down to see Andy in Philly. We waited in anticipation. As the dates ticked by, we pelted the snoop with inquiries. Eventually she responded: Andy’s looking good. Tired but happy.
     We asked the snoop more about Peace Corps. The snoop knew nothing.
     What did you two talk about in Philly?
     We didn’t talk much, said the snoop. We went raving. She dealt drugs.
     We asked, Is she doing a lot of drugs?
     No, said the snoop.
     We asked, Did you sleep in the same bed with her?
     Yes, said the snoop.
     We liked that. Does she say hi? we asked.
     She does not, said the snoop.
     Thereafter intel got spotty. She’s been assigned, said the snoop one night, many weeks later.
     Where is she going? we asked with half a heart.
     Morocco, said the snoop.
     What’s she doing there? we asked.
     Health outreach, said the snoop.
     Then came summer vacation. We traveled home and were together again, us and the snoop. We could feel Andy’s absence.
So far away…
     The Peace Corps…
     Reaching out health…
     Do you talk to her? we asked.
     We Skype, said the snoop.
     When you Skype, we said, can we watch?
     The snoop frowned. How could it work?
     We had to think a minute. Out of the camera frame, we said. We’ll hide in the closet!
     We went to the snoop’s house and waited for the Skype sound. We bustled into the closet, leaving a crack through which to peer. And there she was, pixellated, nodding her head a little bit. Clad in wool things. Is it cold there? asked the snoop.
     Yeah, it’s cold, said Andy. Despite the computer’s weak speakers, her voice was still the soft water of a cutbank creek. We melted in the closet.
     So what’s health outreach? asked the snoop.
     I pass out condoms, said Andy.
     Condoms, condoms! we whispered.
     You pass out condoms all day? said the snoop.
     No, no, said Andy. A couple hours a week tops. I watch TV shows all day, downloaded from the internet.
     Oh, said the snoop.
     We were titillated by the mischief of piracy.
     What are you watching? asked the snoop.
     I am in the middle of Breaking Bad, said Andy. I just finished The Wire.
     The Wire, The Wire! we whispered.
     The snoop asked if Andy was doing any dancing, or dealing any drugs.
     No dancing, said Andy. No drugs.
     This saddened us. Then Andy started asking the snoop questions. We were irritated with the snoop’s enthusiasm for talking. Her pet turtle. Her internship. Of course Andy was listening politely on the other side of the world. We were awed by her patience.
     A few weeks later the snoop had some new news. She’s gone dancing, said the snoop. She’s dealt some drugs!
     What? we said, excited.
     Yes, said the snoop. Andy told me in code. She doesn’t trust Skype.
     Of course she doesn’t trust Skype, we said. So tell us!
     She got a source for hash, said the snoop. She met the source at a club for dancing.
     One does follow the other, we said knowingly.
     Andy went back to the club for dancing, did the deal in the parking lot, and sold half the hash in the city before traveling back to her site in the Atlas Mountains.
     Andy, the unstoppable entrepreneur!
     Our pride welled.
     The snoop’s next two updates were more of the same: the club for dancing, the hash. Smooth. Steady.
     Then the snoop phoned us up. Andy, said the snoop, has tried some branching out.
     Branching out? we said.
     Branching out, said the snoop. She traveled to Fes to see the Peace Corps doctor.
     Oh no! we said. Is she okay?
She is fine, said the snoop. And the snoop told us how Andy danced for three days straight at the club for dancing before walking into the Peace Corps medical office. The doctor took pity on Andy, our Andy, and prescribed her a bottle of drugs. Andy took the drugs back to the club that very night, and sold all the pills, bought more hash, and sold the hash in Midelt on her way back to her site in the Atlas Mountains.
     She cannot be stopped, we said in awe. She is unstoppable! 
     The snoop felt differently. She’d told Andy to be careful.
     Mind your own business, snoop! we admonished.
     It’s dangerous, said the snoop. Andy could get in trouble, said the snoop.
     It’s dangerous, we chanted. Andy could get in trou-ble!
     Shut up, said the snoop.
     Later the snoop told us Andy had repeated her trip to the doctor in Fes, but upon a third visit was denied drugs. Instead, the doctor recalled her from her site in the Atlas Mountains. Andy was to remain under the care of the medical staff in Fes until they determined she was fit to continue her duties.
     Continue her duties? we scoffed.
     It gets worse, said the snoop.
     Or better, we chimed. No one tells Andy what to do or when!
     She stole some pill bottles on her third day in Fes, did another hash deal, and high-tailed it back to the Atlas Mountains. Peace Corps has revoked her passport! said the snoop.
     Andy is off the grid! we hurrahed.
     And so she was. Our imaginations went wild with that news. That was about it until summer, when we went home again.
     We paid visits to a nervous and increasingly distraught snoop.
     The stream of intel diminished to a trickle, an aerogramme or two every month. Postmarked Meknes. Postmarked Ouezzane. Morocco’s not the best place to travel alone as a woman, worried the snoop.
     We exchanged glances, said nothing.
     Morocco’s not a good place to travel, period!
     Then came another coded aerogramme. The snoop called us up, told us. We descended on the snoop like ravens. Andy’s sold all her drugs, decoded the snoop as we stood around eager. She’s purchased a ferry ticket to Algiers.
     Algiers! Algiers!
The snoop continued: She’s hired overland passage to Ethiopia.
