moooooooooom........ something kinda bad happened at my senior prom.......
by Lizzie Frank, 3.24am Sept 10th 2021
What happened at prom was fucked up. I was only involved insofar that I was there, but so was basically everybody. I missed the boat on getting a date, so I went with some of my boys from the team. I wasn’t thinking about Parsley Marton and her wire hair and buck teeth. If nothing had happened that night, I would have finished up spring at Bear Creek High School, swung a killer senior batting average, and then gone on to college without ever sparing Parsley Marton another passing thought.
She went to prom in this gorgeous lime green dress—but who cares? Tons of girls went to prom in pretty dresses. I wasn’t paying attention until she asked someone to dance.
Everyone assumes he went to the dance floor with her because he felt bad or because he couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough. I have no way of knowing for sure, but some nights I wonder if he said yes because of the way she asked him. Maybe her voice was really soft, almost guilty? Maybe she said it like she already knew he’d say no. Or maybe he just couldn’t think of anything to say besides “sure, okay.”
I remember they were dancing, kind of on the edge of the teen mass. His eyes kept darting to the round cafeteria tables rolled into the gymnasium, where his friends were scratching block letters into the cheap plastic tablecloth, thinner and more tearable than a condom. He kept inching away from the dance crowd and toward the end of the checkerboard mat. Parsley kept her hands on the shoulders of his Macy’s suit jacket and let him lead, one inch at a time, toward his friends.
I mean, really—can you blame him? A guy only has one senior prom. If you’re not one of the lucky ones with a date, you just want to dance the night away with your boys, write on the bathroom stalls, maybe break into classrooms and leave surprises for teachers you hate. It’s what I would have been doing that night, elsewhere on the basketball courts; competing to see who could grab the basketball rim and which losers could only reach the net.
I think about Parsley a lot. When you hear a scream like that, even if it comes to you through a vaulted gymnasium ceiling, even when it comes over Today’s Hits Radio, even over the exhausted motor of the light up disco ball, it doesn’t leave you quickly. I think about Parsley, and that scream, most nights when I’m making dinner. Biking to and from work. Trying to pay attention to some video my aunt sent me on facebook. Her scream sits in my head as a constant current of sound.
Here are the types of things I ask myself when I’m listening to that scream: Could I have done anything? By then, was there anything I could have done?
What could I have done, and I mean from the beginning, I mean 5 years old. We went to school together since kindergarten, you know. Field trips to the dinosaur museum and library reading time and trading snacks under the cafeteria tables when the teachers weren’t looking, peach fruit cups and mini chocolate chip granola bars and oreo 2 packs.
I didn’t run—Not everybody ran, you know, tons of people just stood and watched, people other than me.
Standing there, feet frozen to the sticky court floor like the janitor had mopped with a big bucket of Elmer’s, I felt bad for Parsley. I felt bad for the guy too, because it really didn’t seem like he did anything wrong. He danced with a girl who asked him to dance.
The dude didn’t scream. I thought it was brave of him not to scream, but since then I’ve heard other people say he went into a state of catatonic shock. After all, it’s not like he went to prom that night expecting to see his arm hanging off by a flap of skin and a few exposed rubber-band muscles in his forearm.
This next part I remember very clearly. Afterwards everybody told me I was crazy, but I was closer than anybody else. I was standing right there. I know what I saw.
She looked down at me, and her face was grey-white like polluted snow. Either side of her face was stretched thin. Electric blue spiderweb veins pushed the skin, pulsing like they were trying to break through. She saw me, and she smiled at me, almost like she was sorry, and here’s where no one believes me, not the school, not the police, not my parents—She didn’t have any teeth.
In the pictures her parents took before prom, Parsley had teeth. The photographer didn’t happen to catch any photos of Parsley at prom, but her dance partner saw she had teeth when she asked him to dance. So that’s what I want to know: Where’d her teeth go?
Well I’ll tell you where her teeth went, even though I was the only one close enough to see and now everyone thinks I’m being a freak for attention. But it’s real, and I swore it in court and then got laughed off.
He was standing too close to her, so he didn’t see it fast enough. He heard it, though. I bet he heard the sound of fabric tearing and just had time to wonder what that sound was before it bit into him.
When he fell, I saw it: a rip in the glossy fabric of the dress across Parsley’s ribcage. The whole front of her gown was smeared with blood, some parts pulpish and black, the consistency of ripped up jellyfish and the color of octopus ink.
Her skin was peeled back and the bones inside were broken and slanted, ribs twisted into a jagged, snapping jaw. Her teeth were lined up between shards of bone, sharp and damaging and with the bite force of a crocodile.
You spend your whole life thinking you live in one type of world, and then in an instant, in the amount of time it takes for a mouth to bite, you find out you were all wrong. And then in two days—that’s how long they kept him in the hospital, you know, just two days, I mean he was ripped into by a girl’s ribcage and they didn’t even keep him to see if he was poisoned, if the teeth were contaminated or possibly contagious. Did the doctors know more than he did? At the time, everyone seemed to know more than he did.
The hospital released him, his mom was silent the whole ride home like he was the one who did something wrong, he had to go back to school the next Monday even though he couldn’t play his senior season because he couldn’t swing a bat.
And what did he do after he graduated, huh? Someone should call the guy and ask him, because I sure as hell don’t know. Parsley got into MIT and Johns Hopkins plus about a hundred safeties. She didn’t go, of course. She never walked out of our high school gym. She bled out in there, looking right at me. I was staring at those teeth, while her blood and mine mixed on the checkerboard mat.
People still discuss the Parsley Marton case, on internet threads and referenced in conventions and written about in books by independent publishers. And this guy? The nobody she asked to dance? No one even knows his name. Under 18. Parents kept it out of the press.
It wouldn’t be too hard if someone wanted to find out. Somebody who was at prom would know. Someone would remember. Maybe. Can’t say for sure, though. People don’t seem to remember much around here.
I can’t help but wonder why she chose him that night. In the week before prom, he gave her a ride home after practice. I don’t know how any of the other guys could have driven by her, with her sneakers in the gutter and her arms hugged around her backpack. I wouldn’t have been able to leave her there, if I’d been him. I would have offered her a ride. If I could do it again, I would have offered her that ride.
I stay up at night trying to imagine the conversation. What, if anything, had they talked about? Was he mean to her? Exceptionally rude? I told you about her buck teeth, right, and her plastic backpack. Could she have wanted to dance with him because he’d been nice to her that car ride, maybe even unknowingly? Who knows. He doesn’t remember, no matter how much he tries. Like I said, people forget things. People especially forget important things.
I found out after that night that she was in four of my classes. I had only realized she was in one. Could he have interacted with her and not even known it? Unsure. He can’t ask her anymore.
Whoever that dumb guy was, I bet he regrets it all now. I bet he sits on the floor of his bedroom and replays every bad thing he’s ever done in his life. I bet he thinks about Parsley Marton and those snapping teeth all the time. He leans out the bathroom window smoking cigarettes. Tries to ignore a fresh pain in his arm. He watches red-headed woodpeckers consume fallen trees in the corner of the yard. I bet he wishes he could be consumed, too.
Wherever he is.