GREAT GIRLS • by Deborah Siegel

My mother said maybe it would help if I got blond streaks in my hair. I said I didn’t think it would make any goddamned difference but I went out and got my hair highlighted anyway. You’ve got a lot of hair, the stylist said. Shit, she said, I wish I had your hair.

But it didn’t make any goddamned difference.

On the fourth of July, Marcus and I wandered around Capitol Hill trying to find Reggie’s building so we could watch the fireworks from the top. We got a late start because Marcus couldn’t decide if he wanted to go or just sit around at Bug’s. At the last minute he decided we should go, but then we got confused by the whole Northeast/Southeast thing. We were lugging around a cooler of drinks and that slowed us down a bit. By the time we found Reggie’s building the fireworks had started, and it was too late. They were all up on the roof watching and the door was locked. We sat on the front steps and listened to the fireworks pop overhead. We drank beer from the cooler. We couldn’t see anything through the trees. The humidity in the air made my skin feel tacky all over. But just the day before Marcus told me that when I smiled, it was like I was giving him a present. So there was that, and the beer was cold.

Later that night we walked back to Marcus’s place. We were a few blocks from his house when he said, “I was thinking, you know, I’m 34 years old. The girls I knew 10 years ago, the really great girls, are all married now or living with someone and I’m thinking maybe I missed my chance, maybe I missed all of my chances to be with someone I could really connect with.”  He stopped walking, and turned to me. I figured he was going to break up with me.

“So, I was wondering if you wanted to marry me,” he said. He was looking down at his empty hands. Bug walked by and saw us standing there.

“What are you guys doing?” Bug asked. Marcus said he was asking me to marry him. And what did you say, Bug wanted to know. I told him I said no.

Then Marcus said, “Can I get you a cab?” I said sure. He flagged one down and I got in and said I was going to Alexandria. Marcus and Bug stood on the curb, peering in my window. Bug was eating a Snickers. The cab driver looked at them, then at me.

“Are they going to Virginia too?” he asked.

“Just me,” I said.

It amazed me how short the cab ride was from Mount Pleasant to Alexandria. I didn’t even have time to cry. On the metro it takes an hour but the cab ride wasn’t more than 10 minutes at that time of night. Before I knew it I was back in my apartment with my burgundy couch and broken window shade.

I gave my brother Jason a call. He invented a girlfriend, Nina, instead of going through the trouble of finding one. My mother loves Nina, although she’s never met her, and Jason doesn’t have any complaints about Nina either, so I thought he might have some advice about my situation. Jason suggested maybe I should try going out with someone who smokes a little less pot. Someone like that might be able to get somewhere on time and, in addition, not be an asshole, according to my brother.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I said. “You really got the brains in this family. Too bad you’re such a delusional little shit.”

“I may be delusional,” he said, “but at least I didn’t pay two hundred bucks to get stripes in my hair.”

I told him I got it highlighted. Foil highlights, is what they really are. And it cost me three hundred, not two hundred. It’s the American dream — the right to pay someone lots of money to make you look stupid. It means I’m a success, and Marcus is not, because he barely has enough money to get his hair cut, let alone colored or tipped or whatever. I picture him in his room in the attic, playing his bongo drums, the breeze blowing through the open window. He is enjoying the cool hum of the fan, the last cigarette before bed. He is thinking about all the girls he once knew, the really great girls.


Deborah N. Siegel is a writer and editor living in Alexandria, Virginia.


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Rate this story:
 average 4.5 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • joanna b.

    I liked this. A quiet little story that had power for me and no glitches in the writing. 5 stars.

  • joanna b.

    I liked this. A quiet little story that had power for me and no glitches in the writing. 5 stars.

  • I didn’t catch the ‘really great girls’ comment until it was restated at the end, to powerful effect.

    Although I felt the early paragraphs were a tad long, they did set the stage well, and added a somber mood for the rest of the story.

  • I didn’t catch the ‘really great girls’ comment until it was restated at the end, to powerful effect.

    Although I felt the early paragraphs were a tad long, they did set the stage well, and added a somber mood for the rest of the story.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great voice, great atmosphere, great characterisation.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great voice, great atmosphere, great characterisation.