     We were mad with excitement. Andy, astride a dromedary. Andy, saddlebags full of hash, knapsack full of moolah. Wine-colored hair flowing beneath a keffiyeh.
     When the snoop looked up her eyes were full of concern. She saw our glee and wept.
     We went into high gear, applying to study abroad programs across Africa. We’d position ourselves for Andy. We’d house her while she oscillated between clubs for dancing, and drug deals, dressed in Arab men’s clothes, whirling like a dervish pills flying from her sleeves.
     Aerogrammes appeared in the snoop’s mailbox, postmarked in a jagged line across Africa, from Algiers to Mek’ele, then north to the Port of Sudan; from Qatar; from Shiraz, and back again, following the southern beach settlements of the Arabian peninsula to the Gulf of Aden. When Andy, in code, declared her intentions to follow Sir Richard F. Burton’s inaugural trek to Lake Tanganyika, and Hanning Speke’s to the true source of the White Nile, the snoop descended into madness. She balled up and hurled Andy’s latest aerogramme across the room. Stop contacting me! hollered the snoop. Stop it stop it!
That autumn we left for Africa. On the airplane we imagined we’d marry Andy. Have a huge ceremony. With all her drug money it was sure to be one hell of a rave-themed wedding.
     We sat in our African dormitory waiting. From time to time, when the internet was good, we’d Skype with the snoop, back in the states. The snoop wasn’t doing well. Draped in blankets, hair unbrushed. What news of Andy? we asked the snoop. With shaking hands the snoop would unfold the latest aerogramme.
     Show us the postmark! we’d demand, and the snoop would hold the aerogramme close to the screen. Ooh, ahh! we’d marvel. This one from Harar. That one from Kampala. Another from Lusaka. Making her way south. Tell her we’re here! we told the snoop.
     How? said the snoop.
     Post on the net!
     Anywhere, damn you!
     On the Skype screen the snoop shook her pixelated head. Choppy shaking.
     Make it look like her parents died, we suggest.
     We take matters into our own hands. No more middlesnoop.
     We drop messages. On the website for our high school reunion; on some African travel blogs dug up by the snoop, blogs allegedly checked with some regularity by Andy.
     Pfft, we say. She writes the book on African travel. She writes the book, period. In a fit of ingenuity, we hack into Andy’s father’s email account and send a message right to the source. I’m dead! we write.
     We make contact. Over the phone: How many from our school have ever even been to Africa? we say. How unlikely, how felicitous that we should all be here at the same time!
      I don’t remember you, says Andy.
     No matter, we say.
     I’m very far away, says Andy. Many miles.
     No matter, we say.
     I’m broke, says Andy. I’m ill, says Andy. I’m wanted.
     Yes, we say. That you are.
     One night, a few weeks later, Andy shows up. We’re on our way home from an international party, a thing set up by our program. Mostly Japanese and Taiwanese and German and Korean students. And us. Lots and lots of drinking and too much food. We’re not particularly drunk. Turning the corner we notice a form rise from our dormitory porch, a billowing form. Hair glinting under a cowl. Great long wizard’s sleeves. One sleeve raises, and the sleeve slips down revealing an arm.
     On the bed in the room. We offer hot tea. She accepts. She brings forth a pipe and some hash. She offers it. We decline. She smokes and we watch her. While she is in the bathroom we go through her knapsack. It is full of pill bottles and electric jewelry. A handgun. Aerogrammes. Stacks and stacks of various Francs, Dirhams and Dinars. More hash. A box of tampons. A box of condoms. A box of bullets. She comes back into the room. We want to love you, we tell her.
     Andy tells us to settle. She gets in bed. We sleep, we dream. We want to love you, we whisper in our sleep. The image of Andy so close to us, in the moment just before we awake.
     Sunrise. Andy taps us on the shoulder. We make love to her. All of us, up on the bed; all of us, down on the floor. Us kneeling, her standing. Her kneeling, us standing. We whisper as we kiss her hard-traveled body…You have stories we want them…You have secrets we want them…We go all day and night in shifts. She goes and goes, ducking into the bathroom to pee, into the kitchen from time to time for a St. Louis Lager, to the roof for a cigarette. We like to watch her walk naked, ass cheeks jiggling, feet slapping the concrete floor. We are mindful. The image of Andy, a part of us, in the moment of postcoital glow.
     Andy withdraws a blank aerogramme from her knapsack and sits at the kitchen table with a pencil. We take it away. You mustn’t, we say. You mustn’t bother the snoop.
     Andy stands, goes to the pantry for a milk biscuit. She leans on the counter, nibbling, doing this queer thing with her free hand, running the tips of her fingers across her clavicle.
     Are you in pain? we ask from the bathroom, lighting the aerogramme with a match.
     No, she says.
     We go to the bedroom and lie down cross-wise so we can watch Andy from the bed. She continues to nibble, to do the queer thing with her fingers. We appreciate the queerness. The image of Andy in contrapposto, in the moment of our repose.
     The next morning Andy says she must go into town. Business, she says.
     Ah, aha, we nod. Of course.
     We watch her walk the dusty avenue, turn the corner. We relish the moment. We anticipate: the image of Andy so close to us, at the moment of her return. We never see her again.

Caleb True’s fiction is in or forthcoming in The Sonora Review, Night Train, The Madison Review, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. He holds an MA in history and lives on the East Coast where he likes to run and cook. Find him online at