Zita Pita

Contributor: Carly Berg

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I wasn’t allowed in my friend Journey’s house because my parents thought the Hoolihans
were trash. They had six kids, and two of their girls had kids of their own. They all crammed into an old rent house. Her parents were always drunk and out of everything they needed. It was the
funnest place in the world, though.
Dad said, “An orchid will not bloom in a garbage dump, Susan.” Mom said, “What the hell is wrong with you? Do you want people to think you’re a tramp?” Even Miss. Selena, our maid, tsk-tsked at me.
To other people my mom was tinkly and gay and we laughed
ourselves sick listening to her on the phone. “She is tinkling!” I tittered. “She is gay!” Journey screeched. Well, that made me a little mad,
that’s my mother.
Miss Zita closed her window when we stopped at her magazine stand after school, ever since I talked Journey into showing Miss Zita her new red bra.
Journey accidentally pulled her bra up too, and showed her boobettes. Miss Zita turned bright purple. She said, “You are not-a nice girls!” and slammed her window shut.
We made prank calls there before that. I did “Is your refrigerator running?” and Journey did “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?” And then I called again and said “bitch,” and hung up. Journey said “fuck you,” on her turn. But after Miss Zita started shutting her window, we
got in deeper.
The first time, we looked through a Penthouse magazine. The grown men’s things made me queasy. But later Journey’s sister said don’t worry. Penthouse didn’t photograph normal men, only Guinness World Record holders.
The next time, we swiped Chiclets, a pack each. We ran all the way to Journey’s house and didn’t go back to Miss Zita’s for a while.
We had more things planned, which we wrote up on a chart and signed. I didn’t think we’d really nick the bottle of T.J. Swan (“for the night people” the commercial said). You couldn’t just get a whole bottle of wine out of the cooler and walk down the street with it. Cigarettes would be hard to take, too because they were kept behind the counter.


I picked out a Mad Magazine, a Coke and cheese popcorn.
“Can I bum a quarter?” Journey already had the Lick-a-Stick in her hand. The big pack with three different flavors, even.
She mooched too much. “You have to tell Miss Zita, ‘Zita pita, smell my feeta.’”
Journey smiled, all on one side of her mouth. Once I told her she smiled like a Mafia guy, which made her happy. She banged on the glass and shouted “Miss Zita pita. kiss my feeta. Open your window this instant, or you’ll be sorry.”
Meanness filled the area.
The window slid open. Journey, charged up from talking smart, snatched the two dollars out of my hand and flung them at Miss Zita. She said, “You get off your rectum and get me my change.”
Miss Zita seemed small. She collected the bills, keyed our stuff into the register, and handed Journey the change with shaky hands.
I picked up the bag. “Come on, Journey. That’s enough.”
Journey spit on the sidewalk. She walked with her fist on her hip like she was big stuff because she had scared an adult.
“You didn’t do it right,” I said. “You were supposed to say ‘smell’ my feet. You said ‘kiss’ my feet.”
“So? You didn’t say anything at all.”
“I could have. I’m not afraid.”
“Well?” she said, “Do it, then.”
My throat went dry. “This Coke isn’t cold. When I pay twenty-five cents for a bottle of soda, I expect the goddamned thing to be cold!” I said. “I’ll handle this.”
I rapped on the window three times, sharp.
Journey yelled, “Zita pita, you open the window this instant.”
“Open it!” A little crazed, I knocked with the glass Coke bottle, and didn’t notice when Miss Zita slid the window open.
Her nose gushed blood. Blood stained her blouse.
We ran.


Ms. Selena had just served the pork tenderloin and left out the back when the doorbell rang. My dad muttered something about having to get the damn door himself and put down the wine he was pouring.
He came back and motioned me to follow him to the foyer, where a policeman waited.
“Susan, were you at Miss Zita’s today with Journey Hoolihan?”
The walls swayed. “Um, yeah.”
My father nudged me. “That’s ‘yes, sir,” he said.
“Yes, sir.”
“I’ve just been to the hospital. Miss Zita was assaulted with a bottle. Her nose is broken.”
My mother said, “She hit that old woman in the face? With a bottle? Officer, I have told this child repeatedly those people were trouble.” She gazed out the window. The police car was parked in front of the house for the entire neighborhood to see.
My father said, “Susan will not have any further contact with the Hoolihan girl.”
“She is being held at juvenile hall anyway, sir. I expect she’ll be staying for a while. You’re a lucky girl, Susan, to have parents who care.”
“Yes, sir.”
My mom watched the cruiser pull away from the curb, her hand over her mouth.
Dinner was quiet except for the clinking of silver on china.

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Carly Berg's always behaves when out in public. Her stories appear in several dozen journals, including PANK, Word Riot, and Bartleby Snopes, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well. She is currently at work on a book of flash stories.
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