‘Head to Toe’ by Abigail Ulman

In ‘Head to Toe’, jaded teenagers Jenni and Elise decide to withdraw from the keg parties and awkward sexual encounters of their peers and return to the horse-riding camp of their middle school summers. There’s this sense of quiet acceptance that life isn’t as exciting as they thought it would be, when they were kids lying in their sleeping bags, imaging their future of dating, of parties, of high school. The girls have to share a cabin with three pre-teens, and they enjoy sliding into the role of big sisters – as experienced mediators – when their roommates have a tearful row over an inconsequential truth-spilling game. Later, however, our protagonists find themselves struggling to adapt when the twenty-something riding coach tries to talk to them as peers over dinner. When they return home, after camp, they go to a party and slide right back into place. They aren’t quite adults, but they no longer feel like children. It’s the perfect story about the liminality of growing up.

Published in Hot Little Hands, Spiegel & Grau/Penguin, 2016