hobart logo
Pretty Rachel photo


Rachel’s mother thinks her daughter’s pretty. Rach, you’re pretty, she says. Pretty enough to go to a casting call for teen models. Don’t mess this up, kay? 


Yesterday, The Coffee Cart Guy on 38th and 6th had sex with Rachel on the floor of his metal breakfast cart. 

I like you. You’re pretty, he said. Then gave her a cheese danish. 

The raspberry ones are better, she said, feeling very good about her flirt. 

Rachel was late for school. It was worth it. She was electrified. Rachel hoped everyone would find out about her and The Coffee Cart Guy. Speculate in the locker room. Pass notes in Algebra II. She’d spread the rumor herself if need be. 


Today she’s back at the cart with a question. Will you buy me and my friends Strawberry Kiwi Boones?

Their spark is gone.  

Even though she’d slept in a braid and had her hair down and wavy. 

Even though she’d shaved her legs using her father’s Barbasol.  

Even though The Coffee Cart Guy had said, I like you. You’re pretty.

I’m not buying you shit, he says, and he means it. 

You’re a pervert, she says. 

You’re just a stupid kid. 

You smell.  

And so it went. 


Women in suits need his coffee to start their days. Men with side parts nod when he says, The usual? Everybody wants a piece of him and his pastries. 


Yesterday after the coffee cart sex, she found the corner of a broken croissant in the pocket of her khaki school uniform’s skirt. A pleated one that makes her feel like cursing for no good reason. The corner must have slipped down her collar and into the tuck of her polo, then into her pocket during all the excitement. 


Today, the croissant’s dry end sits in her jacket’s pocket. It’s brown and firm and reminds Rachel of a baby’s nose. 

You need to leave, he says, since he hates her. 

You need to buy me and my friends alcohol. 

I’m going to call the cops on you, kid. 

The Coffee Cart Guy offers Rachel a brown paper bag filled with greasy pastries he can’t sell—They’re damaged, he says. 

He waves goodbye to Rachel the way you might signal, Thanks, to a driver who let you cross the street. 

Go. Get. Get, he says. Rachel’s a pigeon. 


Unlike yesterday when she was late but electric, today, Rachel walks into school on time and hungry. 

She eats the broken pastries from the brown paper bag. And the lunch her mother packed. And the hot lunch. And the Kudos bar Jennifer Donadio doesn’t want. 

After school, she walks home and eats the contents of the refrigerator while her parents are at work. 

All month it goes like this with the food. She doesn’t return to the coffee cart. 


And then, at last, it’s the night before the casting call for teen models. 

Rachel and her mother have a spa day to prepare. Rachel’s mother puts on a robe. Rachel doesn’t have one, so she wears her only matching pajamas. Thin flannel ones with Santa Clauses in Hawaiian shirts. 

Rachel’s mother paints their toes marmalade orange. They massage each other’s temples with coconut oil. They don’t have cucumbers, so they put chilled spoons from the freezer over their lids. That’s genius, her mother says, and Rachel feels pathetic. 

While her mother bathes, as part of the spa day, Rachel eats and eats and eats. Scraping the best part, the bottom, of a casserole dish. Picking all the crusty parts off the sides with her fingers. When she’s done, Rachel rubs her belly like she’s a cartoon character who’s enjoyed a feast. 

Then Rachel's mother emerges from the bathroom. She boils a giant pot of water—first thing. Come here. Put your head down. Breathe in and out through your nose, her mother says. Keep your mouth closed so you don’t choke on the steam, kay? 

Rachel’s neck pushes against the hot edge of the pot. The one her mother makes her famous kneidlach in. The one Rachel’s father uses for the turkey chili he thinks is healthy. 

Rachel has bangs. Her mother pushes them back with one hand and uses a washcloth to wipe her daughter’s face with the other. Rachel can’t hear what her mother is saying. The fan is on over the stove. 

Rachel’s mother puts a little pressure on the back of her daughter’s head. Pushing it lower. She uses the hand that had been holding Rachel’s hair—her daughter’s head goes down. Down. Down. Lower. 

Rachel’s bangs are soaked from the steam; they hang in her eyes. They’ve grown while wet, as hair does.  

A little more. Rachel is dizzy from the heat. Her chin hits the water. Her bottom lip. The tip of her nose.  

Rachel jerks out of her mother’s hold, and when she opens her eyes, she sees that her marmalade toes have smeared. 


The next morning her mother is sorry about the totally demented spa day. You know how we get sometimes, she says. You’re glowing!


The casting call for teen models has a long and mostly average-looking line. Rachel puts her hand in her jacket’s pocket to play with the baby’s nose, still there dying. 

Three women sit at a gray folding table. The first is The Check-In. She looks like a marsupial with her long face, long nose, eyes the color of pancakes. She wraps her legs around themselves more times than normal. Write your name here. The Check-In points to the sign-in sheet. She passes Rachel to the second woman. This woman is the most important—The Nod. 

I like you. You’re pretty. But you need to lose twenty pounds, The Nod says. Rachel does not make it to the third agent. 

Rachel messed up, and her mother said not to, kay? But she feels pretty. She’s ready to spread a rumor. Maybe she’ll call the cops. She doesn’t know about all that, but maybe. She could really go for some Strawberry Kiwi Boones. 

She takes her hand out from her jacket’s pocket. Smearing the last bits of the baby’s nose on the gray folding table, Rachel says to the casting agents, You’re ugly and goes the heck home.