Alle C. Hall

Her first novel nominated for The National Book Award, Alle C. Hall’s fiction and essays appear in Dale Peck’s Evergreen Review, Litro, Tupelo Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction MagazineNecessary Fiction, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere. Her journalism can be read in Bust Magazine, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and The Stranger, for whom she was a contributing writer. In addition to its National Book Award nomination,  As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back won five prizes before publishing, including The National League of American Pen Women’s Mary Kennedy Eastham Prize.

The Summers of Carefully

To the fourteen-year-old on her towel in the sand, lifeguards ruled bare-chested from their tall, red chairs, smelling—she would bet—like the reason girls were supposed to be careful around boys. Cara—flat on her belly, knees bent, feet crossed and in the air—told her cousin, Traci, “They smell like wind.”

“They smell like dead fish.” Traci was visiting from Wiscaaansin.

“Not enough to matter,” Cara said. She watched their muscles move under their skin. She knew there must be a word for the way those muscles made her mouth feel full. When the guards climbed down at the end of the day, they stretched into long-sleeved t-shirts with Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax printed across the front. Traci blushed.

Cara glistened with knowledge. “Zog’s is surfboard wax.” They were so cool, those shirts.

“They look faded.”

Traci shopped at malls.

Next summer, Traci came back, still fourteen where Cara had turned fifteen. From their towels, the cousins watched a guard rescue a puppy. He was a junior guard, only sixteen. The older guards sent him in as a joke. Cara thought Remi was totally cute before she saw him take the puppy into his lifeguard arms, then bodysurf a wave to shore with the little guy held aloft. Cara imagined Remi’s hands under her pelvis, his one-handed lift as he made her soar. It took Cara two weeks to convince Traci to tell Remi what Cara wanted her to tell him. Then Traci came back with what Remi told her to tell Cara, and Cara and Remi met up long after the too-long day. He had been holding his breath, too. He smelled like her first kiss.

A Distressing State of Purity

Rosie Goldstein spent the summer after high school graduation on a kibbutz, where she hit upon the chutzpah to hold a man’s eyes for a moment longer than necessary. To give a good handjob, a decent blowjob, and soon enough, to stop giggling. To talk about sex with blunt nonchalance—but Rosie was a nice, Jewish girl, and despite her need to feel loved, she intended to stay one. Men on the kibbutz were bronzed Army veterans of twenty-one or –two with name such as Taavi and Nadav and Adiv. Adiv, it turned out, wrote droopy verse. He called her Rosie as if it were an adjective instead of her name and jockeyed with the others to pluck her first. Rosie reveled in all a girl could do without going all the way. From watching Arab women at the market, Rosie discovered that a glimpse of the inside of the wrist was more entrancing than the skin American girls too willingly displayed. From experimentation, she ascertained that the more accidental the revelation appeared, the more hypnotic. And when she allowed any one of the men to talk her into something, she owned him. Rosie let each man think he was the only one she wasn’t doing it with. He was going to tell the others she had, regardless, and she would tell hers the same. So no one, no one need know she was still a virgin.

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