  • All the really great girls have gone but you’ll just have to do! I thought this was a good story, well-told.

  • All the really great girls have gone but you’ll just have to do! I thought this was a good story, well-told.

  • S Conroy

    Loved it. A bit reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye. I figure the title would have been better as just ‘girls’ to give the ‘really great girls’ bigger impact at the end.

  • S Conroy

    Loved it. A bit reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye. I figure the title would have been better as just ‘girls’ to give the ‘really great girls’ bigger impact at the end.

  • MPmcgurty

    Fantastic voice. One issue: first paragraph, although very good, made me think he and she were much younger, so I was surprised at his age. Not enough to lessen my enjoyment. 5 stars.

  • MPmcgurty

    Fantastic voice. One issue: first paragraph, although very good, made me think he and she were much younger, so I was surprised at his age. Not enough to lessen my enjoyment. 5 stars.

  • Frank Schulaner

    Djuna Barnes said she almost gave up writing after she read Ulysses. Now I understand.

  • weequahic

    Djuna Barnes said she almost gave up writing after she read Ulysses. Now I understand.

  • Chris Antenen

    Thanks for a story I could read twice just because I liked it. I wish I knew a little more geography, because on the first read I thought she was going a long ways — maybe back to her hometown? There are so many stories about giving up and going home, so I apologize for anticipating the wrong thing. Really well done and I liked the title. 5 stars

  • Chris Antenen

    Thanks for a story I could read twice just because I liked it. I wish I knew a little more geography, because on the first read I thought she was going a long ways — maybe back to her hometown? There are so many stories about giving up and going home, so I apologize for anticipating the wrong thing. Really well done and I liked the title. I might even go farther and use ‘All the Great Girls’ 5 stars

  • Chris Antenen

    After reading your story, Deborah, I read Flash Fiction Chronicles: Character Development and Movement. Your story was a good example and I’d give you an A+.

  • Chris Antenen

    After reading your story, Deborah, I read Flash Fiction Chronicles: Character Development and Movement. Your story was a good example and I’d give you an A+.

  • Really enjoyed this… well written and deep in a subtle way.

  • Really enjoyed this… well written and deep in a subtle way.

  • Christina

    I have an affinity for this story because I live in the area that it takes place. Some of it was a little dry for my taste, but I still enjoyed it. Particularly the part where Marcus “proposes,” as well as the last paragraph.

  • Christina

    I have an affinity for this story because I live in the area that it takes place. Some of it was a little dry for my taste, but I still enjoyed it. Particularly the part where Marcus “proposes,” as well as the last paragraph.

  • I read this right after i read J.C. Towler’s Punch Buggy, where he addresses the concept of “settling”, and it was almost like a segue into this story.

    The first thing I thought of his proposal was, “What a terrible thing to say to someone you supposedly love.” But on further reflection, it seems to me that Marcus just has no idea what he wants out of life and he’s feeling the pressure to start his future before it’s “too late”.

    After 41 votes have been cast already, I’m surprised this isn’t higher than a 4.0. I found it to be a beautifully-written story, and very, very honest. Thanks so much for sharing. This is some excellent work.

    Oh, and the last three sentences really made the story for me. Best ending I’ve read here in a long time.

  • I read this right after i read J.C. Towler’s Punch Buggy, where he addresses the concept of “settling”, and it was almost like a segue into this story.

    The first thing I thought of his proposal was, “What a terrible thing to say to someone you supposedly love.” But on further reflection, it seems to me that Marcus just has no idea what he wants out of life and he’s feeling the pressure to start his future before it’s “too late”.

    After 41 votes have been cast already, I’m surprised this isn’t higher than a 4.0. I found it to be a beautifully-written story, and very, very honest. Thanks so much for sharing. This is some excellent work.

    Oh, and the last three sentences really made the story for me. Best ending I’ve read here in a long time.

  • Junior Ess

    Well-written, Deborah. Loved the description ‘thwapped.’

  • Junior Ess

    Well-written, Deborah. Loved the description ‘thwapped.’

  • Katherine Lopez

    Five stars.

  • Tony Press

    Just popped in for a few stories. This one is a beauty.

  • Great writing, really smooth.

    One of the all-time lame marriage proposals I’ve ever heard.

    And that’s including mine.